Social software: New opportunities for challenging social inequalities in learning?
Enthusiasts for new social software do not always acknowledge that belonging to e-learning communities depends upon complex and often unresolved identity issues for learners. Drawing on the author's previous research on belonging in social learning, the paper presents a theory of identity congruence in social learning and brings to the foreground the importance of identities which arise from expressions of gender, class, ethnicity, age, etc. in the social, operational and, in particular, the knowledge-building aspects of learning. These three dimensions of identity congruence are used to evaluate the potential of new social software. While social software might encourage some learners to engage in social and operational identity work, there are disadvantages for others, and learner-generated knowledge and e-assessment practices can be divisive. Inclusive e-learning depends upon pedagogies and assessments which enable learners to shift and transform identities, and not solely on widening the range of technologies available. Such caution should underpin future research. © 2009 Taylor & Francis.
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