Digital Divide, part two: gender, sexuality, and ability

Ready for the next installment of our discussion about the digital divide, access, and privilege?  This time, we’ll focus more of our attention on how issues of gender, sexuality, and ability should be addressed when we incorporate new media and technologies into the communication classroom.

We’ll start the seminar off with a really cool exercise developed by Britta.  (Don’t worry, you won’t have to leave the room for this one.)  Then, I (Sarah) am going to summarize a study about the highly masculinist imagery associated with technology in the US and the way that imagery often deters women from pursuing meaningful work with it.  And Aaron will introduce us to the Bechdale test.

To continue the conversation about effective strategies for incorporating technology in the classroom in ethical and productive ways, we’d like you to look at two very brief pieces:

This classic essay by Peggy McIntosh on getting students to understand privilege; it has served as the model for Britta’s WOVEN exercise.

And this one by University of California, Riverside graduate student Tanner Higgin on video game pedagogy.


As you read, please consider the following questions, which we’ll take up Wednesday night:

  • So much media (new and old) is masculinist; do we have an obligation to point out the gender biases of video games, comics, television shows, movies (etc) in our writing classrooms?  If so, what are effective means for doing so?
  • How do we encourage our students to critique the heteronormativity assumed by so much new media?
  • How can you make students aware of their privilege (or lack thereof) without putting them on the defensive?
  • What are the consequences of drawing students’ attention to their own privilege?
  • The WOVEN theory of communication has so much potential for universal design and access; how do we ensure that our multimodal assignments and classroom practices don’t end up excluding those with disabilities?
  • Is knowledge of Standard American English a privilege?  If so, how can we encourage access for those students whose first/home language isn’t SAE?
  • Do we treat regional and American ethnic speech patterns/dialects in the same way as ESL/ELL?
  • In our attempts to invite more student voices and perspectives into classroom discussion, how can we avoid tokenization of our students?  Eg: “As a woman, how do you respond to this advertisement?”
  • How can we encourage students who don’t feel that they have access and privilege to recognize the value of their perspectives?
  • When does accommodation become counterproductive?

Looking forward to hearing your thoughts!

– Sarah, Britta, and Aaron

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Sarah Schiff

About Sarah Schiff

Sarah Eden Schiff is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. She received her PhD in American literature from Emory University in May 2010 and taught courses in American literature and composition at Agnes Scott College in the 2010-2011 school year as a Visiting Assistant Professor. Schiff is currently working on a book project that considers the way myth—a reputedly conservative narrative form—is put to use in radical ways by minority US writers in the 1960s-1980s. She has published on such authors as Philip Roth, Octavia Butler, and N. Scott Momaday and enjoys incorporating her interdisciplinary studies in religion, anthropology, and history into the literature and writing classrooms.
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  1. Pingback: Myth in the Classroom, take two - TECHStyle

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