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‘I'm not a computer person’: Negotiating participation in academic Discourses


Dr Sarah Lohnes Watulak, Towson University, 8000 York Road., Towson, MD 21252, USA. Email:


While there is little doubt that technology is, in many ways, central to the college student experience today, the expectations of students and colleges vis-à-vis technology may not always be the same. This research explores the role of technology in the lives of today's college students, particularly within the institutional context of the university, and asks the question: What role does technology play in a freshman college student's participation in the academic Discourse of her institution? This paper focuses on the Discourse analysis of one student, Nichole, a focal participant in a semester-long, qualitative study of 34 undergraduate students at a university in the northeastern United States. Nichole's general dislike of technology places her in opposition to assumptions about the ‘typical’ Net Gen student; results indicated that the ways in which Nichole used technology in her personal life conflicted with her participation in the pro-technology academic Discourse of her institution. For Nichole, the disconnect between the institutional expectations for technology use and her personal technology practices resulted in the need to negotiate another layer of complexity on the path to academic success.