Classroom Digital Interaction: High Expectations, Misleading Metaphors, and the Dominance of Netspeak

Classroom Digital Interaction: High Expectations, Misleading Metaphors, and the Dominance of Netspeak

Jennifer Higgs (University of California – Berkeley, USA), Catherine Anne Miller (University of California – Berkeley, USA) and P. David Pearson (University of California – Berkeley, USA)
Copyright: © 2014 |Pages: 22
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-4341-3.ch014
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As Computer-Mediated Communication (CMC) is increasingly adopted for literacy instruction in K-12 classrooms, careful attention should be paid to its instructional benefits and challenges. In this chapter, the authors take a careful look at how the metaphors of social interaction guiding teacher translation of CMC into their lessons mask the full range of affordances and limitations of CMC. Using a linguistic lens, they analyze teacher interviews and student online discussion data to make a case that using Classroom Digital Interaction (CDI) as a pedagogical tool requires a close look at the aims of literacy instruction and the constraints and affordances of computer mediated discussion.
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It is well established that new communication technologies have had a profound impact on language use, particularly with regard to written communication (Herrington, Hodgson, & Moran, 2009; Yancey, 2009; Warschauer, 2007; Jewitt, 2005). Writing researchers and linguists have paid increasing attention to the ways in which synchronous and asynchronous computer-mediated communication (CMC) engender new forms of writing, writing in which the hybridization of spoken and written language is often strikingly divergent from the writing produced for academic or “official” purposes (Haas & Takayoshi, 2011; Goddard, 2011; Tagliamonte & Denis, 2008; Crystal, 2006; Ferrara et al., 1991; Biber & Finegan, 1997; Davis & Brewer, 1997; Eldred & Fortune, 1992). For literacy teachers and researchers seeking to capitalize on outside-school writing practices as a way of supporting in-school achievement (Mahiri, 2011; Reinhardt & Zander, 2011; Vie, 2008; Hull & Schultz, 2002), the use of CMC in the classroom is particularly intriguing, as it combines the generative interaction of discussion and writing (Dysthe, 1996; Nystrand et al., 1998) with students’ everyday social practices in an increasingly digitized, multimodal communication landscape (Lankshear & Knobel, 2011; Carrington & Robinson, 2009; Coiro et al., 2008; Hull & Nelson, 2005).

There is considerable evidence, however, that teachers continue to struggle with using CMC in ways that maximize potential literacy learning, despite widespread access to and use of information and communication technologies designed for education (Beach, Hull, & O’Brien, 2011; Honan, 2009; Tearle, 2003; Cuban, Kirkpatrick, & Peck, 2001). Researchers have attributed teacher approaches to technology to a variety of contextual factors, including infrastructural obstacles, teachers’ technological knowledge, and teachers’ beliefs about the role of technology (e.g., Prestidge, 2012; Hutchison & Reinking, 2011; Starkey, 2010; Honan, 2009; Harris, Mishra, & Koehler, 2009; Stolle, 2008), but less attention has been paid to the ways in which the common metaphors for CMC (i.e., discussion, chatrooms, messaging, texting, collaborating) influence teachers’ interpretations of how to implement communication technology for instruction. Metaphors, as Lakoff and Johnson (1980) have notably argued, structure our perceptions and shape our expectations. Thus, it is no surprise that metaphors for defining technology (e.g., e-book, tablet, email, chat) can be simultaneously helpful and dangerous, with descriptive language facilitating use of the “new” by evoking the “old”, while also potentially ossifying our understandings of a particular technology and thereby clouding important conceptual differences (Eldred & Fortune, 1992). In other words, the metaphors we use to frame new communication tools both define use and obscure affordances of the technology. In light of the persuasive power of metaphoric interpretation, teachers’ perceptions of CMC seem salient to the implementation of technology in classrooms, and particularly to the literacy classroom which remains organized largely around print-based paradigms of writing and reading (Beach et al., 2011).

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