Topic 1: Experiencing your journey from digital visitor to resident – and back again?

A well-known poem by the Swedish poet Karin Boye starts with the following lines:

The sated day is never first.
The best day is a day of thirst.

Yes, there is goal and meaning in our path –
but it’s the way that is the labour’s worth.

(English translation taken from : https://www.karinboye.se/verk/dikter/dikter-mcduff/in-motion.shtml, 16th April, 2020)

To me, this Open Networked Learning course has certainly proved to be an inspiring and rewarding journey so far, with the  recent global development caused by the Corona crisis obviously creating an unexpected and dramatic framework that made the knowledge of online learning and digital tools having immediate relevance here and now My name is Pernilla Rosell Steuer and I work as a senior lecturer at the Department of Language Education at Stockholm University, Sweden.

My initial motives for taking this course was a recommendation from my colleague Tore Nilsson, who said it could provide fruitful and practical knowledge about how to design and evaluate online courses and also deepen critical insights about open learning in general.  (He also said it would be hard work!) From a practical point of view, I will be responsible for creating a number of new online courses within teacher education, together with some very online-experienced colleagues, and simply felt the need of catching up with some real experience myself.

Connecting to the poem quoted above, I also think that it is really important that we never stop exploring new fields as teachers – that we will always communicate to our students that we, too, are on a constant journey towards new knowledge and that we would love to undertake this journey together with them, rather than remaining statically “above”.

In the initial weeks of the course, I was – apart from being somewhat disoriented about all the resources and different kinds of information – hugely inspired by many things and found it fruitful and inspiring to get to know the other people in my group. One of the things that really caught my “intrinsic” motivation and made me think in new ways, was the webinar given in week 1 by David White and Jörg Pareis. In this webinar they made us explore the topic of online participation and digital literacies by drawing individual maps of our personal and professional digital experience and discussing our different roles, drawing on the concept of “visitors and residents ” in the article “Visitors and Residents:  a new typology for online engagement” (2011) by David S. White and Alison Le Cornu.

As far as I understand it, the authors in the article (as well as in the webinar) wished to take a dialectic stand on the more traditional dichotomy of dividing people into the categories of “digital immigrants” versus “digital natives”, by trying to broaden the perspectives and finding a typology that will allow for different roles in different contexts. In the former categorization (which I myself have used both personally and professionally) you could easily end up by labelling all young students as “digital natives”, forgetting that they do not always know how to write a (formally acceptable) e-mail to a headmaster of a school ( I mainly work with student teachers)  or uploading an attachment on a digital learning platform correctly.  Similarly, “older” people would easily be referred to as “digital immigrants” despite the fact that Facebook, just to mention one digital forum, has been largely kidnapped by middle-aged or older “residents” showing videos of cats and letting their other middle-aged Facebook “friends” see pictures of their recipes and harmonious holiday trips (at least in pre-Corona times ….)

So to me the concept of “visitors” and “residents” as more fluent and multiple identities make much more sense in today’s complex and constantly changing digital reality: The way I understand it – and according to the mapping that was carried out in the above-mentioned seminar – these roles are not opposites, but rather different positions on a continuum. Depending on our professional identities as well as our personal interest and hobbies, we may well be visitors in many ares and residents in others, and we may find new positions on this scale tomorrow.

As far as I understand it, digital tools and online learning may also contribute to new – perhaps “in-between” positions -where you can move from the role of a more distant, professional university lecturer towards a personally engaged researcher and human being, depending on the digital tools and online design that you have chosen to use. And right at this moment, due to numerous more or less structured Corona-induced Zoom meetings and conferences,  I think that we have all experienced looking into your colleagues’ personal homes and even greeting their family members to an extent that we have never done before and that may very well have an impact of our sense of being more connected than ever before.

In all, a very exciting journey and I look forward to opening new digital windows together with my friends in the group.