Saturday, August 2, 2014

True confessions - digital or analogue?

10:10:10 on 10/10/10 - ”Give Me A Little by Jill Clardy, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License  by Jill Clardy

I often get comments from colleagues that I must spend all my waking hours in front of a screen and do I ever have time for non-digital activities. While I admit to spending a considerable part of each day online and that the borderline between work and leisure time disappeared a long time ago, I thought I'd reveal just how analogue and retro I can be in certain circumstances. So here is my summer confession - I'm not as digital as I might seem.

BOOKS or MOOCs. I write a lot about MOOCs and am fascinated by the whole phenomenon which twists and turns every week. I've tested quite a few (actually completed one of them) and have written over 80 blog posts and several articles on the subject. However I must admit that I'm a book lover and have an ever-expanding library at home. I cannot contemplate not having at least one book on my bedside table and they are mostly non-fiction, generally history or nature. I learn a lot that way and am not prepared to sacrifice my book time to take a MOOC. Another factor that restricts my participation in MOOCs is that I spend so much time reading articles, writing blog posts and articles and engaging in online discussions that I feel I am participating in a never-ending personal MOOC so when I do sign up for a course it gets in the way of my normal work flow. Maybe I could be accused of not practicing what I preach but I like my own personal learning strategy and prefer it to the imposed schedule of a course.

E-books. I should say that books are books and whether they are on paper or on a screen matters very little but although I happily read both formats, there is a crucial difference in favour of paper that is based purely on my collector instinct and probably also a hint of vanity. I like to add a newly read book to my bookshelves (ie trophy cabinet) as evidence of my reading. There's still a certain status and satisfaction of having rows of crammed bookshelves and I can proudly claim to have read at least 90% of the contents. On the other hand no one notices your e-book collection, if indeed you can collect something as intangible. Admittedly this used to be equally true of the music collection that once occupied many shelves but has now completely disappeared into the cloud. Books may well go the same way but I still get great satisfaction out of owning a book rather than simply having access to one. Call me old-fashioned ...

Newspapers and magazines. One of my most important daily rituals is eating breakfast while reading the morning paper. I go through it from start to finish and read whatever seems interesting. Once breakfast is over I rarely look at the paper again. If for some reason there is no morning paper I'm rather lost. I check my iPad instead but it's not the same process. In the paper version I check all the headlines and often come across something interesting that I would never have clicked on in a digital version. I still subscribe to several print magazines each month and I read them from cover to cover (I even save them in long lines of boxes on the bookshelves!). I have cancelled a few subscriptions over the years with the intention of reading them on the net instead but that simply doesn't work. I even subscribed to a wonderful service called Readly which allows you unlimited access to a couple of hundred magazines for a monthly fee of about €10. I cancelled that when I realised I have ever used it. Somehow I have different reading strategies for print and digital formats; I skim/surf through digital content often in a non-linear manner whilst I read print from start to finish and tend to read more deeply. With digital content there are always exciting distractions just a click away whereas when I'm reading print copy those distractions are much further away. I realise there is no good reason why I shouldn't go digital but I don't, not yet anyway.

Tickets. Yes I still print out rail and air tickets and take them on my travels rather than use my mobile. I've tried using my mobile and of course it works but I don't completely trust the battery power of my mobile. If I have my tickets only on the mobile and the battery dies when I need to show the tickets what do I do then? A new mobile might be the answer but I still like to have the "real" tickets with me as a comfort.

I could probably add several more categories but the moral of the story is that we all adapt to the digital world in different ways and the presence of a digital solution does not always mean the end of the "analogue" version. We all find our own mix and that applies both in our private lives and in education. I wish we could move away from pointless arguments about whether digital is better than print, e-learning better than classroom and so on and instead focus on how technology is creating new opportunities.


  1. I recently read an interesting article on squirrel people and cloud people in the Swedish magazine VI (nr 8, augusti, 2014) which might be an interesting follow up of your blog post. I definitely feel inclined to cloud storage since both I and my wife have long been squirrel people and we are running out of space. Besides, who will love all books and magazines once we are gone?

  2. I've moved a lot to the cloud but can't let go of the love of owning things. The problem with the cloud is that as soon as you stop subscribing/paying your collection disappears. We become hostages to Google, facebook, Spotify etc.