Personal Learning Networks and Digital Identities

Earlier this week I read Sarah Kessler’s “5 Best Practices for Educators on Facebook“. Kessler’s practices made a lot of sense to me as a teacher wanting to use Facebook as part of my library program. In face, I would say that these practices could easily be adapted for any type of social media, Web 2.0, or personal learning networks in K-12 education:

  • Stay true to your focus when using it
  • Always ‘friend’ with caution
  • Learn about the different ways to use it to best meet your communication needs
  • Consider alternatives that might better meet your communication needs

Then the other day I received the current issue of NEA Today and I found an interesting article by Tim Walker and Rebeca Logan about managing one’s digital identity (“Is It Time to Scrub Your Digital Identity?” dated 9/7/2012). I found this article interesting for several reasons. The authors remind teachers using social media, either as a teaching professional in the classroom with students or as a private individual, that they may have posted things that may come back to haunt them. They also discus the idea of digital footprints and professional digital identities.

So, why do these articles resonate for me? I see two different elements of information, regardless if it is in print or online. First, there is the context is it what the readers were expecting, will it help the readers meet their needs. Second, there is the author providing the information what makes this person an authoritative source of information. These practices will help provide a focus for what  we (as teachers) are doing and, if we monitor our digital footprints and manage our professional digital identities, we will be seen more easily as teaching professionals.

Personal Thoughts on Online Communities

My first active adventure with online communities was when I started to explore Twitter. Yes, I have a Facebook account, and a blog and a wiki that I use at school, and I do podcasting, however I only used these for personal reasons or to publish professional information related to what I do at my school. These were initially (and in many cases still are) used as tools for one-way communication.

I soon saw through Twitter that this communication could easily become a two-way street. There’s information that I share (my tweets that I share with my followers) and information that I get from my followers. The scope of my tweets is to communicate, as a professional librarian and as a teacher, information and observations relevant to my profession.  When I look at those that I follow, these tend to be other librarians, libraries, professional organizations, teachers, and authors and they provide me with news, information, and observations to support my professional and personal learning needs.

While I do use hashtags as part of my posts, I have not yet gotten into the habit of regularly following specific tags. This is probably because of the school filter. Should I find something relevant that I wish to share with a teaching colleague at work, then I need to figure out how to de-Twitter it first. My personal learning for this module will be exploring hashtags and programs like Tweet Deck (I’ve heard several tweeters talk favorably about it).

In the mean time, I continue to explore how to use these technologies from both the professional learning, instructional delivery, and student learning perspectives, and to engage others in the school community about how these tools can be used within K12 education.

Thing 02: Online Communities & Personal Learning Networks

I find personal learning networks real important. In addition to tweeting on Twitter (I am @drydenlibrarian) and following the NYLA/SSL group on Facebook (this is the state-wide organization for school librarians), I also follow LM-NET (a listserve for SLMS), and a couple of other Facebook groups.

The challenge I have with ‘exploring’ new online communities (or for that matter, other Web 2.0 things) is that if I cannot see how I might use it at school, either with students or to provide library services to the school community, I am less likely to spend time digging into them. Similarly, if it won’t get past the internet filter, I’m also less likely to play around with something.

This indeed can be frustrating and I hope to be able to influence a change in this situation. Hey, if I can teach the athletic director (now retired, @drydenathletics) how to Twitter, I think I can do almost anything 🙂