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The ‘Blurred Picture’ of Our Digital Selves

The Blurred Picture of our digital selves.(1)This blog post is written for the Open Networked Learning Course I’m taking as part of my PhD program (yes, we do blogging in academia). The task was to write a reflection post about our digital literacy and identity in our personal and professional life, and how they are linked. Here are the reflections:

We may often think that if we don’t follow all the trends in digital education, we fail to learn/teach in the online space. When I was trying to develop a space for online teaching English for my language school in Ukraine, I felt desperate. Which virtual classroom should I choose, Blackboard, WizIQ, Edmodo, Moodle etc? I wanted my English courses to be placed into a super advanced, multifunctional, beautifully designed software, to only eventually find out that … I can actually get along with Skype. My digital professional self could exist and even thrive without using 15 e-learning platforms, 25 other types of learning software and 65 language learning apps.

How to stay comfortable with all the overwhelming tools available today? From my experience, the best way is to really, actually try those tools and see which one is particularly useful for your purpose. My students at the university often use Prezi for their presnetations, and I have always been ok with not-so-interactive Power Point. This does not mean Prezi isn’t worth exploring. I’m personally more interested in visual design tools and enjoy using Picmonkey, Canva, Flickr and Unsplash for my teaching presentations. But I’m totally illiterate when it comes to for example referencing software. EndNote, Zotero, RefWorks are scary monsters for my academic articles.

When it comes to digital me in the social media, following David White’s definitions, I am 100% a ‘visitor’, not a ‘resident’. Checking FB once a week, my account is mostly about sharing vacation photos with my friends. Even more passive Twitter user, and occasionally pinning Interior design images on Pintrest, my digital identity has left very little trace in the history of digital humankind. At least, not until I joined this course and became a blogger for two months 🙂

In his famous TEDx talk “The Essential Elements of Digital Literacies”, Doug Belshaw suggests an approach to develop digital literacies by focusing on people’s interest in the first place. He suggests that the key is to develop people’s motivation to become more digitally literate. It’s hard to disagree with Belshaw’s ultimate message that digital literacies is a lifelong projects in which we all participate. His deliberate use of plural literacies suggests that there is no such thing as being digitally literate or illiterate. I think it is important to understand what digital space you may find complementing your real space rather than one replacing the other. “Digital literacies are those capabilities which fit an individual for living, learning and working in a digital society” (cited from I think ‘fit an individual’ is the essential message in this definition. Being digitally literate does not mean to be always online whatever you do, but to be able to enter the online space when you need it and feel comfortable navigating it.

Belshaw uses an illustrative example with his experience downloading a painting which, at first, is blurred while being downloaded and then is slowly becoming a clear image. I agree with his point that we need to develop our digital literacies progressively rather than sequentially and be ready to see the ‘blurred picture’ of our digital selves. My ‘picture’ is still burred, by the way.


Developing digital literacies (2014) JISC guide. Available here

David White: Visitors and residents (part 1)

David White: Visitors and residents – Credibility (part 2)

Doug Belshaw: The essential elements of digital literacies

Photo courtesy:

Josh Rose

Published in ONL


  1. It’s a slow process and it’s wise to take one step at a time and not feel overwhelmed. We could also talk about moving from digital literacy to digital fluency.The key is to build up a digital toolbox with the tools and services you feel comfortable with and then as time goes on adding new tools and deleting old ones. One way of making your toolbox visible is by using a tool called Symbaloo,

    • admin admin

      Thank you for your comment, Alastair! I like the idea of digital ‘fluency’. For me it means naturally acquiring more digital skills while trying new things rather than ‘literacy’ which is more formal way of learning certain digital tools.
      I’ve never heard of symbaloo, thanks for sharing it.

  2. Anders Gerestrand Anders Gerestrand

    Thanks for your post. It is good to see that you have adopt the idea of blogging. But can you classify your self as visitor or resident, isn’t it that in one part you are a resident and in another area you are a visitor. I like the conclusion that you wrote”Being digitally literate does not mean to be always online whatever you do, but to be able to enter the online space when you need it and feel comfortable navigating it.”

    • admin admin

      Thanks for your comment, Anders! Yes, I agree, these categories are not static, neither is digital space. You can never be 100% sure you are a resident of the Internet as new things evolve so fast.

  3. Great blog – I enjoyed your balance between input from the course, tool inventory and personal introspection 🙂 I really can agree on the “my picture is still blurry” – but I definitely moved up some pixles and got more of the big picture than before the ONL course.
    I am excited to see your next post!

    • admin admin

      Thanks Malin! I’m glad you liked my blog.
      I agree that ONL course does help to understand how the pixels work:)

  4. Hi!
    Nice blog posts and reflections!
    I am just like you, for most of the time, a visitor in the online world. I was just curious why you are a visitor and not a resident? Is it because you´re not comfortable leaving private digital footprints, as I am, or are you just not interested in sharing? Do you have another approach when it comes to your professional digital personality?

    • admin admin

      Hi Elisabeth! Thanks for your comment and a question! Being a visitor is neither my choice nor the outcome of being uncomfortable in the digital space. As for my private digital self, it just happens so that I create my account in another social media, and then in half a year I get a notification “Aliona, you have not updated your profile for 6 months. Time to get active?…” or something like this:) So, I guess I’m naturally a visitor. When it comes to my professional digital self, I have this web-site and I use the blog only for advertisements and promotions. I should definitely make my blog more active, posting more personal reflections here. What about your approach?

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