Digital learner identities: Exploring equity issues arising from 'who' students see themselves being and becoming as technology-using learners.

Year: 2019

Author: McLay, Katherine

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

The rapid uptake of digital technologies for teaching and learning has seen a corresponding increase in scholarly literature interrogating the potential impact and value of learning technologies. However, many argue that learning technology research has focused on pragmatic and technicist matters, such as learning design and the affordances of digital tools, at the expense of learning theory and the social implications of technology, including identity development. This paper draws on observational and interview data as well as reflexive field notes generated during microethnographic research at a school with a 1:1 iPad program to explore how the device has been used not only for academic learning, but as a tool for individual and collective self-making and identity work. Data analysis is informed by membership categorisation analysis (MCA) and Bakhtin’s tripartite view of self. These approaches offer analytical possibilities for making visible learners’ identity work - a challenging task in contemporary educational contexts, where learning occurs both at and beyond school, formally and informally, shifting fluidly across time and real and virtual space. MCA and Bakhtinian analytical perspectives can reveal participant students both taking up and resisting identities in relation to the iPad during talk-in-interaction, prioritising student voice as they foreground ‘who’ they see themselves being and not being in relation to the iPad. This paper foregrounds the importance of scholarly work that considers the identity issues that arise from young people’s relationship with and use of technology because digital tools, like iPads, play a role in young people’s developing learner identities. This raises questions of equity because ‘who’ learners see themselves as being in relation to technology impacts not only on learners’ present experiences of schooling, but also on how young people envision their future trajectories both in and beyond formal learning contexts.