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Extra! Extra! Digital Immigrant goes Native! A personal reflection

The author, surveying a new land


In August 2008, Ed came to work in Auckland and found myself amongst several new colleagues, one of whom was, well, let's just call her Hazel.

OK, it's Hazel.

She introduced me to this new, odd-sounding model of teaching and learning called ICTELT. It sounded at first like a foreign language, and when I saw the extent of her thinking around the basic idea, I felt a bit overwhelmed. I looked it over and did what we do sometimes when we are unexpectedly confronted with an unfamiliar  range of mountains.

'Niiiiice!' I thought. 'Looks great, if you like that sort of thing. But I'm totally cool with the beach, which I know well and have surfed in for 17 years, all with only minimal forays to the hills.' 

Little did I know what awaited me.

When Hazel introduced this model to my wee work team, I passed it by - surely these are heights I did not need to reach. But my team leader, let's just call her, say, Diana Ayling, took to it and was donning climbing cleats, organising her ropes and pitons, then was out the door calling to the rest of the team before I could reload the ICTELT page to take a second look. 

OK, extended and overworked metaphor aside, I realised very quickly that I needed to get onboard. This became clear when I showed up to a meeting where we were to share some teaching resources. I had brought two, and thoughtfully brought paper copies for everyone; my team mates showed up with their laptops and were accessing a shared site created exactly for that purpose, a resource repository. As well as a place to discuss work issues. And create a wee online identity. And schedule events. Hmmmm.


This is so not for me.

Why was I so resistant? I believe I was stuck in the outer fringes of emailing and satisfied with it - after all, there was an immediacy of communication combined with the luxury of time to compose my words well. (Writing is, after all, a recursive process, and most of us know the shock of hitting 'send' too quickly, when we haven't spent enough time composing and revising, or learning our systems, often with interesting results. Don't be coy - I know some of you have done this.

But overall, email was my online presence and I was glad of it.

Why, I had thought, should I bother with anything more? And then I went to that meeting I mentioned above. Hmmmmm. I worked through it: if our resources, discussions, events, and even identities were happening online, I needed to be there.


I'm guessing, if you were born before, say, 1985, that you might not have been there, too, right?

Unbeknownst to me at the time, Marc Prensky, "an internationally acclaimed thought leader, speaker, writer, consultant, and game designer in the critical areas of education and learning", had already sussed out what my trouble was about eight years before I even got there. I was a digital immigrant, in bold font. Have a wee read. Share my struggle. 

I tell you what, it took nine months for me to get on board. My team had explored numerous sites, trying to find a good platform for developing a Community of Practice (CoP) around teaching and learning. We were using Ning, it was still free then, so we could explore and experiement with impunity. And Lo!, I lucked out - a CoP needs a purpose, and 'Community' was not something we had at our institution, it was more like small teams in departments often unconnected, without cross-discipline collaboration on teaching and learning. So I stumbled into creating 'The Teaching and learning Community at Unitec' and my team leader took off with it. We used a version of Nancy White's 'Online Community Builder's Purpose Checklist' and got our house in order and never looked back. It is still around, in fact, today it is the largest online T&L CoP in New Zealand.

 Yes, I am as astounded as you are. Please check it out and request to join if you are so inclined. (It has numerous international members, so being at Unitec isn't a requirement.)

So I learned to not only interact in an online CoP, but to facilitate one, as well, with Diana.

And I suspect that Hazel had a grin on her that they could see down in Invercargill. She has asked me now for about 18 months to blog it up, but I was still too close to my transformation. I was still learning, growing and gaining confidence. It was a great learning journey for me and still is. Here's what I think happened, in case you are embarking on this journey, or trying to figure out why your students/colleagues/family/friends/house cat are taking so long to GET ON BOARD!

I think hindsight is great, and it occurs that knowledge/information alone wasn't enough. We are talking about a position shift, a change in my identity as a teacher, learner, researcher, almost everything about my professional life. The  position shift took me nine months. The thing that drove me to shift was that online was where my team was holding all its conversations, creating and holding resources. etc. I valued contributing to my team (participating) so that drove me to develop my skills and knowledge, albeit grudgingly. Getting such positive feedback on my work (confidence building) spurred me on and adding new knowledge/information from articles and research - and doing my research with Diana - was the final stage for me to perform where I WANTED to learn more to perform better. And to be honest, the bar that my colleagues set was (and is) high, yet attainable if I pay attention to my business. I have a good leader and good role models.

So thank you, Hazel and Diana, for your support and guidance in this continuing journey.

And thank the rest of you for reading this too-long post, I hope it helps you understand the shift needed to go from immigrant to native for you, your students, your friends and your family. And I bet your house cat is so secure in her identity that she just doesn't care.


 -- Ed

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