I thought I had all my labels more or less sorted: civilian, spouse, parent, citizen, worker, student, taxpayer, patient, client, viewer, user, customer, visitor, ‘next’ (that’s my name when I’m queuing and waiting to be seen by an attendant somewhere) and so on. But then there always seems to be something else to fit me into a new category. It might be a new service that treats me differently, a new governmental initiative, a new website. Yes, the internet – this turning point in an ordinary man’s life that turned the previous ‘world’ into a ‘global village’- brought more labels with it. Technology has been part of so much of our lives that we easily call ourselves users, bloggers, visitors. We are so digital!
A matter of being digital
I have learned recently, and it should not come as a surprise to me, that there is a term to describe my position in the digital world: I am a digital visitor! That means I was born before internet invaded the world. Indeed. (One more detail in life to make me feel a bit old.) If you are 17 years old or under you are a digital native (people born between 1996 to the present). With some more investigation, I mean, navigation, I found other terms for the digital natives: generation z, generation y, millennials, the net generation, the pluralist generation… (from netlingo.com)
Who misses what?
I feel a bit sorry for the teens today who do not know how things were before. Actually, even those in their early twenties do not remember much of those times. They will never know what the world was like without a desktop, laptop, iPad and whatever else is out there now.
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However, I am not fully convinced that they would like to experience non-digital life, even if it was just for a day. They are digitally safe. Why bother?
When we have never experienced different things we cannot compare them. And even when we can compare, many times, this comparison is not a fair deal. Times change, and so do people. Technology changes and so does the way to do things.
As for me, I feel privileged to live with the two worlds in my mind. Many experienced a world in which they never had the slightest idea of what a digital life was; others live now in a world impossible to be thought of as a non-digital place. I carry both worlds with me.
Learning pre and post-internet
When I started my English learning, I only had a book and I would spend almost all my pocket money buying magazines with lyrics of songs to learn the words and sing along. My teen years were filled with songs meticulously rehearsed and desperately sung.
There were no sophisticated resources in the classroom either: the book, me, the teacher and the blackboard. And that was all I needed for that new adventure at that time. Little did I know how long that journey would be. I will never forget being introduced to the English language. On the first page of my English book, I was presented with my first sentences in English: ‘Hello, my name is Michael Jackson. I am a singer.’ ‘Wow’, I thought, contemplating the picture and the speech balloon coming out of the singer’s mouth.
The interaction is the real deal
I loved my English teachers. I remember them all by name and this is very much due to their encouragement and for their being there to share with me a portion of their ‘English world’. Without so many distractions, I believe, we could focus more on each other. What I felt for the teachers was gratitude and great respect; they instilled in me great curiosity. If I could, I would bring them with me in my schoolbag for us to continue our classes at home.
Fast forward 10 years and I was myself in front of a group, teaching. I now had so many resources that I did not need to speak very much. The equipment and devices would do the job for me. Obviously, my background would not allow me to deprive students of such a great experience that the interaction of teacher and student should be.
The resources are even more advanced now, but interaction is still the most important element to build and cement knowledge. No matter how modern the devices and possibilities become, and also how digital we become, our basic needs as learners remain the same. We all want to mingle with others, learn from them and for them, test, try, vary, challenge our minds, correct and be corrected (not always with humility, unfortunately).
Yet, we all have different approaches to internet and social media.
What is your approach to internet? What is digital life like for you?
See you next time.