Amy's Whimsical Musings

Why We Need Digital Vikings #edcmooc

This is a Viking.

Photo Credit: the brownhorse via Compfight cc

So is this.


So am I, or at least I try to be.

A Digital Viking. A fearless explorer. Not afraid to go miles and miles…to reach unfamiliar territory that will (hopefully) yield rewards. Risky. Going with the Intuition. Resourceful. And if perchance something doesn’t work out  – the Labradors of the cyberterritory – not ashamed to pack it up and move on.

This week the ongoing debate over the concepts “digital native” and “digital immigrant” came up in #edcmooc. I, like most edtech enthusiasts, am apprehensive about that dichotomy. I’ve been teaching in a 1:1 environment since Apple laptops looked like rainbow toilet seat covers (remember Legally Blonde’s Elle Woods sported this?)


I’ve seen students change to some degree, but I would hesitate to make a generalization. The one thing that sticks out like a sore thumb (pardon the pun) IS the thumbs…and by that I mean that touchscreen gestures and the texting culture have resulted in a most obvious, seemingly biological shift. My 8 year old challenges the fact they are trying to teach keyboarding skills when (and I quote): “It’s all about the screen and we’re never going back”.

I propose we identify, embrace, and encourage a new type of inhabitant in the digisphere – the Digital Viking. Throw away the misconceptions about raping and pillaging…one of the original defintions of fara í víking is: “to go on an expedition”. I see teachers and students who are content in the village, yet others who take to the ether with an adventurous spirit.

(added note: due to the unforeseen popularity of the #digitalviking notion, I’ve created a collection which you can add to- please fell free to post text, audio, vids, or images here: )

But how does one spot (or become) a Digital Viking? Here are some characteristics of Digital Viking Navigation:

Go in the Know or just Go with the Flow.

1. Have a mission…or just have fun: Sometimes we know why we are exploring. Focus is a good thing, but serendipity can foster creativity. (tip: have social bookmarking and curation tools at hand to archive those pleasant surprises- my favs are Diigo,, and Storify)


Hoist the Sail- Embrace the Fail.

2. Be Fearless: Vikings are famous for their gusto and courage. The best thing to do is let go and experiment. Don’t be afraid of messing up. Sure, catastrophes can happen. You might lose data when you forget to save. You might have an account hacked if you are not wary (never click on a link posted by a Twitter “egg”!). But unless you are the leader of the free world, you probably won’t be capable of blowing anything up, so go for it.

Don’t Pout- Work it Out

3. Be Flexible: When it didn’t work out in the Vinland  settlement, the Vikings headed back to Iceland. When Erik the Red was banished from Iceland, he created his own world in Greenland. In other situations, it was beneficial to stay and carry on (think Dublin and Kiev). The students and teachers I’ve encountered who could be considered Digital Vikings successfully adapt to whatever technology is throwing at them. They are not shy about testing out new things. They’ll rework something and troubleshoot with patience. This kind of critical, divergent thinking is what we should strive for.


Berserker or Worker?

4. Cultivate an Identity: Knowing who you want to be online and in what spaces is imperative. Do you want to create a consistent personal brand? Develop a PLN? Meet like-minded people? Follow a tribe? Instigate change? Our motives are varied, and I think the wise Digital Viking evaluates the audience and medium to decide what is appropriate and most effective. Do you see your digital presence as a process or a product – perhaps a combination of both? What tools are in your arsenal? What allies have you made?

Pathetic or Aesthetic?

5. Make Beautiful Things: Viking art and craftsmanship is celebrated for its intricacy – even in the most mundane artifacts.

SuontakahiltcloseDigital Vikings know that whatever you produce and post to the Internet will be public – will be part of your legacy. Take time to edit that image, study media literacy or design theory, carefully choose typography, invest in a good microphone. When every Leif  Lars and Larry are authors in this democratized world of digital publishing it’s those details that truly set you apart.

One of my #edcmooc peers, Celine Keller @krustelkram was inspired by this post to create an animated GIF.


Another amazingly artistic #edcmooc student, Linda Saukko-Rauta (@saurau ) of Finland was inspired to make a #sketchnotes version of this entire post!


Just for fun: Here is our parody to Depeche Mode’s “Personal Jesus”: The Vikings. That’s me in the boat.


Two years later…and I just transformed this blog post into a hand-drawn stop motion animation video:

54 comments on “Why We Need Digital Vikings #edcmooc

  1. cathleennardi
    February 1, 2013

    Amy. This is one of the best posts I’ve read in the edcmooc so far. Thanks for the humor! My favorite saying for Digital Vikings is “Don’t be afraid to click!”

    • amyburvall
      February 1, 2013

      Thanks so much Cathleen! Love that saying…maybe we could have our own meme series with the #digitalviking

  2. angelatowndrow
    February 1, 2013

    Fantastic! What a great piece!

    I owned the original IBM5150. I learned DOS. I first accessed the internet with I’m not sure what, but it was on a monochrome screen with an index which was an endless column of words down the left of the screen, in alphabetical order. I scrolled in wonderment down that list of words as I realised what was ahead of humankind. When I got as far as the first entry with sexual connotations (four letter word starts with “a”, ends with “l”) I saw its other potential too.

    Ignoring that part, I dived in anyhow and never looked back. I don’t care if its DOS or thumbs, it’s all an adventure. Digital viking, I think that’s what I am! Thanks for closing the digital divide, it was never meant to be an us and them.

    • amyburvall
      February 1, 2013

      Thanks for commenting, Angela..keep the adventurer’s spirit!

  3. maryakem
    February 1, 2013

    I am right there with you. Where we’re at with technology lacks every kinda finesse you can imagine.. and the potential is great. The time for vikings is good. Well said

  4. epurser
    February 1, 2013

    go Amy!

  5. shimmyshimmybangbang
    February 1, 2013

    This is JUST the tonic I need. Was starting to rig up the ‘chute and getting ready to bail. You saved me. Packing it away and dusting off the horned hat now 🙂

  6. Asbjørn
    February 1, 2013

    Think ijust got a new category to put my self in and i like it very much 🙂
    You are hitting the nail right on the head with this.

  7. Thanks so much for this – a stunning piece! I was just wittering in a reply to Angela T at the foot of her blogpost that I preferred the metaphor of an Adventure Playground in re education, including online learning; well how tame is that?! This IS the metaphor! Thanks again…
    NB: I hope you will not mind – but I want to link it to my student-facing FB site: study chat (upon our Study Hub: – this is inspirational!
    Best, Sandra

    • amyburvall
      February 2, 2013

      Great, Sandra! And thank you! Please let me know what your students think.

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  10. I love what you’ve done here. This is a great way to talk about digital activity. I really love the metaphors. I’m going to use this with my students (ranging from gen ed to practicing teachers) to discuss these issues.

  11. I’ve never been comfortable with the native/immigrant dichotomy either and I love the idea of the viking because it is not tied to an age group or generation – and those not “born” a viking can still become one!

    • amyburvall
      February 2, 2013

      Exactly, Deanna. My intention was to stress that it’s an outlook and behavior definitely not tied to age/generation…as I have known many Digital Vikings of all ages (and quiet villagers as well…maybe even some cloistered monks!)

  12. wryerson
    February 2, 2013

    Amy, this is amazing!!!

  13. ilonkahebels
    February 2, 2013

    🙂 Well said Amy! I wrote a somewhat overlapping blog post too commenting on this
    “digital native-digital immigrant”dicussion too 🙂 :

  14. khwvt1
    February 2, 2013

    Well stated, beautifully presented.

  15. Louise Taylor
    February 2, 2013

    This is great. I must explore making gifs. I haven’t been afraid to click so far but there does seem to be an awful lot of it.

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  17. jkknox
    February 3, 2013

    Great post! I like what you’ve done with the metaphor here Amy, and judging from the comments the call for exploration has gone down well. Some great tips and links here. I particularly like the appeal to ‘make beautiful things’. Craftsmanship is certainly part of our presence on the web, and definitely something to think about when it comes to the digital artefact.


    • amyburvall
      February 3, 2013

      thanks, Jeremy. When people think Vikings were “barbaric” I say – look at their art. In my classroom I have a sign that says “Make something today- and make it beautiful”. It’s both for me and my students. 🙂

  18. Heli Nurmi
    February 3, 2013

    Great thanks . I copied parts of this in my post

    • amyburvall
      February 3, 2013

      Hej Heli – thanks so much for letting me know of your response – I checked it out and left you a message…

  19. CogDog
    February 3, 2013

    Definitely fun- I took my clamsheel iBook on a 4 month tour abroad in 2000
    My First Laptop

    I worry a tny bit about presenting more dichotomies of this versus that. I dont think it does us well to igore our propensity to be on spectrums that change over time.

    • amyburvall
      February 3, 2013

      Cute photo! I had a blue one myself. They seemed indestructible. I agree that the dichotomy model is not as useful as the continuum. But that is why I used the Viking metaphor- because it’s more about the mindset than the skill level. And I feel like mindset is easier to change/control than skill level. I recall that in 1999 I was barely able to email, but realizing that by embracing what technology could offer, by hoisting my sails and letting go of fears, I could roam around collecting riches (in the form of ideas, tools, methods, etc.) and share them with my students and peers. If I would have been content to be harbored safely in the status quo I would not have had all the amazing experiences…(plus they loved storytelling!) Check this out:

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  22. amyburvall
    February 3, 2013
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  25. Kristina
    February 7, 2013

    Really spot on and inspiring! But what happened with the munks on Iceland:)

  26. Sorokti
    February 7, 2013

    Great post Amy! Reminds me of my colleague’s post called Brave Enough to Go Half-Baked (

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  28. Krissa Swain
    February 9, 2013

    Great post, Amy. I never noticed that Apple laptops used to look like rainbow toilet seat covers. And thanks for the tips, especially re Spotify. Looking forward to experimenting with that service.

    I understand the concept of what a Digital Viking is and what she does, but I guess I’d like a clearer picture of what her goals are – is it just about the journey, or is she seeking to effect change in some way, either in herself or others? The tone of your post suggests to me that there’s something conducive to the greater good in the active presence of Digital Vikings in cyberspace. Is that right? If so, what is it DVs contribute, specifically? I love the concept – I just want to understand all its implications.

    Great stuff!

    • amyburvall
      February 9, 2013

      To me it’s more of a mindset (one that does not depend on age or generation). As for the goals, I think in the “Go in the Know / Go With the Flow” section I meant to distinguish between two perfectly acceptable ways of exploring. In the “Berserker or Worker?” section I tried to tackle digital identity… for me, that means different goals and different expressions of myself for different digital spaces (although, when you consider personal branding some consistency is key). The original Vikings shared their culture as they settled, as well as absorbed cultural elements of other peoples (perhaps why I eat saffron buns on Lucia Day). I imagine that the “sharing” aspect could be used to extend this metaphor a bit…to see how a Digital Viking could be a benefactor of society.
      Hope this helps?

      • lenscleaner
        February 10, 2013

        Thanks for your response, Amy – yes, it does help. I think in particular your comment about sharing aligns with the metaphor even in a quite literal way, as people across many ethnic, linguistic, and national groups mingle and interact through Internet technology. This sort of mingling has happened only minimally up to now, but the growing dynamism of interaction on the Internet (and growing awareness of that dynamism), paired with browser-integrated translation technology, lays low the last remaining barriers between (many) peoples formerly separated by boundaries of nation and space. That leaves us free to share – to transmit and adopt, in the way of the Vikings – elements of our culture that have formerly sometimes been sources of suspicion and misunderstanding, alongside our (equally culturally situated) aspirations, ideas, goals, notions about how to solve the problems we face globally, through the digital artifacts we create.

        It also aligns in less literal ways, as people share their ideas and the source of their inspiration within their language groups, but outside their social niches, crossing those boundaries of generation (with limits), vocation, background, sexuality, religion, and, I can only hope, to a greater degree, political affiliation, all facilitated by the creative, thoughtful, and informed citation and presentation of multi-media, social, and textual resources infused with our own perspectives and interpretations.

        Now I must go back and read your post to see whether you addressed the issue of etiquette (which entails appropriate behavior as well as knowledge of how to respond to inappropriate behavior).

      • amyburvall
        February 10, 2013

        Well stated- thanks for your reply. I suppose it could all be quite wonderful if we can break the barriers of our tribal instinct and the algorithmic “filter bubbles”.

        Etiquette? Vikings? Haha. Well, I didn’t overtly talk about it but perhaps it’s implied in the Identities section -I feel like exhibiting self-control in how you want to be presented in the respective “spaces” fits in with that.

      • lenscleaner
        February 10, 2013

        Right… Vikings and manners… kind of an oxymoron, and I think you do address the issue of appropriateness when you discuss identity. As I was thinking about all the crossing of cultural barriers, I started thinking of all the bad behavior that’s out there on the Internet. But I think perhaps I may be straying beyond the boundaries of this discussion.

        Again, great post, and thanks for the resources.

  29. Eric M (@plack8_e)
    February 11, 2013

    Good stuff Amy – a great metaphor and much more meaning than so many of the other attempts!

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  34. iteratedsnowdrift
    February 27, 2013

    Pretty cool blog, Amy… Welcome to the netizenry !

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    March 14, 2013

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  39. msanabr3
    November 12, 2013

    I like very much your blog!!!

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