In the webinar for topic 1 we were asked to consider when we first owned a computer, when we first owned a cell phone and when we first went online.

This got me thinking about my own digital journey and I reflected even further back than “owning a computer”. When did I first even see a computer “in real life” (i.e. not just on TV or in films) and use one? 

Well, my first encounter with a computer was back in 1985 when I was in my first year of junior school (age seven). All I recall is that every now and then we’d get taken to a computer lab and we would “play” around on these machines.  I can’t actually remember what we learnt in that first year, but I do remember that it felt quite science fiction-ish.

Between the mid-1980s and the early 2000s, I would say technology and digitalisation were a part of my life to an increasing extent, although not an integral part. Technology was kind of separate, and one would go somewhere, e.g. to another room, to use the technology.

Through my school years, we had weekly or bi-weekly computer lessons in a computer room. At university I don’t remember any fellow students owning computers. You went to the computer lab to send and receive emails, type out assignments, or perhaps search the web a bit (really just a bit – if you wanted to do “proper” research , you went to the library and looked at reference books).

I’m quite a late adopter when it comes to technology, so it was not until my fourth year at university, in 2000, that I used a computer to type out assignments. Before that it was pen and paper, handwritten all the way; a rough draft of an essay and then the final version neatly rewritten before you popped it under your lecturer’s office door!

I also got my first cell phone in 2000. Of course it was a heavy, brick-like Nokia. I recall receiving my first SMS from a friend and being perplexed as I didn’t know how to then respond to her via SMS! I somehow think technology was less intuitive back then – or were we just so unaccustomed to it that it look us longer to figure things out?

When I worked and travelled overseas in 2001 and 2002, internet cafes were my means of accessing emails (and doing the odd search here and there – but I still didn’t put all my trust in the internet). Internet cafes were quite the place to hang out back then and they were a hub for travellers to meet and connect.

On returning to South Africa in 2003, I bought a big, chunky desktop computer. I got my first laptop in my job in 2006. I was teaching then and was still using an overhead projector in my classroom. I left the teaching profession in 2007, just as interactive whiteboards were becoming a “thing” in South African schools.

From the mid-2000s onwards, things get blurry and I can’t pinpoint specific memories or milestones in my technology or digital literacy journey. I think that’s indicative of the speed and intensity at which technological developments ramped up and started to become an integral part of our lives. I think I also became somewhat “literate” and savvy enough that anything new became increasingly easier to adopt and kind of less revolutionary.

Fast forward to 2019 and my smart phone and laptop are fundamental to my personal and professional life, as are email, Whatsapp, facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Google, Skype, Zoom and so on.

From a professional perspective, as an instructional designer, I do think we have a duty to ensure that the technology is integrated into online courses in an intuitive and user-friendly manner. The role of an instructional/learning designer is also evolving as we increasingly enable learning through online communities and social media technologies (Aggarwal, 2016). But more on that in topic 4, I think!


Aggarwal, B. (2016). What Is The Role Of The Instructional Designer? [online] eLearning Industry. Available at: [Accessed 19 March 2019].

Reflecting on topic 1 – my digital journey