McLay, K., Renshaw, P., & Phillips, L.G. (2017). iBecome: iPads as a tool for self-making. International Journal of Educational Research, 84, 66-78. [Q1]

Mobile devices, such as iPads, are described as supporting ‘anywhere, anytime’ learning by enabling students to move fluidly between at-school and beyond-school contexts. However, research on mobile digital tools in schools has largely been preoccupied with issues of design and implementation rather than with how mobile devices transform the nature of learning per se, and the identities of students both at school and beyond. In this paper, we draw on Bakhtin to explore the dialogical self-making of iPad-using students as they take up and resist various identities mediated by these cultural tools. Our focus requires a research methodology that accounts for the fluid nature of identity, and considers digital tools as mediational means deployed by students in knowledge-making as well as self-making. We illustrate how Bakhtin’s view of the self as inherently dialogic – ‘I-for-myself’, ‘I-for-the-other’ and ‘the-other-for-me’ – provides insight into how and why particular identities are taken up or rejected by students in the fluid movement between lifeworlds at school and beyond. We adopt a reflexive microethnographic research approach to capture the identity work undertaken by iPad-using students in a high school where everyone in Year 11 and Year 12 had received iPads to assist with their learning. In this paper, we report our in-depth analysis of one student, Phoebe, whose self-making shifts in nuanced and subtle ways in relation to the device. We see Phoebe deploy the iPad to render a dialogical version of who she is and might become, comparing herself across time to her past and future selves as well as in relation to others in her social world. Our analysis makes visible how Phoebe negotiated and traversed the challenges of relational self-making, both in relation to iPads and to others—including the dynamic multiplicity of her own voices. In this way, we demonstrate how a Bakhtinian perspective can be theoretically and methodologically responsive to the fluidity and complexity of twenty-first century learning and learning contexts.

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