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Lesson Plan

Paying Attention to Technology: Writing Technology Autobiographies

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Paying Attention to Technology: Writing Technology Autobiographies

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Traci Gardner

Traci Gardner

Blacksburg, Virginia


National Council of Teachers of English



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From Theory to Practice



As citizens of a highly technological culture, our students see (and often use) technologies as a daily experience. Because of their proliferation, these technologies are often taken for granted and unexplored. This lesson plan asks students to pay attention to these technologies explicitly. In this activity, students brainstorm lists of their interactions with technology, map these interactions graphically, and then compose narratives of their most significant interactions with technology. By writing these technology autobiographies, students explore what their stories reveal about why we use the technologies we do when we choose to use them.

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Graphic Map Student Interactive: Students can use this online tool to chart the high and low points related to a particular item or group of items, such as technology interaction.

Technology Autobiography Assignment: This handout provides students with the requirements and directions for the technology autobiography.

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In her 1999 Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century, Cynthia L. Selfe urges that educators "must try to understand-to pay attention to-how technology is now inextricably linked to literacy and literacy education in this country; and second, we must help colleagues, students, administrators, politicians, and other Americans gain some increasingly critical and productive perspective on technological literacy" (24). Just learning to use a piece of software or new digital gizmo is not enough. We need to explore technological literacy, which Selfe defines as "a complex set of socially and culturally situated values, practices, and skills involved in operating linguistically within the context of electronic environments, including reading, writing, and communicating" (11). In other words, our classroom activities need to consider not just how to use technology but also to pay attention to why we use the technologies we do when we do.

Technology autobiographies ask writers to examine their interaction with technologies closely. As Kitalong et. al explain, "[T]echnology is taken for granted, invisible, a mere backdrop to their lives. Writing technology autobiographies encourages [students] to reflect upon their own (and sometimes other people's) experiences with technology, which leads them to think critically about technology. In the process, the invisibles become visible, the implicit can be made explicit" (219).

Further Reading

Kitalong, Karla, Tracy Bridgeford, Michael Moore, and Dickie Selfe. 2003. "Variations on a Theme: The Technology Autobiography as a Versatile Writing Assignment." Teaching Writing with Computers. Pp. 219-233. Eds. Pamela Takayoshi and Brian Huot. Boston: Houghton Mifflin.


Selfe, Cynthia L. 1999. Technology and Literacy in the Twenty-First Century: The Importance of Paying Attention. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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