Cheryl Brown: It’s (I’m) not good enough: contrasting discourses of ICTs amongst South African university students

Based on the responses to open ended survey questions of 2552 students from 11 South African universities, this paper uses Gee’s notion of big D Discourses to examine university students meanings of ICTs in education. Gee’s concept of Discourse enables elucidation and interpretation of findings relating to students’ technological identities and how this impacts on their relationship to or use of ICTs. In this paper I examine the role that students Discourses of ICTs have on the acquisition of the skills, strategies and dispositions that allow them to use the Internet and other ICTs effectively to identify important questions, locate information critically evaluate the usefulness of the information and synthesis it to answers questions and communicate to others (Leu et al 2004 p1590). This is particularly interesting in an environment where continuous connectivity is achievable through the ubiquitous presence of cell phones and where students cell phone literacy may be different to their literacy in terms of use of Internet for learning.

Preliminary findings show that for students the dominant Discourses about use of computers in education are that of efficiency of the technology, (indicating an acceptance of computers as part of life and focusing on the imperative to keep up with demands) and aptitude (with student perception of the right level of knowledge and computer literacy and support as an advantage and lack of these as disadvantage). A sub focus of this paper will be to examine whether different Discourses are connected to different social groups of students and how this impacts on their use of ICTs.

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