Virtual Teaching and Learning

Maintaining relevance


How can we remain relevant in distance learning in a time of constant and accelerated change?

I can remember being in 7th or 8th grade when the first computers arrived at our school. We were required to take a class that taught us how to put in formulas that would result in a pixel on the screen. We built pictures of dogs, cats and flowers in pots; this was a BIG deal!!! I also remember the fear that came with the availability of computers to be in every home. I heard several sermons at the Baptist church we attended that warned against the dangers of this new technology and how, some day, everyone in the world would be able to connect with one another through it…a true warning of the “end of times” that the book of Revelations in the Bible spoke of.
I never thought I would own a computer or have a cell phone growing up, I couldn’t fathom it. But now my cell phone is a computer and I’ve just purchased the latest and greatest ASUS laptop that has only been for sale for 6 months and is apparently out of date…Sheesh!
I’m blogging and texting and tweeting and emailing and paying bills on line…I can take a picture with my cell phone of a check and have it deposited into my bank account. I would say I was a bit naive before because boy, have things changed.
I think one of the most important things our reading this week addressed was digital literacy. Moore and Kearsley point out that “digital literacy goes beyond basic reading and writing skills to encompass being able to input (I.e., type) information into a computer, phone, or other electronic device, and be able to understand the output of such devices. This includes navigating through screens, operate controls, troubleshoot problems (a big part of technological use), create and process information in multimedia formats, and search for and locate information” (pp. 280). Just being knowledgeable about how to use a computer is a great head start on remaining relevant. I found a Microsoft digital literacy assessment at I took it and received 27/30 questions correctly…90% not too bad in my book! But there is so much that I don’t understand about computers. the searching and finding what I’m really looking for is one of my greatest challenges…I just don’t know where to look for some things such as scholarly journals or articles…maybe I’m too impatient or maybe I just don’t know what the hell I’m doing.
Another important component in staying relevant is actually embracing new technology and not being afraid of it. Just last week I overheard two colleagues talking about another instructor who refused to use Blackboard (UAA’s mode of operates preferred) to communicate with students because they preferred the “old” way of teaching. It boggles my mind that there are still hold-outs when it comes to online integration into the classroom. I’m determined to create a blended classroom…the more I learn about what students technological reality is, the more I realize it just makes good sense to reach out to them in a medium they are engaged in for over 7 hours of their waking day (Lewin, 2010).

Online instructors ultimately need to keep up to date as best as they can, which is hard because technology changes more rapidly than you can blink an eye. But if they train themselves to understand the fundamentals of how it all works and embrace this amazing vehicle to stay relevant to a generation raised on technology, they will maintain relevancy.

Lewin, T. (2010, January 20). If your kids are awake, they’re probably on line. New York Times. Retrieved from

Moore, M., and Kearsley, G. (2012). Distance Education: A Systems View of Online Learning. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

Microsoft Corporation. (2006) Digital literacy: certificate test. Retrieved from

Digital Literacy-Using Technology in the Classroom . Retrieved from


9 thoughts on “Maintaining relevance

  1. I don’t think it’s very hard to stay up-to-date with things. If you understand the basics, it’s easy enough to adapt to whatever the newest thing may be. My blog this week might have seemed to be the opposite of staying relevant or up-to-date, but so many of the skills I developed on a 1980s Apple are ones I still use today. The foundation is still there!

    • Your probably right about it not being hard to stay up to date…but you actually built a computer the first time around (so cool) and I bet you’ve got a way broader understanding due to that experience! 🙂 I thought that video was interesting, I have torn feelings about how cool it would be to have such amazing resources at your fingertips but then it creeps me out a little because of the ability to so simply transfer personal information. Thank you for the feedback!!

  2. Naomi,

    Digital Literacy; knowing when and how to use technology that is prevalent in their lives does make sense, just like the YouTube clip you posted says. It is important for students to use technology properly. School is a great venue for teaching students how to discern whose interest internet reading and presentation is serving. It is true that one great way we teach proper use of technology is to USE it. I like the point in the video clip “Don’t just use your chalk/white board. . . “ teach students to interact with technology as the tool it was designed to be used for. Some classrooms have a Smart Board at our school. In the beginning, teachers were interested in using it for more than a glorified transparency on an overhead. For example, there are so many interactive ways to use it for teaching geometric shapes, repetition patterns in math, etc., yet it is most used in a much more limited manner.

    I agree that troubleshooting problems is a big part of technological use. I wanted to try creating a timeline this week using pictures and a video clip. We had another Saturday training and will next week as well. This limited my time to make my movie format of the timeline more readable, to try to do a voice over on it, etc. , but I did figure out how to convert the desktop version to a movie version so that Oltak would accept it. This did take problem solving.

    As I read about warnings in sermons from your church, I thought about how thankful I am now to have two online pastors out here in the bush. “Church hopping” to find a church fit is now a multiple meaning phrase! Just relax in the comfort of your home and search. Okay—so next maybe Dan and I will use Google Hangout for Bible study and fellowship next; because just like in the classroom, social interaction brings relevance, pleasure, challenge of your thinking and more—an essential part of the learning process.

  3. Sounds like your timeline is, or going to be, fantastic. I want to be clear that the church comment was from when I was very young, not present time. I agree with you that social interaction is valuable! When I started my timeline I had no idea when I really began utilizing technology…I guess over time as it evolved, I naturally integrated it into my life…I don’t think I owned my first computer until about 10 years first cell phone…no clue! I’ll have to search my brain matter for that one! Good luck with your training!!

    • Naomi,

      I am just amazed at how people (in church or outside) fear new things. In school, we ban the use of this or that on internet for the same reason–fear. The training Friday and Saturday was encouraging. I’m encouraged at how the use of technology in reading will allow students to read at levels they are able to feel success! They will grow. As with any type of program, it has limitations. I was able to identify them because I am learning 🙂

      • I really appreciate your honesty and ability to reflect on yourself in regard to the different issues we read and ponder on…it’s quite a refreshing asset!

  4. Funny, as I recall the 7th and 8th grade, all I can remember is the trouble I was always in at school. I remember running through the science lab and ‘may have knocked a few glass item shattering to the floor,’ and may have wrecked havoc my other classes as well, but I do remember my young 7th grade LA teacher handing me off to the very old schoolmarm 8th grade teacher midyear. And, I remember one of the first few days with her sitting right beside me pointing down at something in print on the paper in front of me. As I leaned forward for closer inspection of what she was pointing at, she grabbed me by the ear and bounced my forehead off that paper back to the upright position. She had my attention! I got really, really good at diagramming sentences over those two years (well 1 1/2), also made the honor roll during the 8th grade! I passed high school English with ‘A’s and B’s’, while scraping by in every other class.
    Technological advancements are new every morning and by tomorrow, are a thing of the past. We have had Apple/McIntosh computers for the last 10 years and upgraded fairly regularly. With a Mac computer, we didn’t have to purchase those anti-virus products. I think the makers of the anti-virus products actually make or created the virus in the first place and if you didn’t buy their software they would give freely give your computer the virus. Yes it is paranoia from conspiracy theories, but prior to Mac computers, I went through a lot of PC crashes.
    I don’t know if you have been experiencing email problems, but the last three weeks I have been having problems sending messages. I tried via my three different accounts, on my computer, phone, and iPad without success. Just as I was heading out for a reading seminar last Thursday, I got a call from someone in the Village. They said they were having problems with their computer. I asked if it was a desktop or a laptop. They said it was a laptop. I asked what was the problem. They said they could get online, but had problems with email. I immediately said, ‘NSA!’ and we laughed! I explained he was not alone and that many of the teachers have had problem with email.
    I am surprised how easily the children at school can get online and find all sorts of things that interest them. I am not surprised that they seek things of interest, but how easy they can get there. The school librarian is also the tech person. She is always finding and blocking sites that young learners are having fun at! They can find their way into all kinds of fun and game sites with no problem. YouTube was a great resource for our students. It is heart breaking:( They would watch walrus and seal hunting, moose, caribou, and goose hunting. They would watch old LAMSTV (an old high school newscast on YouTube) again and again. They would also look up ‘Tunt water skipping,’ watching their relatives.
    Well, I went to the digital literacy assessment site and received a 32/30, an ‘A+.’ Google’s first search engine was called ‘,’ and is the most specific, reliable, and easiest to find exactly what you are looking for search program I have ever used. You have to know this one thing: When you type in a word (type in ‘trouble’) and click search, you must always look at sites ‘below the gray line,’ in this case, below the ‘Sponsored Links’ … Ihre…. The first site should be ‘Taylor Swift-I Knew You Were Trouble-YouTube. If you look for and pick sites below the gray line you will find as I have, there is no better search engine. You can type in a sentence right out of a book and it will find the book, journal, magazine, or news article for you.
    As students become more proficient at research, teachers will have to work harder. I am sure you have heard the saying, “Those who can’t, teach.’ If we ‘can’t keep ahead of the learner’ we need to stop what we’re doing and go back to school, or drop down a few grades, to elementary! You mentioned an instructor who refused to use Blackboard, but that is not a reason to down-talk ‘the old way of teaching.’ If you are not an online teacher, there is really no reason to be anywhere near Blackboard. It is made for online only. It would be a good idea to video the older instructor so years from now, when books are a thing of the past there will be a live, recorded version of what it looked like moments before petrification took over and becoming a Fossil became a reality!

  5. I agree that the advancement of science and technology continues to threaten certain members of the religious rank and file. Its been going on since before Copernicus. But science and religion seek to answer very different questions.
    I am not exactly a Luddite, but I too am a little resistant to some aspects of our modern world. I was a bit slow to embrace texting, the smartphone touch screens make it easier though. And, it is embarrassing to admit, I only have a Facebook account to appear up-to-date. I never check it or update it or anything else. But, because of this class, I think I like blogging and I look forward to doing it for fun rather than as an assignment. I mentioned to my family that I think the Facebook is a little too socially interactive. I’m not particularly social. But blogging, I can just share a little about my thoughts, post some pics and people can read it or not. No social pressure to friend, or poke, or like or unlike or whatever else goes on in Facebook. I am glad everyone in my family Facebooks with my wife and keeps us all in touch, but I prefer not to get involved. But in the interest of creating a good “digital footprint”, I may have to.
    I am totally on board with Dan. I bet the people at Norton are behind at least half of all the computer viruses that they somehow magically have the cure for.
    After taking this class almost exclusively with WordPress and another with Google+, I can see why folks might not be fans of the Blackboard. But I am sure it has its place and purpose.

  6. I can relate to so much of your post, Naomi. Like you, I can’t really remember when technology first entered my life…as anything can be considered “technology,” depending on the context. Paper for general consumption was considered “technology” when it replaced the slate in schoolrooms a century ago, and the ballpoint pen was revolutionary…and, in the big scheme of things, that wasn’t so long ago! One moment in time that has stuck with me was probably in the early 70s. I was at the grocery store in our small Midwest town with my mom, her younger brother, and my sister. My uncle told my sister and me that one day, people wouldn’t need to pay with cash or write checks at the grocery store … that they would be able to use a card instead to pay for anything they wanted. Credit cards were pretty new, as I recall, and the thought of a card replacing cash or a check was unfathomable to me. Now, here we are, in a world where we don’t even need a card! I use PayPal and online banking for almost everything…and I rarely have cash because my debit card is so much handier. It makes me feel old to tell these stories about the “old days”! It’s hard to imagine the stories my grandchildren will tell when they are my age. What in the world might technology be like a generation from now…?!

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