insiders and outsiders

I’m sitting in the lobby of a Hyatt in Austin, TX, putting some finishing touches on a presentation that I’ll give tomorrow morning at the National Reading Conference.  I’m speaking on the topic of cultural models of students’ new literacies in the college classroom, and this conference has given me the opportunity (thank you, deadline) to push this in a slightly different direction.  One of the interesting (to me, anyway) things that has come out of my research is the notion that (gasp!) not all college students are alike, and that they make decisions regarding their technology use that may not always resonate with our received wisdom about the Net Gen.  Cultural models are a useful framework for surfacing some of the assumptions that underly and motivate these decisions, but I’ve been looking for a way to deal with the apparent contradiction of "being Net Gen" in certain ways and context, but not others. 

I found some tools for thinking with in Colin Lankshear and Michele Knobel‘s recent article in e-learning; namely, the idea that being an insider to a certain technology practice involves not just being able to use the technology, but also identify with what they call "the ethos stuff" – the values and norms associated with the practice in which the technology is embedded.  In the context of my previous findings, I would say that the students were insiders to certain new literacy and technology practices (especially out of school), but other “ethos stuff” (the cultural models I surfaced in my analysis) was stronger in influencing their literacy and technology practices connected with the classroom.  I think this is an interesting way to complicate our views of the Net Gen: can a Net Gen student be both an insider and an outsider?

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