We have now completed unit 2 around digital literacies and identities and I feel that we are making good progress. It was fascinating to read and comment on many Digital me stories and it was great to see that many participants have started also commenting on each other’s posts. Our webinar with Dr Cristina Costa provided us all with an opportunity to further reflect and explore this unit’s theme and we had a thought provoking discussion (the recording is available here). Cristina has also written a blog post and am sharing this here with you all for further food for thought.
There is now a fantastic opportunity to transform monologues into dialogues and reflective conversations . Dialogue is so so important for learning! It enables us to think, un-think and re-think!
Participants in PBL groups have started working on their tasks and it is always fascinating to see how individuals come together. Learnng collaboratively online can be very rewarding but also challenging and I look forward finding out how participants feel about their journey so far.
One of the tasks in this unit was to look at the Digital me, past, present and future and I would like to capture my story here.
Once upon a time
I remember when I got my first PC. I had just finished Highschool and enrolled on a Computer course at college. Not sure how I ended up doing a Computer course, as my parents wanted me to become a Medical Doctor… I guess, they saw an early opportunity there and they were right! I remember Dos and dbase and how I could create databases but not much else. The floppy discs where massive, then they became smaller and harder. At some point they disappeared completely and were replaced by CDs but that was years later…. I used emailing when this became available to connect mainly for work purposes initially as not everybody had a PC. Was it a luxurary then?
I had become a translator and all my work was done on the computer. Initially I translated on paper and then transfered everything in the Wordprocessor but not for long. I just remembered Wordperfect… what happened to this? I started translating and typing at the same time. This gave me so much flexibility in editing. How did people write in typewriter times or even before then? I used emailing a lot when I had questions I couldn’t find in heavy dictionaries and encyclopaedia and I had to contact specific professionals but also get in touch with authors, if alive.
I was also teaching languages and created loads and loads of worksheets using my computer, not just with text but also clipart. I also made flashcards! Increasingly I could find many uses for my PC. The years passed, at some point I joined the Navy where I was a computer programmer and worked with massive systems and I remember the huge backup tapes. But I didn’t stay there. I moved on and completed by undergraduate degree in translation. For many years I had the same PC but did some upgrates, bigger hard drive, more memory.
At some point I started a research degree and went to Germany with an Erasmus scholarship… I went without computer and had to ask my parents to post me my PC as I would be staying for a whole academic year… I wish I had a laptop then!!! I guess they were too expensive? Anyway, with my PC I could write and write, nobody could stop me and I used my time well at the Johannes Gutenberg-Universität Mainz in Germersheim. When I arrived everybody was talking about the internet and the university was also connected. Until then, I only knew emails, edutainment software and specific software I used as a translator (Multiterm for example, as I was also working on a dictionary project with a colleague from Germany). I was excited about the internet and wanted to see it when I arrived there… when I got my university username and password there, and was sitting in front of the computer looking at a university screen, I wasn’t sure what this was all about as nothing happened! A static colourful page in front of my eyes!!! Is this the internet? Instant disappointment! Then I looked left and right and could see people looking at different screens and doing things. I had no clue… so I decided to ask another student. They showed me the magic URL bar and I was off and never looked back. I had discovered the internet. Wow! I started using it regularly while I was there, only at Uni!!!. Also found a friend my mum had lost for many years via the internet, many useful resources for my research and links to related organisations and institutes. I can’t remember which search engine I used then, but I suspect it was Internet Explorer? I wish I would have captured this journey somewhere as I am sure there are many things that I have forgotten. When I returned with my PC to Athens, yes, the PC went back with me!, I got the internet at home also and a laptop at some point. It was so much more convenient for my work than a massive PC!!! I had become a mobile professional without having a mobile phone. The laptop gave me wings to do my work wherever I was.
When I then moved to the UK, I got back into teaching and started using the web more creatively. Actually, after attendng a 10 week course in webdesign I made my own website for language learning. I got into designing interactive quizzes which were open to the public and freely available. I used specific tools I found freely available on the web and I loved it when others contacted me and told me that they found my language learning activities useful. My very first Open Educational Resources, I guess… that was in 2001-02 or around that time? I uploaded everything to freeserve but at some point everything disappeared!!! I have searched many times to find where the stuff went , but nothing! I guess this is one of the downsides when using free spaces. But I do have everything stored locally, all the html codes! So if anybody is interested, I am happy to share or find a new home for the activities. Then VLEs entered my life at different institutions, including Adult and Community Learning, FE and HE and started using them for learning and teaching. Initially as a repository of resources, but then as spaces to communicate and collaborate. I also created further interactive resources. I started participating in more organised blended and online CPD as a learner and started designing by own courses, including teaching languages using Skype. I also had an interest in gaining a deeper understanding of the blended and online pedagogies and decided to do an MSc in this area. This was eye-opening and enriched my practice in so many ways. Being a learner in an online environment made me reflect on my practice and help me better understand what my students would be going through.
You might not believe what I am going to say now. It is true that I got my first mobile phone from one of my students who was shocked that I didn’t have one and gave me two phones he didn’t use anymore. I called myself ‘pre-historic’ because of this but I didn’t really feel that I had a use of this so didn’t need one. Suddenly I had two mobiles… still didn’t use any of them immediately. Only when I went on holiday to Greece and could put a local SIM card in, then I could see value in this as I could contact and be contacted easily and cheaper by family and friends when in the country. I continued using one of the mobiles in the UK but extremely infrequently… until I got an ipod and a bit later a smartphone. Then I could see the point as I again saw value in using these smart devices for learning and teaching.
For me this all came naturally as through the years I had experimented with different approaches and always have been open to try new things. I think for me the use of digital technologies for professional use came first and were integrated into my practice as a learner, student, translator, researcher, teacher and academic developer. I don’t see my personal and professional identity as two separate things. I am just me.
It would be lovely to connect also with family using the digital technologies especially as I live so far away… but this has not happened, unfortunately… and I really don’t know how to convince them…
I am still experimenting and feel really excited about the present and the future. I see myself as a (digital) traveller. I probably would even leave the ‘digital’ out… as I see this part of everyday professional and personal life. However, I am concerned that I might not be able to keep up with all the latest developments… Among others, I need to work on filtering!!!
Through using social media, I have had the opportunity to connect with really interesting individuals nearby or far far away who I wouldn’t otherwise meet. I have also been able to stay in touch with dear colleagues and friends. Creating, reflecting, learning, researching and teaching/facilitating have been transformed into more social and shared activities and experiences with a global reach. Humans are social beings. Aristotle said it and many afterwards. It is true. What would Aristotle say about the social web?
Over the years, I had different digital tools and used to carry them around with me. Most of them have been replaced now by a single smartphone. So I travel a bit lighter! I am of course also a great fan of low-tech learning and teaching resources which are a bit heavy… I mean Lego, Mobilo and other stuff. For me it is not really about the technology but what it enables and while some people will say the technology in itself doesn’t enable anything and I would agree with them, it is how we humans use the technology.
I can’t wait to find out what the future will bring but am also excited about where I am now and all the possibilities and opportunities.
Food for thought
1. Remember that flexibility is key. How can we be more flexible when facilitating such courses?
2. Keeping participants and facilitators engaged. How can we sustain and increase motivation?
3. Using a learning buddy system. How can this be implemented more effectively?
Let’s unit 3 begin!