typewriter-801921_1280Ironically, although I’ve taught online and blended courses for almost a decade, and encouraged all my students to feel the fear and actively use the VLE anyway, I’m not the most ‘connected’ person in the world. I have very few Apps on my phone and apart from the weather and a newspaper I can’t seem to get any of them to work…


So, personally, I’m not so ‘digital’.  I’m on Facebook, where I’m connected with a small number of people I actually know and like. Many of them are now scattered around the world so it’s an easy way to keep in touch, though I do miss the old days when the postman might bring an actual letter, instead of just bills!


My professional profile is on LinkedIn and it is nice to stay connected and to grow my network as I meet new people.

I joined Twitter in a personal capacity but now use it more for work. It’s a good read and I find it fascinating to follow the chain of re-tweets back to original authors and discover interesting people, communities and organisations along the way. I’m a bit slow to post my own thoughts on it, as yet.

In fact, until I joined this course I had only ever tweeted to outer space. A few years back, when Chris Hadfield, a Canadian astronaut, was commander of the International Space Station, he tweeted a picture of Ireland and wrote the caption in the Irish language. Well, the whole country was intrigued – who was this guy, how did he know Irish and why was he tweeting to us? Then, we ‘adopted‘ him. Lots of Irish people signed up to Twitter around that time, myself included, just to tweet a ‘hello’ to Cmdr Hadfield.

Interestingly, during his time as commander, Chris Hadfield tweeted many beautiful photos of earth, did plenty of live broadcasts and made lots of cool Youtube videos.

He inspired people all over the globe and massively increased his number of followers on Twitter.

What struck me at the time was that I had just met a new class of online students, and was hoping that they would connect with the material and with each other. I was planning all sorts of digital interventions to get them engaged and motivated. Then I saw Chris Hadfield. He was so inspiring! Here he was engaging so many people from so many cultures and he was doing it all from space. Well, I thought, if he can stay connected and keep people engaged from outer space, surely I can encourage this class to post on the discussion forums…OK, so maybe part of the allure of Chris Hadfield was precisely that he was in space…

Anyway, he used a few strategies that I tried to borrow

  • He kept it short (huge challenge for me since I kissed the Blarney stone);
  • He sent out really interesting information. I couldn’t swear that every element of every lesson would have you on the edge of your seat, but I did try to get to know the students and their goals so that, as much as possible, content was relevant and useful to them. We discussed things they really wanted to talk about and understand better.
  • He made frequent tweets and videos and there were a number of ways to contact him. So, I decided to have a very visible presence with the students. I was on the discussion forums multiple times a day to catch people in each time zone, and students had my email, skype and phone details.

Those borrowed strategies worked well at the time and I have re-used them since.


This course has fired my thinking, though, and not just on all the ways we can connect. Over the years, I’ve had countless chats with students of all ages worried that they didn’t have enough technical knowledge to succeed, or worried that they didn’t have the right personality for online learning. I think a lot of this boils down to confidence around digital literacies. My thoughts on that follow in my next blog.


Digital Me