Developing new forms of online practice

One of the things I really excited about in my new institutional based role is being able to be part of projects, instead of just watching and commenting on what other people do.  When I spied the HEA’s  Developing New forms of online practice in the disciplines: the challenges of web residency call I thought it might be the perfect opportunity for me to start working with colleagues here at GCU on a small externally funded project.

From a personal point of view I was attracted to the call firstly because it was an area that I am interested in, secondly it was a 500 word proposal and didn’t involve a huge time commitment and thirdly and more importantly I saw this as a way for me to start some engagement with our students about digital identity and start to get a better understand of their perceptions of this aspect of digital literacy.

I knew Evelyn McElhinney and her work in virtual worlds, and developing professional practice online via twitter before I started working here and so felt that there could be potential us to do “a wee project” .  I’ve followed Dave White’s development of the digital visitors and residents metaphor with interest and felt that the visitors and residents mapping methodology would (and this is probably the key part of our proposal) provide a relatively simple way for our students to:

“to begin to articulate and understand their online engagement in the context of their continuing personal and professional development. Effective online engagement is particularly relevant to health care professionals, who are bound by professional codes of ethics. The increasing use of social media for professional and public engagement requires them to develop understanding of the interactions between professional and personal spaces.Insight gained from the mapping exercise will also feed into the development of our curriculum designs, technology provision and support.”

I’m also hoping that once we finished this pilot project, we can then run similar workshops within the other two schools here, and develop the process to help us support our students and also get greater insight to where, why, how and when they interact online.

I’ll keep you posted here as the project develops. Just now we are looking forward to meeting the other successful projects on 12th February and finding out more about the mapping activity.  This video from David explains it in more detail.

Amplification and online identity (or wot I do and wot it looks like)

I don’t know if it’s just me, but do you ever dread answering the question, “so what is it you do?” To those who don’t work in education, or in a technology related field, it can take quite a while for me to explain just exactly what it is that I do. Often, I just opt for the slightly tongue in cheek “I type and go to meetings” option. However, over the last year I have found myself increasingly using the term “amplify” when describing what I do. Over the past two years blogging and twittering have become an integral part of my working life. Without actually realising it, the ins and outs of my working life have become increasingly amplified, visible and searchable through technology.

This week I’ve been reading (via a link from twitter of course) “The Future of Work Perspectives” report. This report starts with a section on the amplified individual worker of the future and outlines their four main characteristics which I (and I suspect many of my colleagues/peers) found myself identifying with.
*Social: “They use tagging software, wikis, social networks and other human intelliegence aggregators to understand what their individual contributions means in the context of the organization.” (which made me think of Adam’s presentation at the CETIS conference last year where he used our collective blog posts to illustrate connections across all the organizations areas of interest).
*Collective: “taking advantage of online collaboration software, mobile communications tools, and immersive virtual environments . . ..” (which made me reflect on how a 3G dongle has made me a true road warrior).
*Improvisational: “capable of banding together to form effective networks and infrastructures” (what would we do without “dear lazyweb” and the almost instant answers we can get from the twitterati?).
*Augmented: “they employ visualization tools, attention filters, e-displays and ambient presence systems to enhance their cognitive abilities and coordination skills, thus enabling them to quickly access and process massive amounts of information.” (I’m not sure I’m there yet, but I can see that coming too and the presentation from Adam mentioned above was I think the first time I really saw a coherent visualization of the collective intelligence of CETIS being represented through the collation of individual contributions).

The report is worth a read if a bit scary in parts. I’m not sure if I really want my laptop to be recording my biometric data and telling me to go home if I’m coughing too much. However three years ago if anyone told me I would be regularly broadcasting 140 character messages throughout the day I would have told them just where to stick their Orwellian Big Brother ideas.

I’m actually very comfortable with being an “amplifier” it has been a natural progression for me. However I have started to think more about the “amplified” student and how/if/can/should we translate these traits into students and lecturers. It has been relatively easy for me to integrate social networking into my working life. I’m pretty much desk bound – even when I’m travelling as long as I have my laptop + dongle and/or mobile phone I am pretty much always online. I don’t have teach x hours a week, and write research papers to secure my position. Using and being part of online social networks is easy and crucially, imho, relevant and useful to me. My direct professional peer network are in the same position. We’re all pretty much research as opposed to teaching focused.

Although I can see how the traits of an amplified individual equate with the kind of students we’d ideally like, I think we still have a way to go to persuade students and teachers alike of the real benefits of social networking in an educational context. There needs to be a fundamental change the recognition system for staff and assessment process for students to recognise/integrate these types of activities. I know there are many pockets of innovative work going on which are starting to address these issues and hopefully these will become more and more commonplace. It’s also up to us, the amplifiers, to continue to reach out and show how useful and relevant the use collaborative technologies can be in an educational context.

We also need to highlight the need to maintain and protect online identities as we gain more and more presence and professional recognition of them. As I’ve been musing around this post and thinking of ways of visualizing (or agumenting) some of this I came across the Personas project at MIT which analyzes your personal profile and creates a ‘DNA’ of your online character. Of course I had to have a go. I’d also just read about a new free web-based screencasting tool, screenr that links directly to twitter. So in the interests of killing two birds with one stone I signed up for screenr using my twitter username and password and recorded my online DNA being built. Halfway through I realised that I had just glibly given my twitter ID to an unknown third party without actually knowing if it was secure. Scott Wilson’s voice was in my head saying “remember oAuth, never sign in anywhere without it” or words to that effect.

My online identity is now more than ever, key to my professional identity. I should be more careful when I sign up for new toys, or should I say amplification opportunities and I should be reminding others too.

Just in case you’re curious about my online DNA here’s a picture or you can watch the screencast of it being created.

picture of Sheila MacNeill's online DNA
picture of Sheila MacNeill's online DNA