Examining research on basic writing and technology, there are definitely very clear and important connections to consider, as these connections could provide needed support and context for basic writing teachers planning to use technology in the classroom. Highlighting where basic writing and technology research intertwine should provide readers a clearer understanding of the bigger implications these similarities create.
Basic writing and composition/technology research indicate that institutional and political emphasis on traditional forms of literacy and an increasing focus on technological literacy act more as gate-keeping mechanisms and restricts students from lower socioeconomic and minority groups.
- In her seminal text, Errors and Expectations, Mina Shaughnessy notes “the shocking gaps in training between the poor and the affluent, the minority and the majority” (291).
- Brian Street suggests that “…lack of literacy is more likely to be a symptom of poverty and deprivation than a cause” (As cited in “Technology and Literacy: A Story about the Perils of not Paying Attention” 420).
Barbara Monroe suggests that “the metaphor of a [digital] divide could also serve as a reminder that a vast gap does indeed separate rich and poor in this country” (5).
- Shannon Carter highlights that she chose to teach secondary English in Texas “at schools marked as “low performing” or “at risk” by their overall performance on TAAS (the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills), designations that, as [she] would soon learn, indicated little more than the darker color of [her] students’ skin and the lower socioeconomic status of their caretakers” (4).
Political, economic, and academic institutions often measure writing and technological capabilities on a standardized scale with no regard for socioeconomic differences, reinforcing the concept that education and technology can help students become more successful socially, economically, and intellectually.
- Street notes that the autonomous model of literacy hides “the cultural and ideological assumptions that underpin it so that it can then be presented as though they are neutral and universal,” allowing students to improve their economic chances “regardless of the social and economic conditions that accounted for their illiteracy in the first place (As cited by Shannon Carter in The Way Literacy Lives 1).
- Cynthia Selfe and Gail Hawisher relate that “…if U.S. students cannot write to the screen…they will have difficulty functioning effectively as literate human beings in a growing number of social spheres” (2).
Technology is becoming more fused with day to day academic, political, economic, and social practices, making it necessary for students to write effectively in both traditional and digital mediums. In this sense, technological literacy is just as important as traditional literacy, as basic writing and composition/technology research reinforce that composing for either medium involves similar practices and methods.
- Marisa Klages and J. Elizabeth Clark contend that “while many basic writers come to us today with the fluency of digital natives, they still have the same need for learning writing and critical thinking skills that has traditionally marked basic writers” (34).
- Similar to a paper portfolio, Klages and Clark assert that “the ePortfolio is beginning to radically change our students’ understandings of their relationship to the written word in an era of digital literacy and the power of authority hidden within that authorship” and invites “students [to] implement critical digital literacy skills as they learn how to write for real audiences and find an authentic voice” (36).