Learning pre and post-internet

Learning pre and post-internetI 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.

What remains

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.

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Erica De Monaco Lowry

Erica De Monaco Lowry has been living in Ireland since 2008. She is a teacher, an interpreter, a translator, a tour guide and an insatiable learner. Her favorite pastimes include reading, travelling, socialising and catching up with her family.

24 comentários

  • 02/04/13  
    Flávia Fernandes diz: 1

    Hi Erica. I myself am familiar with those non digital days… And let me tell you I really miss them. We were used to research more, write more, discover more and by ourselves. Although I still have faith in the magical of access, millions of people can now reach what only a few could back then. Congratulations on your article and keep teaching your students with a personal and warm approach!!

    My best regards,

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Hi, Flavia. Thanks for that. A warm approach is one of the goals. Indeed. :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    Richard diz: 2

    Hi Erica,

    I’m glad i could understand 95% of the whole text. :)
    I’m 17 and I Completly agree with you. I can’t seem to imagine the world without this “digital stuff”. I figure that it was a lot of work to learn a foreing language without all of this resources we got (Most of the time, for free) on the internet.
    Nice to see this part of your history.
    Amazing text.


    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Hi, Richard. It’s great to have a comment from a digital native. Thanks for that and keep up the good work! :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    Amanda diz: 3

    Vai ter podcast hoje?

    • 02/04/13  
      Alessandro Brandão diz:

      Oi Amanda,

      Estamos terminando o podcast, se tudo der certo estará online amanhã.

      Obrigado por perguntar.


  • 02/04/13  
    Feliphe diz: 4

    Both in my work or in my home, the Internet is always present and I’m very approach to it.
    Nowadays, almost everything I need to do is made by Internet, as work, study, research, buy, sell, pay, talk, socialising and so forth.
    But, thanks God, as Erica said, I was born in 90’s and I’ve had the opportunity to sample how was the world without the Internet, Facebook, Google, etc, etc, etc.
    Today I’m really glad to have had experienced this two different worlds. I like the way how to the Internet had brought us the good information about everything we haven’t had access, like the sea of tips and materials to study and learn English that we have here in English Experts. rss

    So, congratulations Erica and the whole team of this amazing website.

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Yes, Feliphe, internet is great. Especially when it connects people who otherwise may never meet outside the cyberspace, like you and me. I love that. Thanks for your comment. :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    sandrom diz: 5

    VCR, tape, typewriter, mimeograph were left behind, as well the pleasurable afternoons in the library. I confess that I miss all of these, but evolution is inevitable.

    As you mentioned above, Erica, it´s good to belong to both “worlds” in order to compare and harmonize their resources of learning.

    Fortunately, interaction is crucial in both.

    Congratulations for one more great post.

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      As I read your comment, Sandrom, I could even feel the smell of mimeograph. Thank God evolution doesn’t mean necessarily that one has to abandon nice practices. Look at the paper book. Still very strong. Thanks for your comment. :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    Nathalia diz: 6

    Wow, this is a definitely very nice text. Congratulations Erica! Well, about the question.. I see myself like an internet dependent, at least, about learning english.. Sometimes I stand up from the chair, tired for being sat so many hours, even if for a good reason: listening videos, series, increasing my vocabulary, studying idioms, etc.. But, for me, the truth is that the internet strucks you in a way that you can not realize and time pass so fast in front of it.. That’s why sometimes I stand up and say for myself: enough! As you said, are unquestionables the benefits that this digital life provide to us but we have to police ourselves and try to balance the digital life and non-digital life.

    Please feel free to correct my mistakes.. writing is not one of my habits..

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Hello, Nathalia. Thanks for your comment. I appreciate when people take the time to write a few lines. Just some suggestions: you could say ‘ the benefits that digital life brings’. Short and sweet. You ‘say something TO yourself’ / tired of being sitting down / time passes by / unquestinable (no ‘s’) / this is definitely a very nice text (agreed!). See you. :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    Chris diz: 7

    I found myself in the same situation. When I first started to learn English, magazines and song lyrics were everything I had. Nowadays, the learning process has become easier than it was a couple of years ago. I always remember my students the importance of making a good use of today’s resources.
    Chris :D

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Thanks for your comment, Chris. We surely have to encourage students to enjoy more the benefits of internet. Nearly everything is available! :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    Amanda diz: 8

    bacana , é que eu pensei que voçê ja tinha alguns podcasts gravados , e só estava esperando pra postar , mais o importante é que vai ter .

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Amanda, aproveita para tambem ler os artigos, ai voce usa o espaco aqui para comentar sobre eles. Bons estudos. :-)

  • 02/04/13  
    Pedro Alexandre diz: 9

    Loved your post. I’m a digital visitor also. Started learning English when I was 25. Studied formally for 2 years. Then I learned all I needed by myself to make my way as a translator and eventually as a teacher. I share your thoughts so well expressed, and I feel privileged to belong to both worlds, an enriching adventure. As a teacher I love and use blended teaching but I do agree with you that nothing surpasses the personal interaction and the bond teacher-student to a good learning atmosphere.
    Tks for sharing a bit of your mind and keep on your good job here, pls.

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Lovely stuff, Pedro. You know well how internet changed everything. Thanks for your post. :-)

  • 03/04/13  
    Alexandra Lima diz: 10

    Hello Erica,
    I was touched by your article… You wrote all about my feelings ! I was born in the 70´s, learned English only when I could pay for it and now I´m in front a student group too… I really love your articles… keep writing ok? All the best for you,
    Alexandra Lima
    Praia Grande SP.

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Hi, Alexandra. Great to know that you went through the same. These efforts make us grow a lot! And thanks for the encouragement. All the best to you too. :-)

  • 03/04/13  
    João B. L. Ghizoni diz: 11

    Congratulations on one more piece of great writing, Érica! And thanks for reminding us of those good times…

    • 06/04/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Thanks, João. It’s so nice to be transported to the past here and there, isn’t it? :-).

  • 22/04/13  
    Sergio Pinheiro Rodrigues diz: 12

    Very interesting, useful and inspirational article.Congratulations!

    • 01/05/13  
      Erica Lowry diz:

      Thanks, Sergio! It’s great to know that some writings can inspire people. :-)