Why does digital citizenship matter for instructors?

In thinking about my major project for EC&I 832, one of the things that needs explaining is why I think it is important to have a resource on digital citizenship for instructors.

Most discussions about digital citizenship center around children and teens. After all, those are the people in the process of learning about citizenship in general, forming who they will be (and Jason Ohler discusses that treating digital and non-digital as one single person is the best approach). Instructors are adults, they already have this all figured out. Right?


We all expect our instructors to be not just digital citizens but digital leaders, right?flickr photo shared by sylviaduckworth under a Creative Commons ( BY ) license

Sure, some do. Or maybe even that is a bit of a fallacy. With the speed at which technology changes, do any of us truly have our personal digital citizenship policies and procedures in place, never to change again? I would argue this course is reminding us that no, that probably is not so. As much as I critique Sherry Turkle, she has a point that we need to think carefully about how we use technology and whether what we are doing now actually works. Laura Hunter blogged about her own concerns with constant connections. She asks, “…do they help us be the best we can be? Is being constantly connected a good thing?” Sounds like I’m not alone in still trying to figure this all out.

When it comes to instructors, there is a big mix. Some are sessionals and have multiple pulls on their time as they may have a full time job on top of teaching university courses or be teaching more courses than a traditional faculty member, or they may be graduate students taking courses themselves. They could be a variety of levels of faculty, some with research demands, the pressures of trying to attain tenure, numerous committees or projects that require time. This is all on top of staying caught up in their field of expertise (we assume), making revisions to courses they teach, and perhaps somewhere in there thinking about their teaching and how they use technology. Busy would be a good definition of any of them.

As an instructional designer, my job is to provide pedagogical coaching to help instructors build the best possible courses so they and their students have a great experience. But there is more than that at stake. Who talks to instructors about their own digital citizenship? Not just how to set up their course in UR Courses, how to make it engaging, how to facilitate discussions, the value of videos or images in humanizing their content. What about how that fits together into a wider picture?

There usually isn’t enough time to talk about everything I want to share or bring up. But again, who will bring it up if I don’t?

My first thought was that a Centre for Teaching and Learning might be just the place to have resources on this. I know the U of R CTL doesn’t (I used to work there and the staffing is quite limited, they’ve had specific projects they are busy with). But other schools? So far, I haven’t found any resources although my hunt continues.

What about social media guidelines? U of R has some social media resources but the guidelines are primarily for accounts used by units, departments, faculties, or official persons. Nobody wants to go anywhere near academic freedom and produce guidelines for instructors. This is understandable but… then where would guidance be?

There are a few people on campus who have blogs or sites. I have found others through poking around and recognizing names who are on other social media. But there is no real guidance or information available through our campus. Most other sites I’ve checked so far also provide guidance only for official accounts rather than accounts of instructors.


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

There is a gap. Sure, if an instructor is already interested, they could come across a post about digital identity or a Digital Identity Health Check for Academics pdf. Maybe they decide to read a paper on Exploring Digital Identity: Beyond the Private Public Paradox. Still, none of this goes into all the little pieces that tie together to become digital citizenship.

So we want to worry about K-12 students. We worry about how our units present themselves. UVic provides a page for distance students on managing their digital identity. I suppose we hope that departments will discuss this, that faculty and instructors will talk about it as professional development amongst themselves. Maybe they attend a conference panel.

There is a gap here. These are people teaching students, choosing media and software and sites that students might need to use. These are people setting classroom policies. These are people demonstrating what it means to be a professional in a field. If the future landscape is changing, these are the people who will resist or support the change.

That is why my project matters.

Does anyone have questions they would want answered about their professional digital citizenship? What about how your instructors have (or have not) conducted themselves? Or questions about things that are assigned or provided as options like using Twitter, Prezi, VoiceThread, SlideShare, blogging, etc? What do you wish instructors had told you or wish they knew?

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 - https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Wikipedia-lolcat.jpg#/media/File:Wikipedia-lolcat.jpg
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 Ratemyprofessor.com (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 (Academica.edu, 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?