Social Scholarship: Educators in digital, social spaces
Educators must prepare students to be the multiliterate individuals that they will need to be successful in their futures. Schools are ultimately responsible for preparing students to be critical users of available technologies (Damarin, 2000; Leu, Kinzer, Coiro, & Cammack, 2004), problem solvers, and good communicators in networked civic spaces (Mishra & Kereluik, 2011; Binkley et al., 2012).
To do this, educators must first explore the spaces provided by collaborative technologies for participants to engage in meaning-making in order to release the harnessed potential of said technologies. Complicating this is the very real concern that educators may not themselves have the technological, pedagogical content area knowledge required to embed these literacies in instruction. Additionally, as educators shift their instructional approaches to integrate technology, they must also consider how they portray themselves in person and in online interactions.
Educators need opportunities to explore, examine, and create online representations of their identity. This also requires an examination of an individual’s identity while merging ontological narrative, embodiment, and meaning-making orientation (Stahl 2003; Smith, 2010). These skills prove integral to the way teachers viewed themselves as professionals in online and hybrid educational spaces.
Social scholarship utilizes ICTs to evolve the ways in which scholarship is conducted (Greenhow, Robelia, & Hughes, 2009). Social scholarship as a process is designed to connect formal scholarship with informal, social internet-based civic practices while embodying specific values (e.g., openness, collaboration, transparency, access, sharing) (Ellison, 2007; Greenhow, 2009; Lankshear & Knobel, 2011). In effect, when a learner attempts to create meaning in the world, the associated activities can be viewed as collective socio-collaborative acts of meaning that impact their educational and social identities.
Educators and their students need to recognize and use these social media texts as readers and writers in online spaces (O’Byrne, 2014). The Internet should profoundly affect scholarly relations because education and scholarship should not be silent, solitary, or ruminative (Kessler, 2000). Social scholarship promotes an educational identity and purpose, while stimulating discussion of theory and pedagogy (North, 2006; Greenhow et al., 2009). Ideas are ultimately transmitted more quickly and innovatively than in formal journals and channels which may be constrained by issues of publication, access, and location.
Identity as a Literacy Practice
Presented conceptions of personal identity are socially constructed, multiple, and situated (Lam, 2000). These socially constructed representations are developed by the ways in which we view ourselves, and represent our knowledge, experiences, and social connections (Compton-Lilly, 2006). From a literacy perspective, the identities that we construct shape our literacy practices while our practice helps determine a means for acting out the identities we assume (McCarthey & Moje, 2002). Ultimately, an individual’s identity mediates and is mediated “by the texts they read, write, and talk about” (Moje et al., 2009, p. 416).
Consistent with aspects of identity construction in literacy contexts, there is a certain amount of positioning (Davies & Harre, 1999) that occurs as individuals construct the identity they want to represent to a given community. This holds that individuals use language and other tools to communicate and demonstrate understanding of types of behaviors and personal characteristics in a given community. Using this understanding, the individual can then choose to adopt and assimilate patterns of behaviors and personal characteristics to position themselves as a certain type of person (Bakhtin, 1935).
When extended to a complete community, there is a general, sometimes unspoken, collective agreement regarding how to identify individuals and the behaviors or personal characteristics associated with presented identities (Wortham, 2006). Identity designations are powerful forces that can have an effect on not only how an individual reads and writes, but also how others in the community label the individual, and the way in which the individual views him or herself (Baker & Freebody, 1989; Liu & Hilton, 2005).
As social scholars, the Internet provides us with a variety of digital spaces and tools to create and curate our digital academic identities. We can create and host our own websites to share our teaching materials, notes, and reflections. We use social media to tweet, blog, and post about issues and respond to important events in the field. These social platforms may be linked to other scholarly websites that allow us to maintain and build our professional digital identities.
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Originally published at W. Ian O’Byrne.