Navigating spaces

There is a lot to be said about digital competencies, and what it actually means to be “digitally competent”, if there even is such a thing (who decides who is digitally competent, anyways?). We live in an ever-changing society, where we have to constantly adapt to new technology, new tools, and new ways of thinking, as well as new ways of teaching. When I started teaching at upper secondary school level, about 15 years ago, my students didn’t have laptops, and there were no mobile phones in the classroom. A few years later, all my students had laptops and more and more students had access to smart phones, which meant we both had new opportunities and new challenges in the classroom. I was excited about it; I embraced the technological advances and possibilities for collaborative learning, and was excited about all the online resources we could use. Nowadays, most of my younger students are digital natives, as David White, University of Oxford, would call them. These young people have grown up in a digital world, where most of them have had access to technology through smart phones and computers. They don’t have to be introduced to these tools as they come to school – they already know that the tools exist. However, as David White points out in his YouTube presentation on “Visitors and Residents” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPOG3iThmRI), we often “confuse ownership with capability”. Just because young people are used to the tools and some of the technology, it doesn’t mean they know how to work collaboratively online or how to efficiently use tools in learning environments. That is something we – as teachers – have to be aware of. It is easy to think that young people, who seem to have grown up with a smart phone in one hand and a computer mouse in the other, will know how to navigate through various online spaces. They may not have such competencies at all.

We had the opportunity to listen to and meet with David White in our ONL course this week. It was a very interesting session, where we talked about the visitors and residents model. Are we visitors or residents on the various platforms and in the apps we use, and do we use social media and other digital tools privately or professionally? Do we have different logins for different purposes, for example one Twitter account for professional use and another for private interactions? One gmail account for work related purposes and one gmail account for private conversations? It was interesting to reflect on how we use social media and different platforms, and it can – as David White points out – also be interesting to reflect on how other people use technology, in order to plan various collaborative activities.

Apart from navigating through spaces online, finding relevant pages, apps and tools for different purposes, it is also important – in my opinion – to navigate through levels of professional, personal and private. I prefer not to mix my professional role with my private life. I meet hundreds of university students every year, and my conversations with them are strictly on a professional level. I don’t want them to have insight in my personal life through open social media accounts, and I wouldn’t dream of giving my students my private phone number. In fact, I have had to remove my phone number from certain Swedish websites (where phone numbers are shared) because some students have phoned me on my private phone line. I feel it is important to be able to disconnect from work outside of office hours, if that is what I want to do. I can use social media for collaborative purposes, but then I have accounts for that purpose, and I make sure I disable notifications so that I do not get “buzzes” on my smartphone during my spare time. As much as I love my job, I don’t want to be “at work” 24/7. Having said that, I look forward to navigating more spaces throughout the ONL course, balancing the space between private and professional as I use social media to connect and collaborate.

1 comment

  1. A good examination of the way technology and online learning has blurred the lines between private and professional. I would be interested to see your visitor and residents map as you try to avoid blurring those lines.

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