I posted before about some possible ideas for a major project for EC&I 832 but I settled on one about a week ago, just had it mulling in the back of my brain. I always like to do projects that are authentic which, for me, means it needs to be applicable in some way to instructors, especially those who teach online.
So I am going to work on a digital citizenship resource for instructors. My unit works with a huge range of instructors, from Professor Emeritas to grad students to sessionals who have full time jobs to faculty members so the scope is pretty wide. Regardless, not too many of them come to us and say that they have all these resources online they work with and they want to use all these technologies (and they have read the Terms of Service) and they have been using this thing over here and this thing over here. Mostly they come focused on their specific course and it gets built within UR Courses. I don’t think any of the instructors I’ve worked with has ever even given me a website link for themselves. Most of them I can find on the U of R site (although sessionals may not appear, depending on the department) but rarely am I shown a digital home other than that. Some use Twitter.
Some of our instructors may have had to think about their digital identity but many of them probably have not. One starting point would be the Chronicle article on curating your digital identity as an academic. Another would be the Gradhacker article (for grad students) about managing a digital identity. There are a lot of things left out, however. I want to talk about why it is useful in terms of their teaching, what it models for their students (some of whom may join their field). Having their presence known, even in a small way, gives them a starting point for existing outside the boundaries of UR Courses. (Don’t get me wrong, there are benefits to using a privacy-protected site, especially when it comes to what materials can be used and copyright permission.) To me, part of this is remembering that students expect to be able to Google everyone. So what will students find? On campus they can ask around, walk past an office, meet in person. Off campus students or those with a sessional who might be way less available, however, will have a harder time. Who on earth is this instructor? Do I want to take a course with them? Nobody wants Ratemyprofessor.com (I refuse to link to it) to be a top hit.
Some instructors like to use really old pictures of themselves. Any student who has seen them in person knows the picture is old but what about the students who haven’t or can’t? We have heard about the power of body language for the person making a video, which can easily be imagined for an instructor, but what about the power on students of seeing their instructor as they are? Sure, it’s fun to use a cartoon, and it is much more flattering to our ego to use an out-of-date picture (because society tells us that only the young count and admitting to being older isn’t always fun). But for students, they are expecting to take a class from a real person. In a classroom you develop a rapport with a real person but online that gets to be more difficult, especially when you have no idea what your instructor looks like. Have you ever emailed with someone (or texted or read their blog or articles) and wondered what they look like? You probably formed a picture in your head, right? I know I have. I worked with one instructor I had never met and I had a definite picture in my head of what I thought she would look like and be like in person from her emails and her course. I was completely wrong! Having an image of her could have shifted what I thought of her and how I viewed our interactions.
Potential tools both for professional identity curation and for use in teaching, resources for use with students like information about third-party (non-UofR) software, suggestions for tools, things to put in the syllabus or in a course. I also plan to look at the benefits academically (and some of the pitfalls, like recognition for tenure and promotion) that can go with that and tools for that (Academica.edu, Twitter chats, etc).
So what would you want to know about digital identity if you were (or are) teaching at a university? What do you wish your instructors knew? Alec talks about this for teachers/grad students in EC&I 831 but I’m looking broader. Any instructors (aside from Alec and Katia) who you think are great examples of a digital identity?