Posted by: MandyS | February 28, 2013

Identity Change?

The rest of this week is taken up with thinking about whether learning changes one’s identity. The idea is that as we learn, we change as a person. Quite ironically, yesterday evening we were tasked with an analysis of responsibility in Priestly’s play “An Inspector Calls” (don’t ask). One of the characters did indeed undergo a significant change in view on the idea of responsibility as a result of the Inspector’s inquisition. She learned something and it changed her as a person? My own view is that it was her view on responsibility which changed, not necessarily the character as a person. Do we really change identity? one may become more knowledgeable, which in turn may impact on one’s view, but I am not convinced it changes one’s identity unless that is the required outcome.

So what role might technology play in this identity change? The reading is that of Bayne (2005). The suggestion is that technology within learning ‘changes self-relation and social relations’. The virtual world allows for individuals to present themselves as perhaps they would like to be seen rather than as they actually are. This makes online learning ‘unsettling and challenging’ simply because one doesn’t really know who one is talking to. On that basis, online discussion is more likely to be quite guarded as one may not want to give too much away about our own character. Bayne says “we do reveal aspects of ourselves in online discourse”. So we might, but does that matter? If we go to a face-to-face tutorial, one does exactly the same thing, the only difference being one can see who’s who.  At the other extreme, it is an invitation to be something you are not. But are the majority of learners likely to be as manipulative as that? I doubt it and, if they are, who cares? Are the majority of students really that bothered about their identity? To me, this is a theory without substance; it maybe offers an explanation as to why student’s don’t engage with technology in learning but I am not convinced that learning is responsible for identity change.


Bayne, S. (2005) ‘Deceit, desire and control: the identities of learners and teachers in cyberspace’ in Land, R. and Bayne, S. (eds) Education in Cyberspace, Abingdon, RoutledgeFalmer.


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