Major Project Summary

Well, it’s been a long road but I am really happy with my project: Digital Citizenship for Instructors Resource.

I think it’s an important thing that we not assume digital citizenship stop with K-12 students, teachers, and parents. The digital world is having a big impact on higher education and being informed can make a huge difference. Check out my Cautionary Tales page if you want to see some examples.

I sent my resource to a couple friends of mine who are both instructors, one newly finished her PhD, the other in the midst of it, to get some feedback from a target audience. They both offered me some great suggestions but overall, they felt like it gave them a great place to start so I’m hoping that others will find it useful too.

In all my searching, I was pretty astounded that a resource like this did not seem to exist. There were bits and pieces here and there, mostly single blog posts, so I am hoping that my resource (which, like all my materials, is CC BY-NC-SA.

I’ve been collecting bits and pieces of this in my head for a while since I tend to read a lot of articles about this kind of thing so it has been nice to pull it all together into one place but add framing information, illustrations, suggestions. It’s something that I think could be adapted for K-12 teachers with some different cautionary tales and some tweaks to professional identity. Probably less need for the research identity but not necessarily.

All in all, it’s been a long haul but I’m happy with it and I hope others find it to be useful!

Infographic time!

In the interest of creating some additional resources, I thought I’d try to whip up an infographic for use in my resource site. Thanks to Amy Singh for introducing me to Piktochart. It is fairly easy to use with some existing templates even at the free level. Of course, I had to make things tougher by not finding any of the existing templates really to my liking (at least not at the free level). Some of the editable word images didn’t work the way I expected and where was a lot of fiddling with resizing, but I like that I can go back and edit it and redownload any time if I have a better idea.

My intent was just to make a really quick checklist of 5 things to keep an eye on for digital identity (especially for anyone who uses the internet professionally). Do you think it’s clear? I’d love some feedback on whether there are things that need tweaking with the information, word choice, or layout. I admit, I found this a bit challenging. I started out in visual arts a long time ago so I sometimes have the urge to just sketch something up myself but I also know how much time it would take me (and this really reminded me of that fact). These days I may critique how something looks but at work I get to send it to a graphics and multimedia person to do the tweaking and use their knowledge of tools to whip things up far faster than I can. It’s much easier being the one asking for adjustments than the one having to do them!

UPDATE: Amy made a great catch so I’ve updated the image to the version below.
edited version of digital checkup checklist

Original version:
digital identity checkup infographic

Final Project Update – A screencast behind the curtain

Since so much of my final project work has been behind the curtains, so to speak, I thought I should pull back the curtains a bit and show parts of what I’m working on as well as get a bit of it out in the open.

I realized after I was uploading that I had talked about Philip Harland’s website before in a blog post but I included it here anyway.

Can Our (Digital) Identity Really Be Captured By Checking Boxes and Filling In Blanks?

We humans really like to categorize things. We like to put labels on things. We pretend that the world can be classified according to neat little boxes. We want the world to be quantifiable. Quantitative research is so nice and neat because everything fits in an easy box. All too often, we want to treat identity like that. Please check all that apply.

flickr photo shared by Mr. Ducke under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

We have talked before about the ways that Facebook influences how others understand our identity. But what about how we ourselves understand it? Susan Cox wrote about Facebook’s impact on identity and it is something worth considering. While the prod for the article was Facebook’s decision to only use legal names (and the need to provide government ID if Facebook decided your name was not a real one), and the subsequent acceptance that “real” identity may not be a legal identity, that there are people who would be harmed by that, the author goes further. Cox brings up the fact that Facebook has reduced our identity to something to be checked off, filled in. The information options that Facebook provides (read: expects you to fill out) are actually pretty invasive.

Facebook has redefined the standard of what information should be immediately known about you as a person. It was a slow process, where it gradually increased the “About” fields, but now when I meet someone, it is somehow appropriate for me to see their exact age, residential history and entire résumé of work experience and education. (No, Facebook, I don’t want to display where I went to high school. Stop trying to guess at it!) Facebook can even reduce your personal journey on this earth to a chronological list of “Life Events.” It knows the true measure of what’s important in this crazy world and can tell you everything noteworthy that’s happened to you in this one helpful list. Facebook has turned our lives inside out to the point where all of this very specific information now seems to be what constitutes a social identity.

Our identity is mediated through the fields that a company has decided are relevant, with the options that they have chosen as valid. Even before our chosen posts are filtered by algorithms to determine what others see, we must categorize and classify ourselves so others can easily scan through all the apparently important information about us.

This isn’t totally new. Quantitative gathering of information is easier. You can sort, search, and compare. The Canadian census (and pretty much every census) does the same thing. Most surveys ask for some basic personal information, even if it is anonymous. How many times have we seen ourselves or someone else represented by check boxes and short blanks? We just worked on an instructor survey at work and we used Qualtrics (a survey software that U of R currently holds a license for) to build it, trying to rely mostly on checkboxes to make it faster. We even originally had a question about gender, at least until I started questioning why there were only 2 options, and then we asked whether we really needed to know that. But if we’d had it, we could have sorted based on that, tried to see if there were patterns based on that one facet of identity. Not only one facet, but a really limited view of that facet. Gender could (and should, I would argue) be understood as a continuum. That doesn’t work all that well with check boxes, though (although Facebook has tried).

But here is the other side that this article got me thinking of: How often have we wanted to say more (or less)? How often have we found that the available options don’t fit? How often have we really thought about whether we want to provide that information or set restrictions on who can view what aspects of our profile?

As Cox said, the digital age was supposed to be one that was freeing, that opened up more options for identity rather than reifying those few options currently accepted. The familiarity with sites like Facebook, Myspace, or online dating sites, have seemingly made us more willing to check off boxes and just accept the boxes that are there.

I am all of this
I am all of this but more

Our identities are not as neat and tidy as a venn diagram. It can change over time or even day by day. It may be difficult to put a label on (for example, we are seeing new labels like “heteroromantic bisexual” because the existing identity boxes don’t work).

Maybe the prevalence of check boxes in social media have helped force us to go back to questioning, to pushing, to fighting. Now that we are being asked to quantify ourselves over and over, maybe it will help us to push back and start using rich language descriptors. I am more than the sum of my parts because I am contradiction and blending and confusion. I want to explain my answers, give the exceptions. I am a grad student. I am also employed full time. Anyone else ever struggled with the assumption that “student” and “full-time employment” seem to be viewed as mutually exclusive? And those are things I am willing to openly identify as. What about the pieces of my identity that I may not tell everyone? Is there space for me to be those things too in a world of checkboxes that ssume you now know everything important about me?

Anyone else feel like their identity is as complicated as this song?

So how do we challenge this? Should we really fill in all the blanks? How do you create a more nuanced identity for yourself?

Duck and Cover: It isn’t always safe even being a cis-gendered, white, heterosexual female online

flickr photo shared by jiva under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC ) license

This might seem like an odd post title. Duck and cover? I’m pretty public in my online participation, I’m in favour of social media and public tweets. So what the heck? And what does it have to do with being cis-gendered, heterosexual, or female? Well, mostly it has to do with identifying as female.

Last week for EC&I 832 we were asked to read Young Canadians in a Wired World. Reading the executive summary, I came across a section on online safety:

  • The majority of students, especially girls, are aware of the risks of talking to strangers online. However, almost all students are confident in their ability to protect themselves online and a majority feel that the Internet is a safe place for them.”
  • Girls are both more likely than boys to agree with the statement that they could be hurt by online strangers (82% compared to 63% of boys) and less likely to see the internet as a safe place (51% compared to 61% of boys).

That definitely highlights something that has become more and more apparent in the past year. If you are female, you should be way more careful on the internet.

flickr photo shared by wheat_in_your_hair under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

To unpack my privilege, being cis-gendered, white, and heterosexual means I am coming from at least three places of privilege. I do not need to fear being harassed about the choice to identify as female, and I don’t need to fear being harassed for my sexual orientation. Even more, I’m middle class. I’m pretty well protected, pretty safe in my bubble. So when I say that I understand being afraid on the internet, know that I mean that I have a tiny little understanding about it and I know for so many people it is so much worse.

After a few comments with Ashley Dew last night about the gendered experience of online, today I read Jenn StewartMichell’s blog post about online friends being real. I agree with the article she brought up, that online relationship can be completely real, and then she mentioned a particular YouTuber and shared what she’d learned of him (including a really moving video). But she also mentioned GamerGate because he did and had posted about it. I immediately zeroed in and also internally got ready to duck and cover.

If you don’t know about GamerGate, then there is a whole lot of catching up to do. The beginnings are important. The Wikipedia entry on the Gamergate Conspiracy includes a whole lot of material (and I am fairly certain that it has been a contested space over the course of the past year with one side or the other making changes). In the beginning, there was a guy who decided to make allegations online that his ex-girlfriend, Zoe Quinn (no longer having an online space because of what happened), had slept with a video game journalist, resulting in positive reviews of the game she was developing and about to release. This became a call to arms. Lots of people jumped on the bandwagon. Others spoke out about what was happening. GamerGate was said to be about journalistic integrity about video games and there was a call to arms that there be changes made around how journalists reviewing video games handled that. Okay, that’s great. I don’t have a problem with it. (Except that as it turns out, Zoe Quinn was not sleeping with the video game journalist in question at that time – they dated later – and he never reviewed her game.) It got ugly. There were some critiques of her behaviour or the game itself that could be totally valid (my husband saw more of that side than I did and had some issues). Regardless, she ended up receiving death and rape threats. She had to leave her house. She was not the only one. Lots of other women, both known and not, received major online harassment. Some, like Quinn, were doxxed. Anita Sarkeesian, known for critiquing sexism in video games, had to cancel an appearance due to threats of violence that Utah State University said they could not protect against.

Anita Sarkeesian on the Colbert Report talking about GamerGate

The long and the short of it is that I have never tweeted using the hashtag #gamergate. Why? Because I’m afraid. I know that if I ever did, it would be quick work to recognize that I identify as female. And that would make me a target. There were people combing Twitter for a long time, seeking anyone who spoke out against GamerGate. And there were women who agreed with the publicized premise of wanting journalistic integrity. There were people who were moderates. But there were a lot of really horrid things done and the horrid things came from the origin of Gamer Gate and they were all around targeting women.

How can I support that? Former Minnesota Viking Chris Kluwe posted a rant about GamerGate (Warning: strong language ahead). And he didn’t get doxxed, he didn’t receive rape threats. Actually, he was pretty much left alone.

(Quinn did create some good, building Crash Override to help other victims of online harassment.)

This is the online world for women. Now imagine the online world for those who also experience racism, classism, ableism, religious persecution, discrimination based on sexual orientation or chosen gender.

The identity we choose to take matters. While Katia mentioned during last night’s class that choosing identity online can be freeing, that there can be positives out of it for people who struggle in person, there are also a lot of reasons some of us may choose to hide. If you play a video game and are female, you may or may not reveal you are female. It can result in very different treatment, both good and bad. I was open about being female when I played World of Warcraft and I had people offer me (in game) money, help, etc much more easily than if I had been male but I also dealt with sexual harassment and awkward situations.

I have an issue with online being scarier for girls than boys, for women than men. I hope you do too. And this is our mess to clean up. We make choices when we are online. All of us are responsible for those choices, for being good digital citizens. We need to not just teach girls to be careful, to fear the strangers, to be careful what they say or do, but also teach boys not to be the harassers, to stand up against others they see being harassers.

So have you experienced online issues because of a part of your identity? What did you do? Have you seen it happening? Have you been the one who joined in? Or been the one to stand up against it?

Can we teach what we don’t know?

flickr photo shared by planeta under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

EC&I 832 is very much about thinking through teaching new media and digital citizenship. For my final project I am looking at instructors and what their support needs are. One of my reasons is that it is pretty darn difficult to teach what we don’t know. We refer to instructors developing courses as “subject matter experts” for a reason, after all. Aside from all the issues around the place of teaching in universities, being a teacher (or instructor to differentiate from K-12 which is a whole other debate) means having some knowledge. Admittedly, there is value in learning with students. Actually, it is a fantastic thing to do. It reminds all of us what the process of learning is like, helps model learning for our students, helps build their confidence as they see themselves on the same path as their instructors. It can open up all sorts of interesting was of knowing and paths to learning that we might never use if we remain stuck in the usual patterns.

So how does my final project support that? Well, one aspect of digital citizenship that has been discussed frequently in higher ed for the past 5+ years is a digital portfolio. Recognizing that students do work during their university career and that they will, at some point, be seeking employment or applying for further education, the point is to build something that can showcase what they have learned which can then be used once they leave the institution (although not all options take that aspect into account). Not everyone is on board with this idea yet, but it is coming and some universities have implemented options for this like Mahara or even WordPress installations. It is worth understanding the value of giving students knowledge and control over their work, especially in ways that allow them to take it with them after they are done.

flickr photo shared by IntelFreePress under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Okay, so far none of this is too far outside the norm, even for instructors who are not big fans of technology themselves. Sure, students in this day and age might want to think about these things.

Wait. Who exactly is helping these students? Who is modelling how do to this? Who is crafting the assignments they might use?


Now we get into it. If we think it is a good idea for our students, then why is it not a good idea for their instructors? It can be all too easy to tell students one thing but do something completely different. Yes, it would be good to showcase your work. Yes, it would be good to have your own space on the web so that future employers can see what you have done, so you can track your own learning, so you can understand how you got where you are. But do I also need to do this? Should I also consider reflecting on my own learning? Could I or should I share work I have done? Do I want to take some ownership of my presence in a digital world? Moreover, to assume that every instructor will only ever be employed by a single institution is, I think, changing. Many choose to relocate if the culture is not a good fit. Others find somewhere that suits their goals better. Some relocate because of a spouse getting a job elsewhere. Some are seeking tenure and working as a sessional until that day. Others have multiple identities that intersect around their teaching and may need to think through how that all works.

flickr photo shared by tsevis under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

For those instructors already out there, experimenting, building their own examples, that is fantastic. They can already model work they are doing. I was a teaching assistant for a professor a number of years ago who encouraged students to check out his blog – Phil Harland. He has since gotten into podcasting. He also links to other sites that he has been involved in, including companion sites to books, online versions, or even virtual tours of archaeological museums. He shares his CV, publications, and even courses including course outlines and additional materials.

Not everyone wants that kind of presence or has an interest in doing podcasts. There is nothing wrong with that. We all have our different times and places on the digital continuum. This is only one example. But if we can see value for our students, perhaps we can find value for ourselves. Perhaps we can connect with our students in learning. We may be able to share pitfalls or concerns or questions about this part of our field when we engage in learning in this place as well as more traditional “locations” for learning and teaching and practicing. How do we assign a student to do work on a site we have never used? And if we see amazing work produced by a student, why couldn’t it influence how or where we ourselves do work?

flickr photo shared by lisaclarke under a Creative Commons ( BY-ND ) license

This is where it all comes together. Teaching, being professionals, learning, it can (and I would argue, should) be tied together. Without taking major leaps into the unknown, we can take steps. We can find ways to be digital that are meaningful to us and to our work. And hopefully to our students and colleagues also.

I’ve already started that, building my site as a portfolio that can also feed work into my job, inform my practice as an instructional designer, but also inform my practice as a teacher.

Major Project: Digital Citizenship… for instructors!

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.

"Wikipedia-lolcat" by Original: Jerry7171Modified image: AmosWolfe - flickr (original).Text added using Lolcat Builder. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons -
Wikipedia-lolcat” by Original: Jerry7171Modified image: AmosWolfe – flickr (original). Text added using Lolcat Builder. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons

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 (I refuse to link to it) to be a top hit.

flickr photo shared by JD Hancock under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

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 (, Twitter chats, etc).

flickr photo shared by royblumenthal under a Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license

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?

This is me (in digital)

Last night during our regular EC&I831 course meeting, Alec Couros talked about digital citizenship and digital identity.

It was a really interesting conversation to participate in as someone who was on the internet as a teenager when the message was very much that you are going to be the victim of a sexual predator if you say anything about yourself or do anything on the internet. I didn’t listen. I engaged in chat rooms, met all sorts of people, even dated people I met on the internet (like my husband).

Through this process I’ve developed different personal digital identities. I was, to some extent, semi-anonymous. I didn’t just use my name for chatting or posting. I always had some sort of name that I used as a buffer between me and the internet. I was there for fun.

Eventually I started wanting to get involved in things in a professional capacity. I had to start building up who I was in a more professional capacity. There was a great post earlier on managing your digital identity for grad students and I think it really highlights the issues. The one thing I felt was really important was about taking ownership of how you appear online. This really is a big deal because we’ve all Googled someone at some point for some reason. If everything about you is from someone else’s perspective, even if it’s positive, you are not the one deciding who you are.

For me that has been important as I switch gears. I still retain some identity in my more personal capacity and it’s possible to find things I’ve written that have nothing to do with education (because I do freelance or free writing to do with weddings and wedding planning). I also do some creative things with my husband and that is really separate from my day job. It’s important and part of who I am, but I don’t want an instructor I am going to work with to find my fiction before they find out what I can do for them.

There wasn’t much about me before as an aspiring Religious Studies professor, but now that I am engaging in a different field, I want to make sure that I am defining myself in a way that makes sense. If someone happened to see something about me editing a religion-focused grad student journal or presenting at a conference, or even working at a library association, I want to make sure that I can point them to a place that is about who I am now.

I got a new Twitter account as @KirstenJHansen. I Closed up my Facebook privacy. I hit LinkedIn. And now I have a website under my own name. (Wondering why I include a middle initial? My name is super common in Scandanavian circles so it was just easier to distinguish this way.)

I know Jason Grayston has been thinking about this and others have mentioned certain aspects of it. When did you decide you needed to take control of how you appear digitally? What did you do? Do you keep aspects of your life separate?