Digital Literacy and Identity in My Personal and Professional Life

As part of Week 1’s assignment for the Open Networked Learning Course, I am to talk about who I am as a person in the digital age, my digital journey, and my digital literacy, both in my personal and professional life.

Who I Am in the Digital World
I adhere to the belief that the more you know, the more you realize you don’t know. Or to put another way, the larger island of knowledge that you live on, the more ocean you can see.

Little island, little knowledge. I only realize a small amount of what I don’t know.
Bigger island, bigger knowledge. I realize there’s a lot more sides to this issue.

When I started learning about digital literacy, I thought of things like Microsoft products and using a PC vs. Apple operating systems. As my knowledge grew, I learned about whole other fields, like social networking sites, how virus software operated, multiple other presentation platforms beyond PowerPoint, and how to create blogs and vlogs and promote and market those products.

Now I realize a myriad of things I don’t know how to do, that I wish I did know, like coding and hacking, as well as how uses of digital technology can transform markets that previously had little or no investment in technology (e.g. self-check in and self-check out machines at grocery stores or fast food restaurants). Of course, catching up to others may be frivolous, as the new thought is that artificial intelligence will soon replace coding altogether.

In any event, the point is it’s hard to state my digital identity any more than it is to answer the question “who are you?” It’s ever learning, ever changing, ever adapting, ever transforming—similar to what Doug Belshaw says in his Tedx Talk.

Why I Became More Digitally Literate…..and then Stopped
I started to become more digitally literate for the sake of my professional skills. For example, I created a blog and several YouTube videos to highlight and disseminate my research findings (as well as to show any future employers my accomplishments in fun and dynamic ways).

This then led into creating more fun blog posts about traveling.

d18e33a9e4f4dbfce4113806dc095db9However, since I wasn’t seeking notoriety or fame, and hence didn’t post about kittens or jumping off of buildings, I relatively quickly gave up on documenting my trips, even though I love going back through and seeing old pictures.

Similarly, when it comes for promotions, advancements, longer contracts, digital literacy is hardly viewed as important. In the academy: grants, having PhD students, and research publications, preferably in top-tier journals with high citation rates are what’s valued. Publish or perish.

Creating valuable, usable content takes time and effort. Learning the programs does as well. But if they aren’t valued, they won’t be used to the same extent, as we all have limited time in our days, and hence many posts may just be rambling (like this one) or may not even appear, as I don’t have time to create them.

The only digital literacies that have become helpful professionally, are when they are used directly in my research. For example, I’m creating and running an online-intervention for young high school dropouts who are unemployed. The point is to use digital tools to help reach them, as many live in rural settings, and then provide them with the tools necessary to gain employment.

Experiences within ONL so far
Let’s quickly review what we’ve done so far:

  • We met in person, where I helped no less than 6 people figure out what to do and how to do it
  • We introduced ourselves four times
    • In person
    • On the ONL Google+ page
    • On the PBL Google+ page
    • In a video within our PBL group
  • Create a blog
  • Use Google+
  • Use Google Drive
  • We’ve met twice a week at 13 on Tuesday’s and Thursday for one hour meetings
    • Half of the time people couldn’t get in or were booted out
    • People kept trying to catch up to what was said, making repeating of information inevitable
    • Trying out both Adobe Connect and Zoom to make for a better online connection
    • Several group members either haven’t attended these meetings or only attended rarely
      • More pressure on a small group of people to complete assignments.
        • Currently only one person is signed up to complete Activity Week 2, making it harder than necessary on her
  • The moderators made the first video, while two group members are making a second presentation

One big difference between this course and my online program is that my online program is much more explanatory. That is, rather than just saying “create a blog”, I give people tools, website, videos, and directions on how to create a blog.

Let’s take another quick example: Adobe Connect. Adobe Connect is a web-based tool where multiple users can join via video chat to see and speak with each other. But it’s so much more than that! Presentations can be shown while people watch, comments can be made, polls are built. It’s fun and interactive. And so far, only led by course leaders.

Rather than developing the students’ knowledge about a technical program like Adobe Connect, so far, the ONL course has only let moderators and course leaders use this technology. So while it’s great to see the capabilities of the product via watching others use it (something I could have done on a YouTube informational video), I would prefer that the Online Network Learning course teach me how to use it.

AdobeConnect Icon-F-01_0

I would love to learn how to use Adobe Connect, seeing as how it might be a very useful tool if I ever taught in an Open Networked Course. It might be further useful to know how to troubleshoot. For example, a presenters camera was frozen and the only known solution was to let her continue talking without revamping the video stream.
So far this course has left several students struggling and may even be a reason why some don’t continue on with the course–because of a lack of explanation around tools, as well as because of a lack of use of tools. For example, I haven’t learned any new tools yet–Google+, Google Drive, WordPress are all common tools that many non-professionals use. In addition, these tools are vastly confusing for many people. They have trouble navigating between multiple platforms. As another blogger in the course announced, “only eventually find out that … I can actually get along with Skype“. Meaning, simplicity is sometimes the key.

In fact, things were so confusing that once Adobe Connect didn’t work, we all tried to use Zoom. But since no code was provided for Zoom, many students who otherwise would have attended the meeting, were left out or came late.

This is partially because Zoom was chosen at the last minute, rather than days ahead of time, and because the link to the correct Zoom room was not posted in the same thread as the original Zoom invitation, leaving multiple people to ask for an ID to enter the room.

Screen Shot 2017-10-10 at 3.47.25 PM

On digital technology, so far, only two groups, the two moderators and two students taking the course, have worked with technology in any given week, while the rest of us have just written in a Google Word document or have created a recorded video.

I have learned about the names of several new presentation programs by seeing what other groups have done, but since I haven’t worked with them, I still don’t know how to use them. Therefore, the best thing so far about this course could have just been written on a Word document.

David White
David White talks about visitors and residents in the digital world (Part 1 and Part 2). While I enjoyed the videos and thought they were entertaining, they weren’t so informative. I think most people already know if they are a creator of material or a reader/user of material, for example, although I’ll agree that it’s a catchy metaphor: visitors and residents.

He also argues that it’s not “age-related”, but rather your amount of experience, or more specifically, motivation to engage, with a product that makes you digitally literate. Well no kidding!

But I bet there’s a high correlation between age and motivation. Obviously it’s not causal. Obviously anyone can learn a technology and use of that technology should typically make them better. That’s not novel.

He’s entertaining, but clearly informative to an older generation, rather than mass appealing to the Millennials, the current generation who are already using these technology. In fact, I’d argue that it’s not a matter of motivation. Many teens and 20-somethings use all sorts of technology at the seeming drop of a hat, while an older person may continue-on struggling, despite being dreadfully motivated to learn.

A quick example–no matter how motivated I am to learn calculus, I just can’t do it, while my astro-physicist friend does it seemingly without thinking. Motivation is hardly the only ingredient for being able to learn something.

Doug Belshaw

In a Tedx talk called The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies  Doug Belshaw does a lot better job of explaining how people develop digital logic in their head. He takes us through recent history, talking about things telephones, VCRs, the internet, and newer technologies and how different generations learn these new topics more easily, while older generations learn with more difficulty.

He also talks about “digital literacies” vs. “digital literacy” and how the latter doesn’t really exist, it’s a fallacy. Again, this video is quite basic and probably appeals more to older or “less motivated”, according to Doug, generations. It’s informational, but basic and doesn’t help anyone who has a relatively workable understanding of digital technologies.

Side Note: Making Money

By the by–maybe it’d be better if we, as a group, or we as a class, or we as teachers of the class create a YouTube video that promotes important concepts, rather than promoting other people’s work. I feel like we’re paying David and Doug, or at least TedX Talks by having all students (n = 120ish) each year promote their work publicly on blogs. Surely that must bring them more hits, and more than just all of us clicking on their links. It might as well be us collecting that advertising money by promoting our own work.

3 thoughts on “Digital Literacy and Identity in My Personal and Professional Life”

  1. I like your post. I totally agree that creating valuable, usable digital content takes a lot of time and effort. And even more time and effort with gaining competence in using online tools. Nowadays, time we have on our hands has become so precious that we can only allow ourselves to become ‘selectively’ digitally literate. And I agree with your point that we should look at what tools others on the course are using to be able to choose the right tools for our work. Well done on creating a folder in Drive with some kind of a tool collection. I will try to add more things there during the course.


  2. Thanks for a nice post. I tend to agree with you that being active on the online sphere does not (directly) lead to academic promotion, recognition, etc. However, lately, I am feeling like people in my area of research who are considered “twitter starts” get more applaud for a given work, get more invitation for seminars, and their working papers are circulated more broadly. I understand that none of these directly lead to academic promotion, but it it is hard to imagine that it also does not help in some other not-so-direct way. Not sure about this, but maybe something to think about…


    1. That’s definitely something to think about Kaveh! Do you know if the reason for them getting more circulated papers is because of twitter? Do you think twitter is a better communication tool for spreading/disseminating research than blogs? Any thoughts on spreading through YouTube? In my experience with blogs, I get a bit over 100 people per day visiting, but they’re definitely here as residents, and most don’t leave comments. Of those who do, it’s about if they can have access/permission to use a certain questionnaire (and mind you, they aren’t even my questionnaires). So at least for my blog, no one has ever reached out, let alone cited, my research because of my blog….but certainly some people want to use it to find information they find meaningful….so I’m helping others, but not necessarily helping myself. Whereas it seems, twitter might be helping yourself to some extent. Do you know if this has led to any extra citations….compared to just spreading the article to more people. After all, no one ever asks how many times my articles have been downloaded….we’re judged on the number of citations we have.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s