Putting the pieces of your digital identity together

I’m not a lover of jigsaws, it has to be said.  Mainly because I’m not very good at them, but the jigsaw analogy for your digital identity is an apt one.  In a previous post, Behind the Mask of Digital Identity, we explored the fragmented nature of a digital identity (or identities) and how publishing vignettes of ourselves online, often for a variety of different audiences, on a variety of different social media sites and for a variety of different reasons, can make managing our online identities challenging to say the least.

Me - with a few pieces missing...


Me – with a few pieces missing…

 

In this post I’d like to review a range of possible approaches you could try with learners to help them understand the benefits, as well as the implications, of developing multiple online identities.

Let’s start with a few positives, the CASCADE project at the University of Exeter (part of the Jisc Developing Digital Literacies Programme) has developed a range of resources to help teachers that are free to use to encourage learners to explore the benefits that many social media sites offer to support learning.  I particularly like the What type of digital learner are you? quiz, because the questions are phrased in such a way that makes you think about the possibilities of digital technology without letting an over-enthusiasm for technology get the better of you.  The results on the quiz back this up too, by breaking the feedback down into how digital technologies can help you through life in key areas, such as career building, learner networking, global citizenship, etc but, crucially too, by emphasising that a bit of digital scepticism is not only okay, but should be encouraged. Definitely worth a look with your learners.

When we talk about digital identities with learners it’s difficult, perhaps even impossible, not to mention Facebook profiles at some point in the discussion.  Love it or hate it, the fact is most learners are on it, so a closer look at how they present themselves on there is justified. There are a couple of sites that are worth looking at in relation to Facebook: The Museum of Me site connects with your Facebook profile and creates a “visual archive of your social life.” Admittedly, it does play to your vanity somewhat if you’re the kind of person who likes looking at photos of yourself a lot, but it does also make you think about what’s on your profile and how it might be viewed by others.  Whilst we’re on the subject of Facebook, the You are What You Like site is also worth a look as it analyses what you “like” on Facebook and builds up a character portrait of you based on this data.  Skeptical? So was I at first, until I tried it for myself…

Whatever social media sites your learners use, a really simple, visual and also fun way for learners to check the key themes from their digital identities is to use a word cloud generating site, like Tagxedo or Wordle. Depending on what content your learners have of themselves online, you can either ask them to paste text from their blog, Twitter profile, website, etc, in order to generate a word cloud. There are all kinds of nifty options to personalise the word cloud in Tagxedo, in terms of colour, shape, font, etc, feel free to let your learners play and pick a word cloud that they’re happy with. As an example, I’ve included a word cloud generated from my blog below where I’ve chosen the shape of a footprint because it fits the “digital footprint” theme.

Tagxedo - Digital Footprint

Word clouds are a really effective way of getting learners to see patterns in their online interactions, as more commonly used words from their profiles are enlarged and emphasised. This makes for a great activity to raise awareness about digital identity and would serve equally well as an ice breaker to get learners to know each other better.

I’ve been lucky enough to attend the odd conference or two in my time and a regular feature of any presentation about managing your digital identity is to include a YouTube clip.  Now I’ve seen some really good ones (and some pretty awful ones, but let’s not go there) and most of them tend to focus on the implications, rather than the benefits, of having a digital identity.  Here’s some of the ones I prefer that you might like to share with your learners:-

  • Orange’s Digital Dirt clip is probably the one I’ve seen the most and at only 2 minutes 10 seconds long I can see why – it does a good job of highlighting the impact a negative social media profile can have on your job prospects without labouring the point.
  • The Amazing mind reader reveals his “gift” clip is a little on the sensationalist side, but does a good job at getting the message across with a grand finale.
  • The Do we act differently on the Internet? clip by students at the NUI Galway is useful for providing a learner perspective and also raises some key issues for discussion.
  • Protecting Reputations Online by Commoncraft is another neat (and short) clip that considers your responsibilities and those of others when it comes to sharing information online.
  • Finally, there’s the Facebook Manners and you and the Facebook in real life clips that I mainly add for comedy value, but they both do include some serious points nevertheless about online etiquette.
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