This is the first blog post by three co-facilitators, Raheel Lakhani, Karin Muller and Charlotta Hilli. We adapt a meta perspective on the posts participants have published over the last two weeks to highlight some posts and some themes. Perhaps this way we can provide new connections between the course content and the participants. Thank you ONL participants for sharing your reflections with us!
In the first topic, our digital identity and presence is very much under the looking glass! Against the backdrop of White’s typology as residents and visitors, many of the course participants have in their blogs explored their own presence. Linked to this, is our digital literacies; which is not simply a matter of being literate or not. Doug Belshaw reminds us that “digital literacy is not a threshold, but rather a condition.” Developing and gaining digital literacies should be seen as an ongoing process. Becoming digital is clearly blurring the edges between private and professional. Wasif is professionally a resident, but privately reluctant to mix friends and colleagues in spaces like Facebook as it means mixing private life and work life. Suddenly you are never really off duty, you can never fully close the office door.
One of the eight elements of digital literacies Belshaw has identified, is that of being critical. When using digital tools and sources, the question of whether it can be trusted, whether it is reputable, and credible should be asked. One of the key benefits of technology is often cited as the speed and ease with which it can assist with tasks: at the click of a button, it can compute an intricate calculation, or present us with a whole array of possible answers to a question. Yet there is a difference between a quick find and and a quality find, they are not necessarily exclusive, but is important that as educators we reflect on the quality of our finds, and assist our students with developing this literacy. Sarah Hagstrom has written a post, asking whether we are doing enough in this respect? A question well worth thinking about.
The blog format seems to support personal insights, practical knowledge and academic reflections. To most participants the digital spaces used in the course are exciting and they feel like a fish in the water. It is easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm for digital technology in education, but not all students enjoy it, nor do all participants feel a sense of ease while swimming in these kind of waters. Levan Tsagareli points out he is in fact living on the verge of two worlds, somewhere between visitor and resident. It will take time to learn how to use digital tools as a teacher. FiloSofia choses to be an opponent highlighting problems with online courses which relate to finding the time to communicate but also developing skills to communicate digitally. In both posts we see how slow learning is and to some it can be frustrating and even painful. The digital space might provide information fast but learning still takes time.
When reading the blogs it becomes clear how much knowledge is needed to teach and learn in digital spaces. Digital tools can support different teaching practices but digital skills and digital literacy is needed to make informed choices as online teachers. Mboni Amiri Ruzegea suggests dialogues between those who use the technology and those who design it is needed to improve the digital experience. Differences in skills and literacies are bound to lead to digital divides between those who can use and understand the digital spaces, and those who cannot. Some will perhaps stay visitors forever unless they learn to become residents.
Dimitrios suggests that sometimes the act of being a visitor for too long can develop a fear of transitioning to a resident model. In most cases, a mindful user would be on a continuum. He suggests “use of the digital space [whether personal or professional] without any protection/fear [maybe a resident without restraint] and its use solely in a visitor level [leaving no digital traces] are extremes that should be avoided if we want to securely take advantage of the possibilities that the digital world can give us.”
Hafizah takes on historical and social perspectives explaining how technology has always changed how people do things. She suggests we need to claim digital spaces and make them work to our advantage as teachers and professionals, otherwise other people surely will misuse it and even abuse it:
As we negotiate our roles on the continuum of visitors and residents in the online space, I think there is certainly a case to be made for educators and academics to seriously consider claiming that role of residents in the online space in their institutional capacity. It will take time, effort and energy, but I think it will well worth the effort.
Raheel Lakhani, Karin Muller* and Charlotta Hilli
*Posting as onlinelearningthoughts