The Digital Me – Past, Present and Future 1/5

My PiA couple of years ago, I had an epiphany. I came across a quotation from Fred Wilson, a venture capitalist in New York.

On Thursday night I gave a talk at NYU Poly and in the Q&A a young man asked me for advice for “those who aren’t technical”. I said he should try to get technical.

(Wilson 2011)

This really made me stop and reflect. I’ve always described myself as “not technical.” But I began to think – what if this is just a state of mind? What if it’s just laziness on my part? I started an experiment on myself. Was it possible for a non-techy journalist to get technical by sheer force of will? You can read about some of my efforts on my other blog and judge for yourself.

But by then I’d already become very interested in social media and have been an early adopter with a few tools such as Pinterest.

My Pinterest Board - Coding for Beginners

 They’ve become indispensable to journalism so I needed to keep up-to-date with how my profession was changing. I’m by no means an expert but I am comfortable in that environment and enjoy exploring new tools and developments, the challenges and the opportunities. So Prensky’s (2001) assertion that we are either digital natives or digital immigrants – depending on our birth date – seems totally outmoded. Rather the “Digital Me” is surely defined by our attitude and feelings towards the digital world. So I define myself more as a Digital Resident (White and Le Cornu 2011), valuing relationships as well as knowledge acquisition online.

I’m also very aware that social media and digital technology have had a hugely disruptive impact on my industry with news organisations struggling to find an economic model to fit the Web 2.0 era. The same is true of Higher Education and both institutions need to find a raison d’etre in an information-rich world. So although I use technology in my classes and beyond – primarily for engagement with students – I do not feel I use technology for learning and teaching, as such, and I need to learn more about the pedagogy for this.  I’m aware there’s a danger of using “warmed-over” traditional approaches rather than using Web 2.0 technologies to their true potential to design and create student-centric learning environments (Barnes and Tynan 2007). Failure to do this will leave students looking elsewhere for their education.

As I develop, I would like to help students use technology to construct knowledge collaboratively, since in the digital era this is a more valuable skill than simple information recall. New technologies offer exciting ways of doing this (Conole 2013). However, this does not take into account the relatively small number of students who may not have access to smart phones and other tools. Higher Education is increasingly diverse and we need to respect the equality of opportunities for learners as defined in the UK PSF (HEA 2011)

Laurillard (2012, p 199) stresses that “technology enables, it does not drive, or ensure success.” The success of any technology-dependent task is still dependent on the teacher who designs the task. So I want to learn more about what my role as teacher should be in a technology enhanced learning environment in keeping with UKPSF (HEA 2011)

If I reflect on how I have worked to develop my own digital literacies in recent years, I find it  is always self-directed and usually starts with an online search for the latest tutorials, for instance on Google hangouts which I hadn’t used before this course.

So this experience has led me to conclude that rather than teaching a particular “digital literacy” to our students, we need to create the motivation that makes them want to integrate perpetual learning into their lives (Belshaw 2013).


Barnes, C. and Tynan, B. (2007) ‘The Adventures of Miranda in the Brave New World: Learning in a Web 2.0.’ ALT-J, 15:3, 189 – 200.

Belshaw, Douglas Tedx Talk YouTube. Available TEDxWarwick – Doug Belshaw – The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies Accessed 13.10.13.

Conole, G. (2012). Designing for learning in an open world (Vol. 4). Springer

HEA. (2011). The UK Professional Standards Framework for teaching and supporting learning in higher education   Retrieved from

Laurillard, D. (2012). Teaching as a Design Science: Building Pedagogical Patterns for Learning and Technology. Florence, Kentucky: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group

Prensky, M. (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1”, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 Iss: 5, pp.1 – 6

White, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) “Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement.” First Monday, 16 (9).

Wilson, F. (2011) AVC Musings of a VC in NYC. Program or be Programmed. Retrieved from Accessed 19.09.13.


10 thoughts on “The Digital Me – Past, Present and Future 1/5

  1. Yeah. Cracking post as usual Liz. Couple of thoughts/questions came to mind. Firstly, have you done much with the Pi? I caught my daughter Media Stacking this morning – watching CITV whilst staring at Scratch on my laptop. She had an idea for a Zombie game for the Pi 🙂

    Second, whilst journalism tries to come to terms with web 2.0, our journalism numbers continue to rise. Are we equipping our students with enough knowledge to join a digital workforce, whether it be journalism or some other digital career? Certainly something must be working if the numbers continue to grow.

    Echo your thoughts about PBL here – it’s gonna be emotional 🙂 Speak soon.

    • I’ve not done anything with the pi recently, I’m ashamed to say. I’m just not finding the time for any of that stuff at the moment. I also realise that I’m not really into hardware. I’m happy to learn a bit about coding – tapping out stuff on a keyboard. But as soon as circuit boards and wires are involved, I switch off.
      Are we equipping our students with enough knowledge to join a digital workforce? Not on the courses I experience, no. But in what little research I have done in this area, few of the really digital savvy journalists etc learnt any of this in a formal classroom. They all taught themselves or learnt from peers and continue to spend a large proportion of their working time learning new stuff in a just-in-time, self-directed, open source kind of way. So it’s those lifelong learning skills we need to instil.

      • Hardware is hard work, Software is fun!
        I think journalism and other courses are doing a decent job in terms of digital skills – but we could be doing more. I think that’s a fair point about peer learning and CPD. The vast majority of the Programmes and languages I use are self taught or picked up from real or virtual people – that’s a huge part of lifelong learning.

  2. I really enjoyed reading this Liz and it is lovely to see that someone else shares similar aims in terms of the approach taken to TEL and the hoped for outcomes of the FDOL module. I think it is particularly interesting how you connect this to your research specialism and HE and it makes for a potentially problematic yet exciting mix of outcomes in the future! Have you had any thoughts so far on how you might scaffold learning with technology?

  3. Hi Liz,

    Your writing is so nice to read; I am keen to hear the sound of your voice in person, as I tend to read in peoples voices (Does that sound bananas?). I agree that there are relatively few students who do not have access to smart phones etc and this is theory should make for easier collaboration, but in my experience that is it….. “in theory”.

    What I have found is that students don’t know how to engage with one another in terms of knowledge sharing or establishing contact with one another in their learning communities. It’s almost like learning a new language for them (some not all). They are shy and reticent about sharing ideas, knowledge or simply talking to one another in the virtual environment. I am really struggling to get them to interact and wonder if this is something that you have come across?


    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Nadine. I do appreciate it.
      You’re right about inter-student engagement. We assume they do it so naturally because they’re young, because they carry the tools in their pockets, because we tell them to! But for some reason, that’s not enough!!
      I have no secret and have had different levels of (very moderate) success with different groups of students and different strategies. I think they do engage behind the scenes though. I found out today that my International Journalism MA students have set up a Facebook group for themselves. Other student groups have done the same as they’re approaching their Newsdays when they need to plan and collaborate on a big, assessed project. But they feel more comfortable doing that behind our backs, as it were, rather than on platforms we’ve set up for them! I think I should look for some research on that….

  4. Hi Liz,
    I enjoyed learning more about your digital journey and experiences. I particularly thought that your argument that you are a ‘digital resident’ rather than a ‘digital immigrant’ was important given how your experience does not match Prensky’s (2001) theory. I think this is important because Prensky’s (2001) metaphor has at its heart a connotation about whether or not we fit in to the digital world, speak the language well enough to live there and be accepted just as immigrant in the geographical world are judged; how accepted we are by others. The digital residents and visitors metaphor (White and Le Cornu 2011) seems closer to current experiences in that digital literacy may be more to do with how the individual feels in the spaces rather than how they are accepted.
    Later you make the argument that failure to utilise digital literacy and tools in teaching will leave students looking elsewhere for education. In my experience students are rather resistant to embracing digital spaces and tools inside and outside of the classroom for learning, with the exception of information searching on the internet. Research has shown that many students want the face-to-face and non-technology of the traditional classroom environment (Clayton, Blumberg & Auld, 2010). As such, I am not sure it is that students would look elsewhere however, if evidence suggests that these tools enhance learning then it is our responsibility as educators to investigate and utilise them.
    Clayton, K., Blumberg, F. & Auld, D.P. 2010. “The relationship between motivation, learning strategies and choice of environment whether traditional or including an online component” British Journal of Education Technology [online] Available at: (accessed 18 October 2013) doi:10.1111/j.1467-8535.2009.00993.x
    Prensky, M. (2001) “Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants Part 1″, On the Horizon, Vol. 9 Iss: 5, pp.1 – 6
    White, D. and Le Cornu, A. (2011) “Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement.” First Monday, 16 (9).

  5. Hi Liz
    I have found your reflections of your digital journey both in this blog and your personal blog fascinating and inspirational. You describe yourself as a ‘Digital resident’ (White & Le Cornu, 2011), what first motivated you to ‘dip your toe in the water ‘was it personally motivated or driven by the adoption of web 2.0 technologies within your discipline? I aspire to be a ‘resident’ but as my first blog indicates I have a way to go.
    As part of your development you say that you would like to help students construct knowledge collaboratively, do you think your personal development within your PBL group could help you understand how your students might feel in a constructivist learning environment? (Wilson, 1996) You already appear to be seeing the advantages of collaborative tools such as G+ and hangout, which support collaborative learning. The next step appears to be how to design learning activities that support the management of content and situate the learning in the context the student will be learning and working, this is my own dilemma. Perhaps by sharing our ideas through our blogs, we will arrive at the co-construction of knowledge (Westberry & Frankin, 2013) that you view as essential in the digital age. I look forward to future dialogue.

    Westberry, N. & Franklin, M. (2013) Co-construction of knowledge in tertiary on-line settings: an ecology of resources perspective. Instructional Science. January 2013, Volume 41, (1) pp. 147 -164
    White, David S. & Le Cornu, Alison. (2011) Visitors and Residents: A new typology for on-line engagement. [Electronic version]
    Wilson, B. G. ( 1996), What is a Constructivist Learning Environment? In B.G. Wilson (Ed.) Constructivist Learning Environments: Case Studies in instructional Design. (pp. 3-8) USA.

    • Thank you for taking the time to right such considered feedback. it’s very much appreciated. I think my first motivation to dip my toe was going on an early BBC social media course when this whole area was quite new. I felt like the class dunce but I was really fascinated so went away and really worked at it. From that, it didn’t take long to become interested in other tech-related journalism. The result is that I now have a whole pile of things in my “to do” list which I really, really want to learn but will probably never find the time for.
      Thank you for the suggested readings. I’ll look them up!

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