How to overcome insecurities!

(and maybe moving to more secure digital usage from being a visitor….)

(Topic 1 #ONL222 -Digital Literacy….)

This blog post is an expansion on Topic One to aid teachers in on-line learning to manage/handle insecurity to the technology (digital/computer)…The list is not exhaustive, and can of course be expanded. 

Feel free to comment and add other hints in the comment section 


 …In general and in on-line learning

The key to aid people feel more secure is creating trust. How do you create trust? A way to get there is to create a relation with ONE person, to then attempt to expand one-to-one contact with many persons. 

Creating trust can be supported several ways. 

First and foremost in real life is to create eye contact. Looking directly into people’s eyes creates for most* people a trusting relationship. This is a bit difficult sometimes when being on-line, as it does not feel “real” but fake. Therefore showing your face, your expressions and your being on camera l is fundamental for a group to create some trust in an on-line meeting. 

( * Note that eye contact can also cause uneasiness and stress for people on the autism spectra and NPF-diagnoses, as well as for people with paranoia./updated 2022-10-26)

    • Installing, and setting up as well as turning on the camera could though be both difficult for some, and also embarrassing for some. We might be shy to share our background. Therefore instructions on how to put up a fake background is important. And also, having a computer, device or camera is also a delimiter for some, that does not possess the bandwidth (network) to support such efforts.  
    • Therefore providing a good enough on-line environment with interaction is important having “live” participation

Well, there is an abundant reference about eye contact, from the 1970’s to now, but I find two more recent that had some good hints which I liked: Myllyneva, Aki, and Jari K. Hietanen. “There is more to eye contact than meets the eye.” Cognition 134 (2015): 100-109 and Rychlowska, Magdalena, et al. “From the eye to the heart: Eye contact triggers emotion simulation.” Proceedings of the 4th workshop on eye gaze in intelligent human machine interaction. 2012.

Secondly, sharing who you are, also creates trust. The more we “know” about a person, how someone responds, what they think, how they interact – makes us humans more secure. It creates bonding or a relation between people. Therefore any exercise that will talk more to areas that are “common” – finding commonality between people – will create relations. I call this sharing “go fish” (when I want to get to know a person) – what do we have in common – what can I tell about myself – that “opens” the areas for what to talk about. Often in a professional context – we stick to the professional subject – which can be very anonymous. The second you share more about “who you are” “what you like” etc – the easier will the trust be created. This can be done in many ways.

  • Have e.g. the group talking about “who they are”  basically where you come from, why you are here, (motivation or something), anything that can create common ground….(always good in smaller groups – as people in general like to talk about themselves) – if larger groups, you can limit time by saying “what you do not know about me – or what is my hobby – or something.
  • Another approach is to create a one-to-one relation. Meaning divide people two and two and have them “interview” each other – and then you do not present yourself, but the other person. This has the advantage of creating a relation to ONE person a bit deeper in a direct conversation – and also, it will be a “summary” of a longer talk. It is an ice-breaker. On-line – you as a teacher must be able to set this up quickly – and is of course easier In real life (IRL).
  • A third way to create some form of relation or at least a “loose” connection is to comment individually (as a teacher) or in the group – with personal comments – this is good, this is interesting, or instead of opposing something “bad or wrong” saying things like “maybe it is this way” or “have you thought about that….”

Again, this area has many interesting studies behind them. I think I learned most of this through being a therapist and in group work. Academically, I can find e.g. Ren, Yuqing, Robert Kraut, and Sara Kiesler. “Applying common identity and bond theory to design of online communities.” Organization studies 28.3 (2007): 377-408, that was an interesting read (and not too old).

You are a role model in creating trust and sharing, regardless if you are a teacher, leader, or just “anyone” in a group.  If you share “more” about yourself (you are a human, you are not perfect, you have hobbies, family etc) it makes the relation at least to you more trustworthy – and in that sense – it aids a student (or the others)  to approach you with questions. 

  • -Side note: So being clear of what is expected (from you as a teacher) and not – is a great thing. E.g. that you would really love questions, but in the form of a “hand” or in the chat. And that if I as a teacher ask a question – I will pick on “anyone” to answer… etc

Here there are of course a lot of research available as well, e.g. Greenberg, Penelope Sue, Ralph H. Greenberg, and Yvonne Lederer Antonucci. “Creating and sustaining trust in virtual teams.” Business horizons 50.4 (2007): 325-333 (which did not talk about the role model aspect)…but    in Cruess, Sylvia R., Richard L. Cruess, and Yvonne Steinert. “Role modelling—making the most of a powerful teaching strategy.” Bmj 336.7646 (2008): 718-721 you can learn a lot about becoming a role model!

 Another aspect of creating “personal” trust – is to create a relation in group work with a subgroup in the group.  Examples are to create two as “leaders” for a task or creating specific roles for everyone in a group (leader, critique, scribe, time manager).   One can also be utilizing the flipped classroom paradigm, discussing with some other, break out groups etc.   Any people talking together is a way to create individual relations. If you have a personal relation with “everyone in the group” – it is much easier to talk in that group. 

  • In any group  there is often someone that you feel a bit “distant” to – that is not joining in, or are more careful to show themselves. Make sure as an individual (and a leader) to talk to these people directly – ask them, make them become visible in the group, and get to know them better.  Here I found a cool paper: Bennett, Cynthia L., and Daniela K. Rosner. “The Promise of Empathy: Design, Disability, and Knowing the” Other”.” Proceedings of the 2019 CHI conference on human factors in computing systems. 2019. But, I guess I was lucky to learn this during my gestalt therapy training, by Yaro Starak, Jorge Rosner and the fantastic M.D. Howard Greenburg. 
    • PS. This could be a general rule in life – the more you get to know “the other” – the ones you do not talk to or avoid,  at work for example, make it a point. But of course – it is also important to have the skill to avoid people that are “toxic” for you. That is another subject. 

Note that there is an abundance of (digital) tools that can “aid” these interactions – The issue is just – there is an  “abundance of tools” that aids – and there might be personal preferences. For sure not easy! Do not be afraid to challenge yourself and try something new.  And no – I am not going to talk about these tools. At least in this course I am exposed to some new. 

Openness,  yes, you as a teacher, or as a part of the group (anyone) can become the role model for being (at least perceived) as being open.   How you treat others – or for example a question from someone will create more trust than anything else. Because it teaches all in the audience – do you listen to the question, do you respect the question or person – In what way do you “care” that the person at least  “feel” you did the best to create an answer, even if there is no answer. Every question is an opportunity to “change” something.   So take your time to make sure you are answering….e.g. “Did I understand you correctly?” Are you satisfied with my answer? …. etc. So, therefore I really like the “basketboll” way of throwing a question around, instead of answering yourself… in a ping-pong aspect as a teacher. I think having others surrounding the person commenting on the answer is also a way to create engagement.   (The discussion on ping-pong vs basketboll question, I just learned in another pedagogical course at MDU – with great teachers….We were watching Prof. Dylan Williams in his you tube video: Great stuff!

Openness has a backside online. Not all are as accommodating (e.g. in groups where you do NOT know all people, or it is “free” to comment….. By giving out TMI (Too much information) can both be viewed and experienced as embarrassing and even a bit offending. It is a fine line to walk, as you do not want to expose all about you – compartmentalize. Again – it is a personal choice. Some share everything online and create a “public persona”. Some are more restrictive. TMI can also be viewed as “noise” in the real communication

Here you can read more on e.g. Bansal, Gaurav, Fatemeh Mariam Zahedi, and David Gefen. “Do context and personality matter? Trust and privacy concerns in disclosing private information online.” Information & Management 53.1 (2016): 1-21. But I guess you have to learn a lot about computer security to understand the real threat. I saw even Google attempts to teach you the basics now… Interesting.

Compartmentalize information to the public (i.e. online): When I discuss  “The Best variety of a potato” (I like Charlotte, Amandine and Early Rose), I do that in a forum of vegetable growers, and when I discuss knitting, it might be with the teacher who also knits, or in my knitting blog. But I would not “burden” anyone who is not interested with this. It is more “noise” to the communication.  Therefore, I suggest being very restrictive on-line with really personal preferences – what is private is private. Data is always collected on anything you say “online” – and that is also why I detest e.g. apps that “listens” to conversations – e.g. computers that are on, or mobile phones. Turn them off – or make sure you set your settings right. Even a camera on your computer can be looked through, if you do not deliberately cover it.
From the “twitter-feed” of our course!


Group stages or phases – how to not lose trust and still be individuals! 

So – this is of course creating trust in general is only the beginning. Every group goes through phases or stages.  First it is important to create relations – feeling secure – finding commonalities between people. As the group has trust and all have talked with all, all have shown themselves – this stage is “often fulfilled”.   (Helpful hint exercise…I often use this 3 minute sit opposite each other and discuss a (personal reflection) on a topic e.g. “how can we cooperate best” and then you move around these two rows of chairs until all have spoken with all (make one the time taker)….  you created direct communication to all in the group “yay”. )

The second “phase” of a group is that people would want to break this “confluence” – I am an individual! I agree on a lot but not all. When you start to disagree in a group  (after first having trust and agreeing with each other) – you have arrived at this stage. This is a sensitive stage. Moving phase can go very quickly in a group. As it is super important that there is respect for the individual. Do you listen to each other? Do you comment on each other? What do you think about the “deviant” opinion etc. Here it is easy to “lose” people if you do not affirm them, repeat what they say, or somehow respect the opinion by thanking them for it – difficult of course is direct confrontation – I totally disagree with you. Here you need to choose words carefully. In a trusting group, people do not usually object to being opposed, but if this is a new group, and people (still) feel insecure – this could be very hurtful and people can withdraw from the group or lose trust as a result. One can say that a group functions if people can disagree – but still “like” to stay in the group (and do not feel hurt personally).  

(an abbreviated version of what I learned) as it is easy to cite e.g. Cattell, Raymond B. “On the theory of group learning.” The Journal of Social Psychology 37.1 (1953): 27-52…. but please free to google scholar Conflict and Confluence in teamwork or groups… and enjoy!

Ok – So to the “real” subject! HOW to feel secure learning to use digital equipment – or let us face it “computers”  

  1. First: Let us discuss the obvious age and culture – so it is clear that the younger generation not only have it easier to learn, but they are also more EXPOSED to computers – or we might add – it is a cultural thing – are mobile common or smart phones? Are computers common? Does your society provide “free” internet – or is this difficult to obtain? Computer literacy – or digital literacy is really about exposure and ACCESS! You also have to afford the media – afford a computer, afford a good network, afford access (and programs, apps etc). So, let us be positive – This is an issue of exposure – as today some societies try to limit and control access and exposure – I hope in the long run that this will not be possible. The technical evolution will make smart phones and net access cheaper and cheaper – and hopefully available to all. This will also result in apps, and program and open source (as “free” programs are called) will be available to all. On the other hand – they take your data. So a big discussion is of course – maybe it is sometimes better to pay (and not give out your data), or pay for “quality” – than not pay. Anyway – this creates a strata. My naive wish for the future is of course that we all work for the common good – without limitations, but I guess that will not happen in my lifetime.  
  2.  So, how do you learn? Best way – through someone you trust – through a friend, through a course. I will take my friend Dr. Sue Black who started an organization called “TechMoms” in UK. Her idea was that volunteers (who know computers) would teach “moms” out in the suburbs with no exposure to computers (or access) and know-how, how to access and navigate – and “use” the internet. It is really a volunteer service. By letting peers teaching peers the fundamentals on how to log-in, how to move around, how to not be afraid of clicking on things etc – you create trust in the digital environment. Some fundamental things are good. How to write an email, how to reply – and not reply all. How to recognize phishing and scams etc. This can of course then be checking out several apps, Facebook, snapchat, instagram, etc etc. And also be used for practical stuff, like – how to google (or goggle as my mother in law calls it) information. It could also be hinting at games – which also teaches to “touch” and control things on a screen. This is really the basics. And of course – empowering people to the digital society is inclusive. It should be done. It should be a service for everyone! 
  3. Assuming you have basic skills on the computer.  How do you overcome the fear of a new “tool”, a new app or a new environment?? 
  4. The trick is “no fear”. Just do it. Go for it. Asking for help and learning how to download. How to check (costs for example) how to read licensing agreements – so you do not sign up for stuff you do not want. Important basic skills. 
  5. The second basic skill is how to “customize” a tool. How to adjust parameters. This is for example: How can I blur my background on the video. My microphone is not working in this app – ahh you need to allow it to be turned on in the web interface and so on. Most apps and programs have parameters. The more you learn to adjust, the more secure you will feel. 
  6. My experience already here is that people are afraid of “destroying” something, or deleting something. So teaching people what is not ok, and what is ok – e.g. you do not click on everything in a new mail automatically. Do you know this person? Etc – you do not want your data (computer, info) to be hijacked or stolen. Or your personal login etc. These are real threats of “destroying” or losing money. Except for this rather specific intrusion of privacy or real conning, – What is really a backup – how can you protect yourself, what can you do that does not destroy or accidentally delete things? I think all of us have deleted or forgotten to save some writing we have done in our work. Or worse – overwritten someone else’s work. This can be taught, must be taught. What is “your” personal copy, and what is not. 

Ok – References? I love reading Zembylas, Michalinos. “Adult learners’ emotions in online learning.” Distance education 29.1 (2008): 71-87, but we come a long way since then – and the Covid pandemic has affected all of us “having to work” on-line from home for years……so maybe the more recent and for sure collective and nuanced work of  Gilbert, Brittany. “Online learning revealing the benefits and challenges.” (2015) is a good read.  But I should praise the PROMPT project  – where several Swedish universities went together and attempted pioneering more on-line learning, as I – in the “new agile” world have understood the difficulty for employers to send people of too expensive courses (that often are not tailored or have lessen scientific value) – as well as the need of constant updating of skills in the workforce. The “constant learner”.  I had the fortune to be part of PROMT Project from MDU. This early on-line learning gave us all a deep insight in the benefits and challenges of the form.   I admit- most of this guidelines I just picked up and I can honestly not really tell you “who” or where I read it. I guess hard earned experience.

Summary – If you have the above skills – you can manage – you can interact and – of course you are allowed to make mistakes – you are sure on the right path of becoming more “resident” in the app, than just a “visitor”.  Of course – the “being resident” also means “I live there” – meaning this is a preferred media. I think having sufficient skills to feel comfortable and secure with digital equipment is sufficient. We cannot be expected to be able to troubleshoot all “bugs” and mistakes we make – but everyone you do – you learn more.


This is of course one of the reasons I have loved being a tester of software during my life – when computers have moved from a rare new thing to a commodity here in Sweden. It has always been allowed to find bugs and report them. Therefore – no one can crash an app as fast as I can (hmm – maybe not true anymore)…. But still – it is a skill!  So do not be afraid – feel secure with people and tools. Share your knowhow and pay forward! It is all about taking the risk of learning something new that might change your life! Embrace it!

PS: the update in this text was a few days later adding references – and reading up more on the literature. Is this right? Is the correct? Are we really fishing? Well…. I guess I will honor Rob Resnick from GATLA who was a great teacher and mentor as well as dearest Severine Sentillés. Life is so cruel and unfair. You will always be remembered.

One response to “How to overcome insecurities!”

  1. You make this post about helping teachers go online and start off by the issue of building trust. So important and well-described! You describe eye-contact, sharing who you are, being a role model, share expectations, create subgroups, lift silent partners, use digital tolls to connect, use ping-pong questions, and phases of group collaboration. You discuss openness and personal in an insightful way, that we will build upon in the next topic.?
    In the late half you discuss the true topic, digital literacies. You say it is an issue of exposure and access. You discuss open and fee access and hope for a better world. You lift the ride of learning to get access, fear/no-fear policy, and thus the importance of learning security in this area.
    You share this with both references and nuances and discuss the complexity. I con though only find traces of your personal experience references here: What are your experiences? Connected to your teaching practice? I would love to hear more about this in the future reflections!

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