Research in Progress.

19 June, 2015

Identity positions and information activities in teacher trainees’ digital interactions

Fredrik Hanell  Lund University, Department of Arts and Cultural Sciences

This text presents research-in-progress concerned with how students in teacher training position their identities as learners when digital tools are used and appropriated as tools for learning.

Socio-culturally informed research from the field of information literacy suggests that identity is closely related to the ways that information activities are performed. For example, Lloyd (2009) shows how the professional identity of ambulance drivers is connected to their use of information sources, and Eckerdal (2013) analyses how information literacy practices when choosing contraceptives are part of young women’s identity construction. The increase in the use of popular digital tools, such as Facebook and blogs, in educational settings means that students are provided new tools for communication and learning (eg. Kyung-Sun, Sei-Ching Joanna, & Eun Young, 2014; Manca & Ranieri, 2013), as well as new venues for the construction of identity. A great deal of identity research on Facebook has been carried out, although mainly concerned with user profiles (see Wilson, Gosling, & Graham, 2012). Some studies on identity and communication between individuals on Facebook have been conducted (eg. Josefsson & Hanell, 2014). How students position their identities when using digital tools in academic settings and how this can be related to the information activities performed is an area of research that needs to be explored in order to better understand how information activities unfold as digital tools are appropriated as tools for learning.

From a socio-cultural perspective, which emphasizes the social and contextual nature of learning and information (Lupton & Bruce, 2010), information literacy is an empirical lens that highlights information related activities, for example information activities performed in connection to an assignment in school (Sundin, Francke, & Limberg, 2011). These situated information activities can include searching, assessing, producing and sharing information (Francke, Sundin, & Limberg, 2011). The relationship between individuals and the tools they use to perform different information activities can be understood in terms of appropriation, which occurs when a tool is re-purposed and put to use based on the situated needs and the identity of the individual (cf. Wertsch, 1998).

Giddens (1991) suggests that the construction of identity is a narrative, reflexive and on-going activity. Erstad, Gilje, Sefton-Green, and Vasbø (2009) have developed the concept “learning lives” that may contribute to our understanding of the relation between information activities and identity. The concept emphasizes the connection between learning, identity and agency during the course of a person’s life. In particular, the positioning and repositioning of learners’ identities on different “sites” is explored (Erstad, 2012).
The material for this study has been produced at a pre-school teacher-training programme at a Swedish university. Using an ethnographic approach, online and offline participant observations and interviews have been carried out among a class of 249 students who started on the programme in 2011. This research project draws on material collected from two digital sites during 2013-2014: a Facebook Group created for discussing issues concerning teacher training where 210 students and two teachers are members, and a blog created by one of the students. In the current analysis, 147 conversations from the Facebook Group are closely read and thematically arranged in order to identify information activities, modes of appropriation and ways of positioning identity. 10 interviews with students and 6 interviews with teachers are analysed to contextualize and validate the findings from the online interactions (cf. Davies, 2008).

The analysis will focus how students’ identity positions relate to the way information activities are performed in the process of using and appropriating digital tools in teacher training.


Davies, Charlotte Aull. (2008). Reflexive ethnography : a guide to researching selves and others. London: Routledge.

Eckerdal, J. R. (2013). Empowering interviews: narrative interviews in the study of information literacy in everyday life settings. Information Research, 18(3).

Erstad, Ola. (2012). The Learning Lives of Digital Youth–Beyond the Formal and Informal. Oxford Review of Education, 38(1), 25-43.

Erstad, Ola, Gilje, Øystein, Sefton‐Green, Julian, & Vasbø, Kristin. (2009). Exploring ‘learning lives’: community, identity, literacy and meaning. Literacy, 43(2), 100-106.

Francke, H., Sundin, O., & Limberg, L. (2011). Debating credibility: the shaping of information literacies in upper secondary school. Journal of Documentation, 67(4), 675-694.

Giddens, Anthony. (1991). Modernity and self-identity : self and society in the late modern age. Cambridge: Polity press.

Josefsson, Pernilla, & Hanell, Fredrik. (2014). Role confusion in Facebook groups. In M. Kent & T. Leaver (Eds.), An Education in Facebook? Higher Education and the World’s Largest Social Network: Routledge.

Kyung-Sun, Kim, Sei-Ching Joanna, Sin, & Eun Young, Yoo-Lee. (2014). Undergraduates’ Use of Social Media as Information Sources. College & Research Libraries, 75(4), 442-457. doi: 10.5860/crl.75.4.442

Lloyd, Annemaree. (2009). Informing practice: information experiences of ambulance officers in training and on-road practice. Journal of Documentation, 65(3), 396-419.

Lupton, M., & Bruce, C. (2010). Windows on information literacy worlds: Generic, situated and transformative perspectives. In A. Lloyd & S. Talja (Eds.), Practicing information literacy: Bringing theories of practice, learning and information literacy together. Wagga Wagga: Centre for Information Studies.

Manca, S., & Ranieri, M. (2013). Is it a tool suitable for learning? A critical review of the literature on Facebook as a technology-enhanced learning environment. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 29(6), 487-504. doi: 10.1111/jcal.12007

Sundin, Olof, Francke, Helena, & Limberg, Louise. (2011). Practicing Information Literacy in the Classroom: Policies, Instructions, and Grading. Dansk Biblioteksforskning, 7(2/3), 7-17.

Wertsch, James V. (1998). Mind as action. New York: Oxford University Press.

Wilson, R., Gosling, S., & Graham, L. . (2012). A Review of Facebook Research in the Social Sciences. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 7, 203-220


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: