Whoa Nellie… Now what?

Well I have to thank everyone for making Old Nellie the single most popular post of all time on my blog. It seemed to generate some good discussion around Digital learning, BCEDPLAN and 21st Century Learning. Most of it focused on the concerns everyone has but there was a thread of optimism throughout and everyone seemed to agree that the horse is out of the barn and there is no turning back but a simple question remains… “Now What?”

Now that I managed to reign in Old Nellie and have her tied up in front of the local saloon and I am inside buying the house a round to celebrate the roaring success of my last post, I suppose the next step is to answer that simple question. “Now What?…” Spose I shoulda expected that.

Rule #1 of blogging, never pretend like you know something if you are not prepared to deliver some insight. I am thinkin I am in trouble here.

So here is what I figure… Personalized learning in Digital learning environments is not going to go away anytime soon. BCEDPLAN is pushing it, 21st Century Learning advocates are trumpeting its value and I am hoping they are both right because I will continue to be useful to my superiors.

What I think we are missing in this movement however is that “we” (the digi-geeks) have failed to identify what will get people to enter the digital learning space and ultimately accept it as a viable medium for teaching and learning.

BCEDPLAN says we need to give the kids the skills so they can be 21st Century Learners, Teachers are saying we need Professional development so we can be leaders in the digital classroom and parents are saying we need the digital devices in the hands of their children. All of which is true but they are still missing the boat here. Chris Kennedy is perhaps the closest to the mark when he says the first step is getting kids, teachers, administrators… writing and putting personal ideas out there using blogs. In fact Chris is spot on but to date I don’t think he has spun it in a way that I am about to share with you.

Getting people to invest their time and energy in the digital learning space is not so much about skills, money or devices as it is about ownership. Simple ownership of a personal digital space naturally encourages people to become vested in using, sharing and producing within a digital environment. This in turn builds skills and gives the individual access to resources and content that can then be used for teaching and learning.

If you need proof of this, just take a look around. You will quickly discover that virtually anyone who you would consider digitally literate are the ones with their own personal digital space of which they are lord and master. What they do with that space may vary from person to person but it is theirs. The result is that most people take great pride in making sure that the content they put out for others to see, is of the best quality they can muster. The individual invests time and effort in into learning how to go about creating a quality personal digital space worthy of showing the world and therefore becomes a competent digital citizen

In my classes, I refer to this as creating a positive digital footprint and I go to great lengths in making sure that kids understand the concept and the importance of creating a space that they can proudly present to the world. I have been doing this with classes since the early days of Blogger and some of my students from back then still maintain the blogs I had them create. In that time I have had kids who write, share art and photography, create digital portfolios for school or careers and some have even spun their blogs into small businesses. Each and every success using a personal digital space has been because the students see the value in creating it and do a good job of it because it is their’s.

The Problem

Each and every one of the “Whoa!” moments I shared in my first post centered around traditional teacher centered learning environments. Whether it was my international student, the iPad kids or the teacher candidates. All of them are rooted in deeply ingrained ideas about what education is about. Teacher centered, controlled and driven. In none of these “whoa” moments do any of the individuals realize what is necessary to be successful in a personalized digital learning environment. As a society we want the teacher to be the center of the learning universe because it means we don’t have to take responsibility for our own learning but the personalized digital learning environment is going to demand that of both teachers and students.

The Solution

Learning skills, professionally developing and having the latest gadgets in our hands are meaningless if we do not have our own digital space. We need to be masters of our own www.domain.com . with which we participate, create and collaborate. It is only then that we can all communicate, learn  and educate in a personalized digital environment.

We can’t afford to keep Old Nellie tied up in front of the saloon with me inside buying rounds for too long. We need to keep moving ahead with all the great things we are doing but we need to understand that 21st Century learning isn’t about isolated technical skills, one off professional development opportunities and the latest digital gadgets. It is about taking personal responsibility for learning, creating, sharing both in the real and in the digital world. It is about creating a positive digital footprint that you can be proud of and is a true reflection of what you have learned, want to learn and can teach others.


Stay tuned for examples of personal digital environments kids and teachers, K – 12 can begin building tomorrow… 


  1. MommaYomma

    I think you need to get parents to “buy into it” more first. It can be very expensive. Many families do not have the desire. Many parents are reluctant to have their kids more exposed to the internet than they already are. How will all this be paid for? Will it raise my taxes? Will I have to buy my kid a tablet?

    I think the transition will be made and am supportive of kids online and blogging early if they desire. I know my 8yr old wants to get online and am thinking about how to do this for her.
    Good followup.

    Now I am thinking and would much rather be napping. 🙂

    1. Post

      Thanks for the comment and you are absolutely right. Before we parents, kids and teachers can possibly come to the belief that digital world is a good medium for education, we need to figure out how we are going to pay for all this.

      The first point you make about parents, kids and teachers buying in… We have an uphill battle getting past the engrained vision of what education looks like. It is a 100ish years of educating people in the factory model and it will take some time to move away from this model. Secondly, as was pointed out in a comment to my first post. Kids are not going to like having to work harder and take on responsibility for their leaning. For that reason alone, we may have a difficult time getting the majority of students to accept digital learning spaces. Kids will be kids. They want what is easier for them not necessarily what is better for them.

      As for the money. This will be a sticking point although keep in mind, creating personal digital spaces doesn’t require new digital tools. Just access and most kids in BC should have access in their schools at the very least. So no you won’t HAVE to buy your child a tablet to do it.

      With that said however, people will have to invest something to the task whether that be time or money or both. It is a given most governments will not come up with the cash to make this fly so it is up to the individual.

      The problem is, if the Govt wants its “plan” to go operational in a timely fashion they will have to fund it. The individual cannot bear the cost because they are getting nickeled and dimed to death everywhere they turn. I know I cannot afford to buy my child a device and I am one of the people who are pushing our schools in this direction of Personal Digital Learning spaces.

      This is why the BCedplan is doomed for failure unless some kind of funding is put in place.

  2. Gary Gnu

    I think MommaYomma is a PAB professional social media operative-she is on twitter 24/7 and always takes the position that is contra teacher and could be interpretted as right out of the BCEDPLAN/BC Liberal playbook. If she is not a pro she is a pretty crappy amateur.

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