Electronic Literacies: Language, Culture, and Power in Online Education

Electronic Literacies: Language, Culture, and Power in Online Education

Electronic Literacies: Language, Culture, and Power in Online Education

Electronic Literacies: Language, Culture, and Power in Online Education

Synopsis

Electronic Literacies is an insightful study of the challenges and contradictions that arise as culturally and linguistically diverse learners engage in new language and literacy practices in online environments.

The role of the Internet in changing literacy and education has been a topic of much speculation, but very little concrete research. This book is one of the first attempts to document the role of the Internet and other new digital technologies in the development of language and literacy. Warschauer looks at how the nature of reading and writing is changing, and how those changes are being addressed in the classroom. His focus is on the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse learners who are at special risk of being marginalized from the information society.

Based on a two-year ethnographic study of the uses of the Internet in four language and writing classrooms in the state of Hawai'i--a Hawaiian language class of Native Hawaiian students seeking to revitalize their language and culture; an ESL class of students from Pacific Island and Latin American countries; an ESL class of students from Asian countries; and an English composition class of working-class students from diverse ethnic backgrounds--the book includes data from interviews with students and teachers, classroom observations, and analysis of student texts. This rich ethnographic data is combined with theories from a broad range of disciplines to develop conclusions about the relationship of technology to language, literacy, education, and culture. Central to Warschauer's discussion and conclusions is how contradictions of language, culture, and class affect the impact of Internet-based education. While Hawai'i is a special place, the issues confronted here are similar in many ways to those that exist throughout the United States and many other countries: How to provide culturally and linguistically diverse students traditionally on the educational and technological margins with the literacies they need to fully participate in public, community, and economic life in the 21st century.

Excerpt

I planned and conducted the research for this book from 1995 to 1997, years when the Internet emerged from a convenient communications tool for a small number of scholars and hackers to a full-blown mass medium affecting many aspects of American life. It was during these years as well that the U.S. educational system began to confront the necessity of developing electronic literacies as an important part of the school curriculum.

In this book, I took at how the nature of reading and writing is changing and how those changes are addressed in the classroom. I focus on the experiences of culturally and linguistically diverse learners who are at special risk of being marginalized from the information society: immigrant students, indigenous students, learners of second languages, and speakers of second dialects.

I provide an in-depth view of four language and writing classes that I investigated in 1996 and 1997: an undergraduate English as a second language (ESL) writing class at a small Christian college, a graduate ESL writing class at a large public university, an undergraduate writing-intensive Hawaiian language class at the same public university, and an English writing class at a community college. All four classes took place in Hawai'i, on the island of O'ahu. Hawai'i is an exceptional place for learning about interaction across cultures. Its population includes large numbers of indigenous people and immigrants from many countries. It is the only U.S. state that has two official languages (English and Hawaiian) and where the majority of residents speak a creole (Hawai'i Creole English, commonly referred to as Pidgin). The state's colleges and universities enroll numerous international students, especially from the Asia-Pacific Region.

Although Hawai'i is a special place, the issues confronted here are similar in many ways to those that exist throughout the United States and many other countries: how to provide culturally and linguistically diverse students with the literacies needed to allow them to fully participate in public, community, and economic life in the 21st century.

In this book, I discuss these issues in the following manner. In chapter 1, I provide a brief historical analysis of the socio-economic and technological . . .

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