Topic 1 that we worked on for the last two
weeks was “online participation and digital literacies”. At this point it is
worth to mention that the work flow with the different topics in this Online
Network Learning (ONL) course follows the so-called FISh model using an actual
scenario as background (Nerantzi & Uhlin 2012). To summarise, the FISh
model is a simplified version of the problem-solving model used in
Problem-Based Learning (PBL) consisting of the focus, investigation and sharing
phases. The scenario used for this topic was in brief the situation the ONL
course participants were in at this point of the course: a participant of an online
course with little experience in online tools and the task to create a learning
blog and the challenge to keep private life and professional life separated in
this context.

I started my own reflection from the point
that I am attending the course as a representative of my higher education
institution (HEI), Mälardalen University and therefore I was trying to evaluate
digital literacies and online participation in a solely professional and not
private context. The first question that therefore came to my mind was, what
kind of digital literacies and forms of online participation are mutual
beneficial for my own professional development and the development of my HEI? This
question is initially of high importance, if I what to keep my private and
professional life separated, since professional online participation has then to
be part of my working day and schedule. I started to reflect in which way I
participate online in the professional context today and concluded that I besides
online meetings (ZOOM, Skype) and teaching related activities (educational
platforms as CANVAS, pollseverywhere, paddlet) participate rather passively
online. I have in addition to LinkedIn and ResearchGate a Twitter account for
several years and I follow numerous colleagues, institutions and organisations.
From that I gain a lot of information and inspiration mainly for implementation
and usage in courses, but partly in research as well. From that perspective, I
would clearly conclude that these activities are both beneficial for my own professional
development and the development of my HEI. However, I have never send a tweet
myself and when reflecting on the motives for that I reason that being active
in social professional media requires time and is rather distracting from other
activities, if the usage is not carefully planned and limited. The latter is
rather difficult since the reactions and the timing of reactions of the global
professional network to own contributions cannot be predicted. Moreover, I see
that some people of my network are extremely active in postings and discussion,
which means that these kinds of activities consequently result in mixing of
private and professional life, if other professional activities still need to
be managed during the working hours.

On the other hand, a more active participation can result in a higher visibility of both myself as a teacher and researcher and of the HEI that I represent. Similar observations were described by Lancos and White (2015) in the article “The resident web and its impact on the academy”. Individuals that are visible online can be influential, however the quantification of this for the institutions is difficult and therefore are these activities often pushed outside the contracted hours.  

Further, the article points out that unlike
in academic writing and publishing, on the Web content and identity are not
distinct and flow into each other. This aspect brought me to the second question
during my reflection: How do I create a digital identity for professional
online participation and how do I keep this identity separated from my private
(digital) identity?  

As pointed out by Chamorro-Premuzic (2015), online activities can no longer be separated from our real life and have become an integral part of it. In fact, social media activity such as Facebook “likes”, media preferences or online purchases can be used to predict our personality. And further, even if we might have different personalities for different situations, they can be traced back to the same persona, both in the real world and online. Still, I believe that there is a difference between the image people in the real world have of your person and the image that is created by all the possible information on the Web that hardly forgets anything. As a result, a higher degree of awareness regarding digital literacies and online participation are required to avoid the creation of false, unwanted online identities. During the investigation phase of Topic 1 I read an article by Guiseppi (2017) giving advice on how to build your own online identity. Some of the advices such as write reviews of books for top booksellers with your personal profile felt for me like trying too hard to be recognised online. Also, the advice on how to blog in order to be seen (comment relevant blogs for instance and refer to relevant blogs in your own blogs), went into the same direction. However, I concluded for myself that blogging could be used as a tool for own reflection (even if it wouldn’t have an enormous outreach) and that if I would like to be recognised online, then by the quality of the content that I publish and not by a high number of contributions that doesn’t represent or are related to my professional personality.

In order to make the post not too long, I do not have the chance to write about some other very interesting aspects that were part of Topic 1. But, I would like to mention my view on the “visitors and residents” typology for online engagement as a replacement for the older “digital natives and digital immigrants” typology by Prensky (White and Le Cornu, 2011). In the visitors and residents continuum the use of technology is depended on motivation and context instead of age and background and I totally agree on that. Digital tools and technologies have become numerous, diverse and fast-moving which makes the user automatically a visitor for most applications, however with the potential to become a resident by using the respective tools in a certain context. I also understand this typology as a great way to facilitate the understanding that sharing of knowledge and experience and collaboration are the key to successfully use and implement the digital tools accessible. In order to visualise that complexity, I attach here the “Pedagogy Wheel” as one example.

Feel welcome to leave a comment.  

Professional online participation and identities