Vintage 80s monitor with computer keyboard and mouse in muted pastel pink and blue colors.

Last week’s topic, I feel had everyone reflecting on their past and embracing or shaking their heads at the way we used to represent ourselves online.  Growing up in the late 90’s and early 00’s, I remember to the day when we first got dial up internet, and that terrible sound.  It was finally here, the ability to look up information at the click of a button and become so versed in world culture, that surely there’d be no way I could ever lose a round of Jeopardy.  Instead, I’d sit and chat on MSN Messenger until I got kicked off the dial up because apparently talking to people with the use of a phone was still a thing.  Fast forward 25 years, and I would sooner pick up a phone a talk to someone any day.

So what has changed?

In the week’s discussion, how we each approach the concept of digital identity is a wide spectrum of differing answers.  Age, accessibility, need vs want, places we are and were at in our lives, all depict a different time and circumstances.  As I first started teaching in small town rural SK, I remember interning and having access to projectors and smartboards.  Planning was easy, PowerPoint presentations were the norm.  Then comes the first job, I had an old desktop computer in one of my classrooms, and the Math teacher was fortunate enough to have a smart board, that was it.  The idea of teaching digital citizenship and guiding students to develop their own digital identity and footprint wasn’t even a worry.

As the years moved on, so did the tech.  My school saw class sets of computers being introduced and then the host of new challenges were introduced.  15 years later, and we are seeing a decrease in the amount of tech we have access too and the amount we are using it.  Is it a bad thing?  Depends who you ask.  For my students, the loss of added distractions at their fingertips, I have seen an improvement in their engagement with class activities and discussions.  Less issues with inappropriate use of technology has also improved.  School never really is the issue when tech causes trouble in my experience, not to say it doesn’t happen, but more often then not, I hear of issues that are happening outside of the classroom and school, where some students struggle with the blurred lines of being online vs. real life behaviours, they have developed a “second self,” a digital personality that they can live through.

Businessman holding a cloud of social media network iconOften when I teach and talk to my students about their digital identity I refer back to Facebook.  Now still a commonly used social media app, for my generation, most students are in the Insta and SnapChat world.  I find myself reflecting on how I would enjoy seeing posts and posting myself.  I would never say I was an oversharer, but I did look forward to looking a updates from friends and families online.  To me these spaces were just used for recreation and fun, my online identity was quite small.  Technology is a tool for me and for the odd relax and unwind viewing.

In Jacquie’s shared article, I found extension theory to be where I find my own digital identity has changed.

“Before smartphones and the Internet, physical interaction in the so-called ‘real life’ might have been preferred for reasons related to time and space, but as these restrictions no longer apply to the same extent, virtual interaction is becoming our interaction of choice (perhaps in a not-so-distant future, physical interaction without technological mediation will even have become obsolete). “

Woman hands picks up the number of the rotary phone and holds the handset on blue pastel background. Top view, minimalismYes, using online platforms for communication serves its purpose but I find picking up the phone and having a conversation is much more effective and honestly faster.  I polled my students yesterday, and out of 40 Grade 6 students, only a couple would choose to contact someone through a phone call rather than using a messaging system.  Even my own kids agreed with this.  Most said it was because online they don’t hear your voice, and they would be less nervous about using this method.  Now if the students knew the person they would be calling, they said they could do it, but would still prefer messaging them.  My point at the end was for the students to understand how easily messages can be misconstrued, where a phone call usually you can do a better job being clearer with your intentions.  The medium you use to represent yourself and your online identity you put out to the world says a lot about who you are.  Not a negative or a positive, but it seems things online nowadays are put under a microscope more than ever.

And that’s why I choose to pick up a phone after all of these years.