From Digital Immigrant To 21st Century Networked Teacher:

How To Get There and Where We Are Going    

Alyson Indrunas

Everett Community College

English Composition, Title III Faculty Mentor, and Fire Science OL Program Trainer

Western Washington University Graduate Student in Continuing and College Education

Research Interests: educational technology, faculty professional development, adult education, and instructional design

Big Questions for Today's Session

What are the characteristics of Digital Immigrants and Digital Natives?
Can we think about technology as a tool for teaching from a Digital Immigrant's perspective?
How can we learn from students about technology?
What is a Personal Learning Network?
How do we teach about learning and learn about teaching using technology?
Can we start something today?

We are at a turning point in education where the digital divide is growing wider among faculty members. Some have embraced technology from the start—especially in online education--while others have resisted or are too pressed for time to upgrade their skills. There is no question that the increased use of technology, when done effectively, can increase student engagement. This presentation will introduce ideas about how forming PLNs can help digital immigrants take small steps toward increasing their use of technology by learning from others.

My philosophy about technology

Pay attention to my verbs below (I will never stop being an English teacher).
Embrace chaos.
Give good information that people can access later.
Share my enthusiasm.
Invite people to ask for help.
Take risks and something may fail.
Bombard people with information and tools they can play with later.
Converse about what works and what doesn't.

How This Presentation Works

1. Take all my ideas and make them yours! Have something better to offer? Share it with me.

2. Take some notes. Add to the conversation.

Are you a Multi-tasker?
I'd like for you to include comments, questions, and general chat ideas here:

Relieved that brain science shows we can't multi-task? Easily-distracted?
Please email your comments to me or talk to me later.

3. You'll need your cellphone. Or you can share your response with somebody sitting next to you who can text your response.

4. Stop me at any time with your questions and comments.

5. Accept that I have a lot of information here on purpose. The conversation does not have to stop today.

Disclaimer Statement: This Has Not Been Easy

My "online presence" has been hidden in learning management systems.

Here is what I wrote when asked to reflect on the future of learning:

The 'new culture of learning' honestly wears me out. Not only am I supposed to be a master of content, I need to innovate constantly and be an IT specialist. I have to become a seer of the future, a cheerleader for student creativity, a personal counselor, and a graphic designer by never leaving my electronic devices. And I have to do all of this with the knowledge that I am a part-time, contingent worker with no future of full-time employment.

What changed my mind?
A teacher!

"Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants"
Marc Prensky (2001)
  • born after 1980
  • have spent their entire lives surrounded by modern technology such as computers
  • process information differently

"Legacy" and "Future" Content

"As educators, we need to be thinking about how to teach both Legacy and Future content in the language of the Digital Natives. The first involves a major translation and change of methodology; the second involves all that PLUS new content and thinking (p.4)."

Prensky calls for a gamification of learning. Not my style. I haven't spent a long time playing video games since Atari. Even then, I grew bored of it.

What stays with me about his work is his way of highlighting that students' style of thinking has changed largely in part because of technology. I can't ignore the fact that the same thing has happened to me.

What about Backward Design?

Can we think about technology as a tool for teaching from a Digital Immigrant's perspective? How can we learn from students about technology?

Game Changers, Educators and Information Technologies, Diana G. Oblinger, Editor (2012)
Free eBook:

From Chapter 6:
"Education is a matter of sharing, and the open educational resources approach is designed specifically to enable extremely efficient and affordable sharing" (p. 82).

Harder Strategies and Ideas

Take a class.
Sign-up for a MOOC.
Ask your administration to fund on-going technology training.
Collaborate with students about a technology that you'd like to learn.

Easy Strategies and Ideas

Ask students to create a visual aid that is NOT a PowerPoint.
Poll them to see who wants to go into Computer Science or IT.
Adopt open educational resources.
Devote time to your Personal Learning Network.

Cell Phone Poll

"Get out your cell phones," said no teacher ever.

If you have not tried iClickers
Use Poll Everywhere

Let's do a poll right now!

What is a Personal Learning Network (PLN)?

What Does a Networked Teacher Look Like?

How Did I Start?



Connectivism is a learning theory for the digital age. Learning has changed over the last several decades. The theories of behaviorism, cognitivism, and constructivism provide an effect view of learning in many environments. They fall short, however, when learning moves into informal, networked, technology-enabled arena. Some principles of connectivism:

  • Learning has an end goal - namely the increased ability to "do something". This increased competence might be in a practical sense (i.e. developing the ability to use a new software tool or learning how to skate) or in the ability to function more effectively in a knowledge era (self-awareness, personal information management, etc.). The "whole of learning" is not only gaining skill and understanding - actuation is a needed element. Principles of motivation and rapid decision making often determine whether or not a learner will actuate known principles.

  • Learning is a process of connecting specialized nodes or information sources. A learner can exponentially improve their own learning by plugging into an existing network.

  • Nurturing and maintaining connections is needed to facilitate learning. Connection making provides far greater returns on effort than simply seeking to understand a single concept.

  • Learning happens in many different ways. Courses, email, communities, conversations, web search, email lists, reading blogs, etc. Courses are not the primary conduit for learning.

  • Different approaches and personal skills are needed to learn effectively in today's society. For example, the ability to see connections between fields, ideas, and concepts is a core skill.

  • Organizational and personal learning are integrated tasks. Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds into organizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network and continue to provide learning for the individual. Connectivism attempts to provide an understanding of how both learners and organizations learn.

  • Learning is a knowledge creation process...not only knowledge consumption. Learning tools and design methodologies should seek to capitalize on this trait of learning.

How do we teach about learning and learn about teaching using technology?

If you work with other teachers, then here are a few strategies that I think are working.

1. Use Principles of Andragogy. Adults are:

  • self-directed learners
  • motivated by connecting their learning to their life experiences
  • goal-oriented
  • motivated by learning/training that is relevant and practical

2. Remember to remind them of their expertise.

Technology makes us all feel stupid, inadequate, and overwhelmed.

3. Respect that they are Digital Immigrants.

Show them similarities and differences between their students and themselves. Allow them to vent.

4. Ask teachers about their motivation to use technology.

You may have to change your plans as the trainer/teacher depending on what they want.

5. Make it sound fun!

Admit that you are still learning. Be honest about what works and what doesn't.

6. Advise them to choose one thing.

They don't have to recreate their entire class. Choose one assignment, lesson, unit, etc.

Final Questions

Who or what motivates you to keep going?

Can we start something today?

I started most of my PLN as part of the ETMOOC.

  • This is my first MOOC, and it has been pretty amazing. I've sat in on webinars, I've collected great reading material, and I've discovered connectivism. If you don't have time to do the work, this MOOC is worth a look.

My Blog:

  • I plan to turn this into a blog about educational technology and teaching. Right now, I'm following the assignments for ETMOOC (barely).

Kind of new at Twitter account:

  • Jury is out on Twitter. I'm in that stage of figuring it out. I would love to hear from more experienced users who Tweet with their students.

I share my research and "To-Read" list on Diigo:

  • Diigo is amazing. I have the Bookmark Tool on my toolbar, and it's so easy to mark things for later. I haven't used it to its full potential to network, but I like how it's free and easy to use. Social bookmarking seems like time well-spent.

I've joined Pinterest to collect information about Learning in the 21st Century:

  • This is such a wonderful resource for seeing what K-12 teachers do. I can spend hours on Pinterest.

Always available by email:

Thank you for coming today!
Here are my slides from my NW eLearn Webinar