Web 2.0 and Conscientização: Digital Students and Critical Reflection on and in Multimedia

Web 2.0 and Conscientização: Digital Students and Critical Reflection on and in Multimedia

Heidi Skurat Harris (Eastern Oregon University, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-61350-495-6.ch007
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This chapter introduces multiliteracy as an extension of traditional notions of critical pedagogy that uphold student reflection in and about their world through dialogue as a crucial component of becoming a truly literate human. Students immersed in digital media should be encouraged to investigate and create multimedia in the 21st century classroom. However, instructors not familiar with digital media can find opening their classrooms to digital texts a risk to their professional identities. Just as true education should help students challenge, resist, and modify their perceptions of reality, educators must constantly disrupt their own classrooms to experience true conscientização, or consciousness of consciousness along with students.
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Twenty-first century educators can promote multiliteracy using the tenants of critical pedagogy. Critical pedagogy began with the methods and practices first espoused by Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed, particularly the concept of education as conscientização, or “consciousness of consciousness.” Although practitioners over the last thirty years have interpreted Freire’s original pedagogy in a plethora of ways, the majority of those interpretations focus on counteracting the deficiencies of the “banking system” of education, a system that sees students as blank slates or empty repositories to be passively filled with knowledge (see Giroux, 2001; Lee, 2000; Shor, 1980; Thelin & Tassoni, 2000).

Multiliteracy is one means of counteracting the banking system. When students are actively engaged with new media in a networked environment, they engage in dialogue, the centrepiece of Freire’s pedagogy. Freire (1998) admonishes those who minimized dialogue as a part as educational practice:

How can I dialogue if I consider myself a member of the in-group of “pure” men, the owners of truth and knowledge, for whom all non-members are “these people” or “the great unwashed”? How can I dialogue if I start from the premise that naming the world is the task of an elite and that the presence of people in history is a sign of deterioration, thus to be avoided? (p. 71)

Exploring the digital world through multimedia can bring all together in naming reality through socially-constructed means, such as folksonomy. Thus, multiliteracy allows educators and students to move beyond simply using digital media as a means of transmitting “truth and knowledge” toward effectively navigating, managing, and transmitting through digital media use (see Hawisher & Selfe, 1999; Kress, 2003; Selber, 2004; Wysocki, Johnson-Eilola, Selfe, & Sirc, 2004,).

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