A couple of years ago I started a blended learning project with a colleague. The project started really quickly: I got the idea in the beginning of summer holidays and found a project partner in August. Luckily, my project partner was more experienced in blended learning and online teaching than I was. We were both eager to try our best, and we just jumped in with minimum planning!

Our idea was to bring together two Finnish as a second/foreign language learning groups to collaborate  as a community of learners.  They would study online partly together and use Finnish language as a mean of communication right from the beginning.

I had used some digital tools in my teaching before and I was really interested in figuring out, how these tools could help learning. I felt that I wasn’t totally lost in a digital world. I was also quite active in many social media platforms. So, I was confident that with my enthusiasm, experience and positive attitude, with my more experienced colleague and with my digital native students we would be able to create a great blended learning project. – And we did! However, the project was also so difficult and frustrating. I questioned myself many times.  

I have to say, that the biggest surprise for me was that my digital native students weren’t really keen on using digital tools and studying partly online. Now, three years later, because of covid-19 we don’t have any other options than study online. But when we had, many of my students found online and digital parts of course just difficult, scary and not very useful. I heard many times my students commenting on some tasks online saying “I would rather use pen and paper”. I also noticed, that I was sometimes more tech savvy as they were – how was this possible? 

As said, the project left me with many questions. I saw the benefits of blended learning and felt that my students learnt more and different skills than before. However, my students did not see things the same way. Also, I had many questions of online learning and teaching. How teaching online changes my way of teaching and how should I change my approach to learning and teaching? Also, was my focus in teaching shifting to something new? Or should I shift it to somewhere else?  So, to move on in this learning process, I decided to attend the Open Network Learning course (ONL211)

In the first week of ONL211 we were first introduced to David White’s concept of Visitors and Residents.  This really hit the mark for me. The idea, that we all move in the digital world on a visitor–resident continuum depending on the context, helped me to understand my previous students’ approach on online learning.  In a visitor mode you use web as a tool to do something, but you don’t want to leave a trace or mark of your visit or to engage to do more than needed. When as in resident mode, you are present and visible in the online world.  And as David White adds, the context affects to our engagement in online world: we can be in a resident mode in our private life but in professional context we can be just visitors or vice versa.  I started to think, that maybe my students were more in a visitor mode in our course’s context? They weren’t ready to engage in institutional level, even thought they might have been in many ways in the resident mode in their personal life. I think that I understand my students’ reactions better now. 

Also on the first week of ONL211 we were asked to draw our own visitor–resident map, I noticed that also my own institutional resident space was rather empty. I guess I find the institutional residency a bit intimidating, too. This I had not realized before drawing my own map. Being a resident online in institutional context  means that you will leave your mark and be part of the discussion and sharing. This means that you have to be bold and open up. Scary, but I want to take a step to that direction. My first steps are a tweetchat and maybe this blog?

Why I am here?