Wearing out our welcome

David Kelly addressing Learning Technology delegates
I launched a new module for my first year students today called 'Digital Reputation and Digital Literacies'. Here's the blurb:

Module Overview
This module explores living and learning in the digital age, with a particular focus on digital reputation, e-safety and digital literacies. All students will be expected to undertake projects and directed study to explore a range of digital environments, and gain an understanding of the threats and opportunities these might present to them, their students and their organisation.

Module Aims

  • To experience and reflect upon personal use of social media and networking tools
  • To investigate some of the key theories and influences on the development and emergence of digital cultures
  • To develop and consolidate personal digital literacies and digital reputation management
  • To understand key threats and risks of using web based technologies in education


  • It resonates with a session I chaired at yesterday's Learning Technologies Conference at Olympia in London, featuring the e-Learning Guild's Executive Director David Kelly. The title of Kelly's presentation was 'A look ahead: The now and the next of learning and technology' featured a quick fire examination of the new and emerging technologies we are getting to grips with, or which will soon be in the workplace. His talk is summarised on his blog.

    What chimed with digital reputation and literacies from Kelly's presentation was his various stories about wearable technologies. We have already learnt that there are new and emerging social mores and conventions that we need to adopt. For example, texting in upper case letters is deemed to be SHOUTING. David Kelly's early adoption of various wearable technologies led him to learn the hard way about some of the issues that arise when new technology collides with established social and cultural expectations.

    He told the story of how wearing Google Glass became so natural that he often forgot he was wearing it. Then, one day at a baseball match, he visited the men's toilet, but forgot he was wearing the camera device on his head. It wasn't until he noticed the strange, hostile looks from the other men using the toilet that he suddenly realised he had broken an important, unwritten social protocol. He beat a hasty and apologetic retreat. 

    On another occasion, while wearing his Apple Watch, and in conversation with his wife, she gradually became more irritated with him and eventually asked him 'do you need to be somewhere else?' At that point he realised that he had been regularly glancing at his watch as social media messages came through. In ordinary circumstances, glancing at your watch conveys a pointed social meaning - that you are bored with the conversation and would rather be somewhere else.

    In his engaging and thought provoking session David Kelly caused all of us to think more seriously about our personal technology and how we use it. Issues of responsibility, privacy and social cues were raised. There are new affordances that create contexts and behaviour we may not have anticipated. Inadvertent messages are sent that can be easily misconstrued, and intentions are conveyed that are not intended. It seems we still have a lot to learn about the adoption of new technologies, particularly those we wear.

    Photo by Steve Wheeler at Learning Technologies 2016

    Creative Commons License
    Wearing out our welcome by Steve Wheeler was written in Plymouth, England and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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