During the last two years, I was writing about screen-mediated family communication. Now, I’m trying to bring what I learnt to the educational context, specifically, to my never-abandoned area of visual literacy. A couple of weeks ago, I have been (re-)exploring the concept of digital literacy as one of the topics in the international online course on e-learning in higher education — the Open Networked Learning (ONL211), which I have recently joined. As it always happens with the concept of digital literacy, also this time the reference to already extensively criticized Prensky’s ideas of digital natives and immigrants couldn’t be avoided. However, this time we were introduced to something else, regarded as (more accurate) alternative: Davide White’s ideas of being/acting as visitor or resident in an online environment. White situates these two concepts on the opposite sides of the scale, but considering the relationship between them as a continuum. The place where we are, i.e., closer to visitor or resident mode in our online and digital encounters depends on our motivation to engage. This model doesn’t really speak to me, because I perceive as yet another way to classify and situate the practices, which cannot be defined by simple binary oppositions, but are more complex than that.
Nevertheless, there was a couple of thoughts on digital literacy, or specifically on teaching in digital habitats that I would like to note here. Davide White points out that the current, forced by pandemic, shift of higher education into online teaching requires different way of thinking about our teaching practices. He suggests that we need to reimagine rather than replicate our institutions online. Teaching online is not the same as in the physical space, and thus, I think that even the learning objectives of a course should be changed and adjusted to the specific practices of online teaching and learning. White even goes that far to suggest abandoning thinking about teaching as ‘contact hours’, but shift into thinking about education in terms of ‘presence‘. In this sense, online education, according to White, is ‘desituated, but not disembodied‘ — thus, we (teachers and students), although being geographically desituated, we need to be physically present in the teaching and learning process in the online context. And I think it isn’t simply about turning on the camera in synchronous teaching (btw, seeing a video of myself is really destructing, it’s like carrying a bunch of mirrors to the classroom and situate them at my desk). This is more about engagement in the learning (and teaching) process. And this is especially challenging in education at the distance, when we cannot feel the presence through all our senses.
And here I can jump back to visual literacy. I wrote elsewhere that today, visual literacy needs to be understood as multi-sensory experience of the visual, and thus, visual literacy education is about developing competencies in visual reading and writing — but, considering the visual as multimodal entity; a visual, which engages other senses, not just vision. Thus, presence (’embodiment’) in online education is not only about turning on the camera, but to engage other senses in the teaching-learning process. How to do this? I’m yet there to experiment and discover this!