Sarah and I are about to start a series of Masterclass sessions with a small group of our undergraduate students to facilitate their use of online social media for professional development. Our intention is to help them create and maintain high diversity, low density networks for their own professional journey.
I have a long held belief, backed by my own experience of both lecturing and performing in amateur dramatic productions, that teaching and presenting is a performance in the theatrical sense. You have an audience that you interact with, you present a version of yourself that is carefully constructed and rehearsed as maybe professional/expert/mentor/peer dependent upon the context. Usually in the more traditional arena you know your audience and you have "real time" interaction with them.
Dixon (2007) identifies "digital performances" of everyday life and recognises that in the online world we have many forums where we perform - blogs, chatrooms, discussion forums, facebook and similar. He talks about honing a persona in these arenas through reflection, rehearsal and presentation of self. (In fact this blog post was "rehearsed" a number of time before it reflected what I wanted to give of myself to the wider audience).
So, in readiness for our masterclass I set myself some homework and I decided that I would look at my own online presence, what were my digital performances? How have I constructed a professional persona on line (and is it successful?). Who is my intended and actual audience and how do I engage with them?
The first thing I realise is that I have multiple roles and potential audiences on line, so I googled myself! "Angela Hook" found me pretty quickly (in amongst the wire artist from Canada - hmm maybe she has a more interesting online identity than me?). On the first page were links to my Seek and LinkedIn profiles and my twitter and facebook places and one photo which wasn't too old and had been used as a professional image for a time (thank goodness).
"Angela Hook occupational therapist" gave a bit more. In addition to above it also identified groups and events such as OT4OT and the 24 hour virtual exchange (2010 and 2011), wikiflash, and the MSc Advanced OT programme launch. In this search this blog was there and also a link to a blog that I started and haven't returned to for some time so is pretty static, a number of articles I have co-authored and links to presentations at conferences and on slideshare. What was of some concern is that my full profile is on a site that I know I haven't joined and seems to have been automatically converted my LinkedIn profile to a french site - need to do some more checking of that!!
Finally, on page 3 of this search was a link to my eportfolio.
All have been developed and crafted with the intention of demonstrating a person with a professional (but human) image. My intention is to show that I :
a) am continually developing and learning
b) have some knowledge and expertise in my chosen field of occupational therapy
c) have some knowledge and expertise in my professional interests including the use of online technology for professional development
d) am open to discussion and debate
e) am interested in the work of others
f) that I am a team player and a collaborator
g) that I don't always have to take myself too seriously!
I attempt to do this.......
On LinkedIn and Twitter I talk about events that are happening in my professional life. Here on the blog I attempt to show a more human side occasionally offering reflections (such as this) and even a "Fairy Story" that I have written.
My facebook page is only open to "friends" - these may be "real world" or "virtual space" friends who have something in common with me (eg professional, hobbies, etc). My personal blog is available to the wider public but is rarely found (can you find it??) in which I share exploits of my life, my thoughts and aspirations on a more personal basis from time to time. I also have a personal website for one of my hobbies that I undertake.
And so we come to my eportfolio which I developed to demonstrate my own learning and development over time. It is rather static and has not really engaged with people to date.
All this means that I have an intended audience for my work, my thoughts and my ideas. What once was kept between a few select friends and colleagues is now out there for anyone to read and engage with. Everything that I personally upload or that I know will be uploaded is intended to be read which means that not only do I consider what others may see and believe of me - but I also must connect to my sense of self. If I fragment too much then I would find it very hard to maintain multiple personas and I may not be a "believable" online presence. But I am not sure if my intended audience is being reached in all arenas. Facebook is pretty much instantaneous with comment and feedback fro selected friends. Occasional requests to add links on LinkedIn, comments on the blog and twitter followers demonstrate that some are finding me and may even be reading.
The challenge for me and for our small group of students is to:
1) integrate folio thinking into the learning experience
2) find ways of engaging the intended audience so that we can have a living, multi-centric arena for development
But I am still unsure about whether my intended outcome is successful. I guess all this remains a learning curve but I would very much welcome your views on how you present yourself on line and how you can gauge your success - (and yes I invite comment on how you think I present online too please).
Thanks for reading.
"If nothing is deposited or created then the stage is empty" (Ramirez 2011)