Our World and Their World: The Integration of Digital Technologies In Schools through a Cultural Logic of Separation

Dinsmore, Brooke, Sociology - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Pugh, Allison, Department of Sociology, University of Virginia

Scholars have been sharply divided on the question of how the presence of laptops, tablets and smartphones is shaping everyday life in schools. This division between optimistic paradigms arguing for the transformative effects of technology and a critical approach arguing for continuity has produced blindspots. This paper seeks to move beyond this divide by addressing a shared gap, specifically how the social consequences of digital technology integration influence teachers’ and students’ strategies managing and using smartphones and laptops in the classroom. In doing so, it adopts a sociocultural perspective, viewing the division between the educational and the social as actively produced through interactions between teachers and students. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with nineteen teachers and thirty-seven students at a high school that provided students with a laptop and integrated student’s personally-owned smartphones and tablets. As smartphones and social media allowed students’ peer interactions to occur fluidly across temporal and spatial boundaries, the integration of digital technologies threatened a cultural logic of separation which divided the school into educational and social times and spaces. This paper argues that teachers’ strategies for managing the use of digital technologies in the classroom and students’ tactics for resisting teacher’s management in pursuit of peer cultural projects served to mutually re-constitute the imperilled divide between the educational and the social. Teachers used strategies of separation and differentiation to reinforce the boundaries of the classroom while students sought to access mobile technologies during class time while limiting teacher knowledge. Moving beyond a transformation-continuity binary, this paper argues that digital technology’s challenge to the sociocultural, spatial and temporal organization of schools is actively contained through teacher strategies and student tactics.

MA (Master of Arts)
Education, Digital technology, Culture
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