Semi-digiliterate? Internal monologue on online participation and digital literacies

The internet is like a box of chocolates?

Like many of my fellow travellers in this ONL course (circa 192), there has been a lot to marvel at and digest during these first few weeks alone. There has been exposure to new paradigms that I’m still chewing on and digesting, such as David White’s (2014) introduction to his brave new continuum; many videos watched and papers read on ways to involve and support students in an online environment; not to mention, the application of new, well known or barely used online tools to communicate, describe, present and brainstorm individually and collaboratively…phew! Everything new has been appealing though and I’m still eager to try out new flavours and sample almost everything in the box of chocolates aka the ‘box of tools’ found in the internet (D. White 2014). I joined this course despite an already heavy workload this autumn, to become the best online instructor I can be for students of my online courses and co-instructor with my colleagues tackling the same questions and applications.

Like others, during the webinar with D. White, I was also intrigued to map out my digital literacies and ponder my private and public digital identities, so much so that I did it again later at home and was intrigued by the results.

Digital identities

Just like the way we dress, style our hair, and scent ourselves (or not), as narcissitic beings (in a healthy sense), we will take what we need and want for practical reasons, but there is also the underlying need to project an image that will be acceptable or possibly even consciously counter-culture.

Digital identities are no less contrived. At work and for other spheres in which I have a clearly defined and practical role, I am eager (almost greedy) to try out new apps or platforms if they will serve as a means to an end, but the personal preference is also strongly present. If I don’t like an app after trying it, I will not use it again, but actively seek something else: One of those colourful chocolates will be tasted again, another eagerly tasted and then spat out when the flavour or texture disappoint–why waste time continuing to taste what does not please or serve its purpose? We have become almost spoilt for choice, but that does not prevent us from diving in deeper and asking ourselves: why do I or why do my students prefer to learn this way or that on an online course or navigate to certain sites or tools.

Let’s switch from my chocolate-laden analogy to the real nuts and bolts of our choices in being a digital resident, because as I see from my chart above, I’m heavily loaded at the institutional end of the continuum, even leaving some out after running out of space. What I like about this realisation is that it does indeed disprove Prensky’s earlier notion (2001a and 2001b) that those of us who became part of the digital revolution later (when DOS still roamed the earth) are not in any way handicapped. I believe that we can in fact even make wiser choices in our consumption, use and manipulation of those online tools, as well as choose more aptly which spheres we’d like to move in and communicate privately and publicly.

As I teach mainly engineers, it is not often that I encounter students who struggle with mastering some software or app; however, I will occasionally encounter students who are frustrated by a new app or programme and have noticed that they often go through a similar learning curve as mine for that particular new tool, and might even need a helping hand from me! Wonders of wonders! 😀 This also is mentioned by White and Le Cornu (2011, p.3)

It is increasingly clear that, just as is the case for almost every subject discipline and expertise, some learners will acquire the requisite skills quickly, while others will struggle, regardless of age.

White & Le Cornu 2011, p.3

This need to support our students in the online learning environment is therefore just as important as we do or have done in face-to-face teaching. In doing some mini research for our Topic 1 FISh (how to support our students online), I found a few articles that confirmed my intuition and experience as a seaoned teacher and again underline what we’ve been listening to, watching and reading during these last two weeks. For example, Lee et al. (2011, p. 162) referring to Heift (2006) summarised that

…that beginner learners sought more additional help than intermediate students in a computer-assisted language learning environment. Therefore, instructional demands, students’ prior knowledge and skills, and self-directed and self-regulated learning experiences, and course contexts will affect students’ needs for support in a learning environment

Lee et al. 2011,p.162, referencing Heift 2006

Although I would like to still studiously pepper this Topic 1 blog post with references to all the material I did consume and reflect on during these weeks, as I do with digital and chocolate consumption in real life, I shall accept that less is sometimes more, and look forward to selectively tasting more delectable new bites in the weeks to come.


Lee, S.J. et al. (2011). Examining the relationship among studnt perception of support, course satisfaction, and learning outcomes in online learning. Internet and Higher Education 14, 158-163.
Heift, T. (2006). Context-sensitive Help in CALL. Computer Assisted Language Learning, 19(2),243-259.
Prensky, M. (2001a). Digital natives, digital immigrants. On the Horizon, 9(5).
Prensky, M. (2001b). Do they really think differently? On the Horizon, 9(5).
White, D. S. & Pareigis, J. (2019). Digital literacies, online webinar, 1 October 2019, viewed 1 October 2019,
White, D.S. (2014). Vistors and Residents, online video, 10 March 2014, viewed 1 October 2019,
White, D. S. & Le Cornu, A. (2011). Visitors and Residents: A new typology for online engagement. First Monday, 16(9)

Published by Anya Siddiqi

Lecturer of English at Aalto University Language Centre, Finland.

8 thoughts on “Semi-digiliterate? Internal monologue on online participation and digital literacies

  1. Hi Anya, very interesting post! I like the analogy of chocolate 🙂 I also like your strategy of trying new apps/digital tool. If you don’t like an app or if it does not serve the purpose, you move on with your quest and keep trying other tools.
    However, I am a bit concerned about how one can keep updated with even a tiny fraction of so many digital tools that are added every day to the ever-evolving digital world. Consider the example of Google Play. According to one of the estimates mentioned on Quora, there are around 100 new apps added to Google Play every hour 🙂
    It can be very time consuming to even explore which new apps could be useful. I guess, the forums like ONL192 become more and more important in this regard. For instance, recently I came to know from our group discussions that there are so many digital tools for presentation other than mighty PowerPoint and Keynote 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Morning Saad,
      Although I think(?) we are supposed to comment on other PBL groups’ blog posts, I really appreciate the collegial support we have already been showing each other in our own PBL group, the Eleveners! It has been indeed through our PBL group (the small group concept really can work well even online) that our repertoire of digital tools has expanded in a short time. In fact, your kind reply has made me think of how extraordinary it is that we work as well as we do only via Zoom, Padlet, Google docs, etc. and that we are seeing in such practical terms how it does and can work! I shall definitely have a different perspective on what can be achieved through groupwork alone by the end of this course!


    1. Thank you, Jörg, for taking the time to read through my ramblings! Yes, I suspected the picture of the chocs might draw a few curious readers ;). Never underestimate the power of an appealing image!


  2. Hi Anya! Like you (and many other ONLers), I mapped out my digital literacies using the residents-visitor model. Similar to you, I found my map to be institutional heavy. What does that say about us? Perhaps we can conclude that we’re hitting the Aalto University targets for online and blended learning? In spite of that, finding digital tools that provide good educational solutions isn’t that simple. Although new tools are constantly being developed (as Saad pointed out), finding ones that work well for our intended purposes continues to be a challenge. It will be interesting to see how the digital possibilities further develop and what our online teaching will be like in say five years. And, it’s not only the tools, it’s also the pedagogical models that will continue to develop alongside them. It leaves me wondering whether we teachers will need to reinvent ourselves as we learn how to provide education for present and future learners.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Dear Diane,
      I liked how you put it that ‘we’re hitting the Aalto University targets for online and blended learning’. Indeed, although I have always loved all things digital and been an early proponent of blended learning, I still am wary of the distance created by putting our teaching and learning interactions in a possibly sterile environment. Therefore, I very much hurrah your note that the pedagogical mdoels will (hopefully) develop alongside the various tools that are cropping up like autumn mushrooms.

      And finally, our digital and teaching identities are, I daresay, very very different from what they were 15 years ago (when I taught my first blended lesson at the University of Jyväskylä). Fingers crossed that they are evolving in a healthy direction!


  3. Hi Anya,
    Thank you for posting your ideas – I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post and it put me now in the mood for chocolate! I share your views in many ways here – and, like you, if the new tool that I try does not work in the way that I need it to, I will quickly “spit it out” and look for something else. This is often hard, however, and the good ones cost money – money that we do not have… Some tools are also more palatable than others, and there is always the occasional less-than-successful flavor – here I am thinking of an online-digital-tool-equivalent for, say, chocolates filled with liqueur… But, we each have our own personal taste and perhaps a tool which I would find horrible to use/taste will make perfect sense to someone else.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, if you are really in the mood for chocolate and you’re at work, there’s some in my locker! Although I’m not there today and my locker is probably locked–tomorrow then! 😀


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

Create your website with
Get started
<span>%d</span> bloggers like this: