Personal Learning Network

Assignment Description

For this assignment, you will begin to develop and document your Personal Learning Network. Your PLN is an important element in the ONID program.

Establish and/or develop a personal learning network, the core of which will be Diigo and Twitter. You may use existing accounts if you already have them, or you may create new accounts for this program. These accounts will be used throughout your involvement with the ONID program. In the process of using these tools in this class, think about your larger PLN and the elements that comprise it, and begin searching for new tools that will enhance your PLN.

Visual Representation

Word cloud that spells out PLN. Words include things like reiterative, never-ending, communication, collaboration, internet, diigo, library

I created this word cloud because I think word clouds are fun. Too, I really enjoyed just taking some time to brainstorm about the types of words I associated with “personal learning network,” after working within that concept throughout the semester.

I really liked Bob’s emphasis on how a “personal learning network” consists of more than the internet– it’s also the people, your collegial and academic interactions, the brick-and-mortar resources, etc. Many of those types of resources are also included in my word list. Similarly, the word “reiterative” appeared frequently while I brainstormed and typed my list of words for my word cloud. I envision a great PLN as a reiterative, never-ending process. You revisit old ideas as you learn new ones, while new connections you make as part of building your PLN encourage you to think about both old and new concepts from a different perspective.

Reflection on the Assignment Design

I am nearing the halfway point of the ONID program (not quite there yet, though). I started in January, which means I also took courses out of sequence. In ED 653, Instructional Design, I was first exposed to the concept of the personal learning network, and it was in that course that I had the opportunity to create a Twitter, Diigo account, etc. So, when I saw the Personal Learning Network assignment in ED 431, it was probably the assignment I was least looking forward to, because it felt a little redundant.

Similarly, I try to be intentional about the time I spend on the internet, and so I am not one of those people who seeks to create an extensive Twitter following. Consequently, really the only times I would go on Twitter this semester was to do the required number of tweets for the PLN assignment, which often made it feel artificial. This semester (and throughout my time in school, really) I feel as if I am much more likely to expand my personal learning network when I have a purpose in mind. In other words, if I have a specific question or an assignment to complete, that’s when I am likely to dig up resources and websites and scholars that become part of my PLN. For this assignment, I often found myself just scrolling through Twitter looking for something somewhat interesting to share, which is quite different than the targeted searches and the exploration of specific issues that I am used to doing.
To sum it up, then, this is what I would offer in terms of feedback to the PLN assignment:
  • Make sure that the PLN assignment approaches the personal learning network concept from a different angle than the other courses in the program, and perhaps expect that many students will take the courses out of order.
  • While some may disagree with this suggestion, I think it would be great to give the PLN a more focused direction. I think it could be interesting to pose a new question, issue, or problem related to the course materials each week. Then, the cohort could practice using their PLN to expand their knowledge of that specific concept.
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Podcast Assignment

Assignment Description

For this assignment you will create a series of three audio files that you will publish in your blog and eventually in your portfolio.

For each of chapters 3-5 of The World is Open:

  1. Create a 1-3 minute audio podcast that highlights or explains one of the resources or topics mentioned in the chapter. The audience for your podcast will be a target population of K-12 or post-secondary teachers, depending on your preferred setting–e.g., elementary teachers, science instructors, counselors–or a topic of general professional development for all teachers. The purpose of the podcast is to introduce your topic to your audience as a potential resource that will aid in their personal or professional development. Your audio files should use the same short musical/voice intros and outros, as if they were part of a series of podcasts.
  2. Using SoundCloud, embed all three podcasts on your blog in an entry titled “Podcasts.” Remember to use the “ED 431” category for your blog post.
  3. Include the transcripts of each audio file.
  4. Post a 300-500 word reflection on the process of creating podcasts (issues, successes, discoveries, etc.) and the utility of podcasts as a teaching and learning tool. Once your podcasts and reflection have been reviewed and revised, publish them in your portfolio on a page titled “Podcasts.”

Podcasts

Reflection

When I first looked at the assignment description, I noticed that each podcast needed to be 1 to 3 minutes in length. I didn’t quite know how long of a transcript to write, so I found a website that stated how many words are needed for a script for a 1 to 3 minute video. This was a great resource to help me get started outlining my transcripts. According to this information, my scripts should be 150-510 words, or, 1 to 5 short paragraphs. I spent quite a bit of time composing the scripts for the podcasts, which was a little challenging because I recognized that, what might work for written material may not necessarily work for spoken material. After I wrote the transcripts, I spoke through them out loud a few times, adjusting sections that sounded awkward, too formal, or unclear. Next, I found intro/outro music at incompetech.com. I downloaded the music and imported it into audacity, and then was able to record the podcast text into audacity without too much trouble as well. I also added a “fade in” and “fade out” from the music to help transition from music to the speaking part of the podcast. I didn’t really encounter too many technical difficulties with the actual recording, since I’d used audacity before.

Skip encouraged us to reflect on the pedagogical merits of podcasting, and as I did so, it really made me think of our Mobile Learning assignment. In this assignment, I discussed how one of the defining features of today’s students is their mobility. Podcasts really speak to this– students can easily learn from podcasts while they’re commuting to work, while they’re washing dishes, or while they’re waiting in line at the bank. This is definitely a strength of the podcast teaching tool.

In addition, some studies indicate that students have roughly a 10-15 minute attention span. Podcasts allow information to be “chunked” into smaller segments, which have the benefits of fitting into the relatively short blocks of time students have available (like my example list above)– but also have the benefit of working with, instead of against, waning attention spans.

References

Bonk, C. (2010). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Fabris, C. (2015, March 24). Online or in person? One college lets students switch back and forth. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-or-in-person-one-college-lets-students-switch-back-and-forth.
Hahn, D. (2016). How many words go into a script for a 1, 2, or 3, minute video? Main Street Marketing. Retrieved from http://main-street-marketing.com/faqs/how-many-words-go-into-a-script-for-a-1-2-or-3-minute-video/.
Kahn, S. (2012, October 2). Why long lectures are ineffective. TIME. Retrieved from http://ideas.time.com/2012/10/02/why-lectures-are-ineffective/.
MacLeod, K. (2015, November 15). Fretless [digital audio file download]. Retrieved from www.incompetech.com. Licensed under Creative Commons: BY Attribution 3.0 License.
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Google Docs Survey

Assignment Description

Create a Google Docs survey that you will submit to your cohort. The survey should cover some aspect of open resources, portals, or participatory technologies as covered in The World is Open–e.g., experiences with various portals or services, awareness of various tools, level of comfort in specific areas, etc. You may do a broad survey of technologies (e.g., open source software) or you may concentrate on a specific topic (e.g., Second Life). Your survey should be comprised of at least 12 related questions and should include examples of text, multiple choice, checkbox, choose from a list, and scaled response questions. Your survey should include branching logic (e.g., moving to a specified page based on a user’s response) when necessary.

My Work

Choosing a Topic for my Survey

Unlike some of my classmates, right now, I don’t have any particular real world need to gather data. I still wanted the topic of my survey to be useful to me, though, so I wanted to create a topic related to our assigned reading. As described by our assignment description (above), Chapters 6-8 of The World Is Open discusses “open resources, portals, and participatory technologies.” These chapters in The World Is Open emphasizes the vast potential of Web 2.0 to create participatory learning spaces, giving examples like:

  • The Museum of Online Museums, where you can virtually “visit” exhibits from museums around the world (Bonk, 2010)
  • Global Nomads Group, where students use videoconferences with students in other countries to learn about world cultures (Bonk, 2010, p. 232)
  • ePals, which helps connect students and teachers from one country to another for communication and learning (Bonk, 2010, p. 261)
  • Ice Stories, in which students could read and respond to stories from scientists working in Antarctica (Bonk, 2010, p. 262)

Just to name a few. Bonk (2010) makes a strong case for the new potential of online learning to help their students connect with outside resources and other people from all around the world. Bonk also spends part of Chapter 8 connecting the participatory potential of web technologies to Friedman’s ideas of globalization.  Bonk (2010) says:

Thomas Friedman argued that the world has become flatter, deeper, richer, and more personally empowering for those who want to compete and collaborate economically across countries and continents… Concurrent with this flattening process, the world is making available a huge percentage of its educational treasures. It is unlocking windows and doors to educational opportunities for the entire world that were previously sealed shut (p. 388).

According to ideas of globalization, the world is “shrinking;” the connections between cultures, peoples, and economies are faster, tighter, and more dense than they were in previous generations. Bonk, as the quote above describes, says this same process is happening to education. And to an extent, this is certainly true. We have the potential to learn from anyone, anywhere in the world, at any time. We also have an abundance of resources (like the list of examples I provided above) in order to do that. But– here’s the question I thought about as I read Chapters 6 to 8– do we do so on a regular basis?

Ghemawat (2009) provides a contrast to Friedman’s expansive view of the potential of globalization. According to Ghemawat, the data suggests that, while we have the potential to act “global,” most of the time, we still act “local.” He points out:

Web traffic within countries and regions has increased far faster than traffic between them. Just as in the real world, Internet links decay with distance. People across the world may be getting more connected, but they aren’t connecting with each other. The average South Korean Web user may be spending several hours a day online — connected to the rest of the world in theory — but he is probably chatting with friends across town and e-mailing family across the country rather than meeting a fellow surfer in Los Angeles. We’re more wired, but no more “global” (Ghemawat, 2009).

Bonk successfully argues that Web 2.0 has a strong potential to help students access open resources from all over the world, and to learn and collaborate with peers they have never met. However, I think it is also important- rather than talk just about potential– to think about what instructors are actually doing in terms of participatory learning, and consider how we might improve those processes.

I believe, then, that even though we have the vast potential of web technologies to connect us with people and resources around the world, “local” is still one of the primary ways in which we learn and teach. We learn often from the other students at our school, in our class, who are sharing the same educational space and experience that we are.

So where did this take my survey? While tools like the Museum of Online Museums, Global Nomads Group, ePals and Ice Stories are fantastic resources for the motivated teacher, I wanted to use my survey to think about what participatory learning tools are used on a day-to-day basis by instructors; to think about tools that have the potential to encourage “local” collaboration.

Many university instructors use a learning management system, like Blackboard, Canvas, or Desire2Learn. We can debate the merits of these tools, but the fact is, they are being used regularly. Consequently, I think it is useful to consider how to make these tools more participatory, more collaborative, and more in line with today’s student’s needs. Purposeful education, I believe, should start with fostering connections between an instructor and a student; between students in the same class. Education can be global, thanks to Web 2.0, as Bonk describes. But, education is still intensely local. How then, can an LMS contribute to or detract from this process of creating local participatory learning spaces?

Consequently, the survey I created for this assignment gave me the opportunity to think about some of these questions and consider the relationship of a learning management system to the creation of local participatory educational spaces.

My Survey

You can access my survey at this link.

Reflecting on the Use of Google Forms

I had used Google Forms in one class previously (ED 601), so I was somewhat familiar with the use of the tool. However, this is the first time I’ve had the opportunity to test out the “branching” feature, and I was pleased with how simple it was to use. I also liked that I was able to create “sections,” so as to visually guide survey participants through the organization of the survey. Since our class was so small, I wasn’t able to necessarily see how the data comes in to and is analyzed/organized by Google Forms, but I felt that the process of choosing a topic and working within Google Forms to create a survey was still a meaningful exercise.

References

Bonk, C. (2010). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Ghemawat, P. (Oct. 14 2009). Why the world isn’t flat. Foreign Policy. Retrieved from http://foreignpolicy.com/2009/10/14/why-the-world-isnt-flat/

 

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Mobile Learning

What Does Mobile Learning Mean?

Mobile Learners & Tools

A good place to start in any discussion of a topic is to consider your definitions. As I’ve been working on this post, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s more important to center the discussion on mobile learners than it is mobile tools. In other words, I think mobile learning is defined more by the mobility of the learners and the context of learning than it is about the tools those learners are using (see “Mobile Learning”). According to The World Is Open, “With mobile devices, the educational event or activity follows the learner, instead of the learner having to arrive at a designated place in which to acquire it. Access, access, and more access is demanded everywhere one travels” (Bonk, 2010, p. 293). Mobile learners are able to access academic material or complete their coursework as they move through their day: as they wait in line at the DMV, as they sit on a park bench on their lunch break from work, or as they ride on the metro on their way home. Mobile students move across contexts as they study and learn.

So what tools are “mobile” tools? Because I think that mobile learning can be conceptualized as being more about the mobility of the learner than the tool, I prefer not to include laptops as a “mobile” tool. Laptops are “transportable computers…one moves it from place to place, working at each of those places. But, one doesn’t use a laptop computer while one is moving about” (Norris & Solloway, 2013). In a 2015 Educause study, around 40% of students say they wished their instructors used smartphones or tablets more frequently (Dahlstrom, Brooks, Grajek, S. & Reeves, 2015).  Similarly, the number of students who do access academic resources on mobile devices is quickly rising: in 2013, 67% of students’ tablets and smartphones were used for educational purposes, which is nearly double from the previous year (Chen & deNoyelles, 2013). Clearly, post-secondary students are using their mobile devices (not just transportable laptops) to access academic content, which makes a discussion of mobile learning timely and relevant to higher education.

Context is Critical

According to a blog post exploring mobile learning’s impact on instructional design, “mobile learning assumes that modern learners are continuously in motion, and allows students to learn the right thing, at the right time, in the right place. This immediacy could increase the effectiveness of authentic and situated learning tasks by giving students the ability to approach a topic in real time, as they go about their daily routine” (Remington, 2015). In other words, mobile learning has the potential to adapt to the context of learning.

 

Venn diagram. Social aspect, digital aspect, and learner aspect all intersect in mobile learning, which is at the center.
Source: Koole’s FRAME Model. https://www.jisc.ac.uk/full-guide/mobile-learning. (“Mobile Learning,” 2015).

I particularly like this diagram of mobile learning, which explains mobile learning as the intersection of the social aspect, device aspect, and learner aspect. In the next section, I will first consider the intersection of Learner and Device, and then consider the intersection of the Social aspect and the Learner.

Designing for Mobility

If you are an instructor designing a course, you probably recognize that your mobile students will access your course content in a variety of contexts. According to Remington (2015), “Whether or not you formally design curriculum for mobile learning, it will exist. Learners will find ways to consume content and learn in different environments. So embrace that concept!” So how can we embrace the concept of mobile learners?

Practically Speaking

Device Usability

First, I think it’s important to consider a few practical elements of design that can make mobile learning more or less effective. How do learners interact with their mobile devices? (This is the “device usability” section of the diagram above). Obviously, viewing content on a mobile device is different than viewing it on a laptop or desktop. The way we use these devices, the contexts in which we use these devices, and the physical ways we interact with these devices are quite different (Buff, 2013). According to an article by ICS Learning Group, “While audience and content vary, one constant that is largely accepted; an mLearning module that tries to be like an eLearning module does not make for a great learning experience” (Gipple and Lord). If you’ve ever tried to scroll sideways on a smartphone or accidentally hit “cancel” instead of “submit” because the buttons were too close on a small screen, you know the frustration of trying to interact with a device that isn’t designed for mobility.

In order to take into account the needs of your mobile learners, you may want to think about things like screen size and file download limits. Unlike students working entirely on laptops, students who use smartphones for schoolwork are perhaps using up their (limited) phone’s data plan (Buff, 2013). Also consider your use of flash or other things that may not work across all devices. Remember that scrolling or typing essays can be difficult in a mobile context. An Inside Higher Ed article suggests that when designs for mobile learning could be “chunked, and be less about typing and text.  Video capture could replace typing.  Short statements could replace long paragraphs” (Kim, 2013). When in doubt, try out Google’s URL Tester to see if a course will work for the mobile learner (Avey, 2016).

The Benefit of Apps

When we use mobile devices to learn, we can access a variety of apps that can broaden learning, fill in knowledge gaps, and enhance academic productivity (West, 2013). For example, teachers could compile a list of reference apps and encourage students to use those apps. In an Educause study by Chen and deNoyelles (2013), these were some of the most common apps that mobile learners said they used on a regular basis:

An Inside Higher Ed blog post explains that:

We universally dislike the browser based learning management system (LMS), and universally love our phones.  We love apps.We love apps because they are purpose built, simple, lightweight, cheap, and fast. Imagine a mobile first online learning platform that strips away all the unwanted features of the LMS.  No more complicated gradebook.  No more list of features that we never use.  Only a method to collaborate, share materials, complete and collect assignments, engage in formative assessment, and build a community in the class (Kim, 2016).

The power of mobile learning is maximized when students are encouraged to take advantage of the unique features of mobile devices.

Pedagogically Speaking

Connectivity

Mobile learning has a unique potential to enhance student learning, and can be particularly powerful when courses for mobile learners are designed to play to the strengths of mobile devices. For example, mobile learning can be a uniquely connective and social process. (This speaks to the intersection of “social aspect” and “learner aspect” in the diagram above). Bonk (201o) describes that more people and resources are “fully loaded in the teaching and learning loop” (p. 353). Mobile devices offer instant opportunities for connection; more connection with resources, but also more connection with other like-minded learners. As Remington (2015) describes, “Social media has created a culture where people have near-instantaneous contact with any other person, anywhere in the world. By focusing on Mobile Learning, instructional designers can take advantage of this culture to further improve learning opportunities” (Remington, 2015). With mobile tools, “interacting with a learning community could become organic to activities of daily living” (Kim, 2016). Essentially, mobile learning creates new opportunities for connectivity with other learners as we move throughout our day and access learning spaces in a variety of contexts.

Learner-Centered and User-Generated Content

Some argue that mobile learning is more learner-centered. Access–instant, flexible, and varied–characterizes mobile learning. As The World Is Open describes, “The emergence of mobile and wireless technologies for learning— which place educational opportunities literally in the learner’s hands and allow him to schedule learning when he wants it—has paralleled the growing acceptance of a more learner-centered educational philosophy” (Bonk, 2010, p. 295). “mLearning” has become a common abbreviation for mobile learning. As you may imagine, the “m” usually stands for “mobile.” Sergio (2012) argues that the “m” could “just as easily” represent “me” (Sergio, 2012). Mobile learning has the potential to be centered on the needs of the learner.

Designing for mobile learners also means we encourage movement across contexts and user-generated content. Jisc explains that a “holistic” approach to mobile learning “is to engage the learner in creating user-generated content and engaging through audio, video and other features of mobile devices in the learning experience” (“Mobile Learning”). An Educause article also explains that mobile learning offers an opportunity to create user generated content, explaining that, “Devices such as smartphones, tablets, and e-book readers connect users to the world instantly, heightening access to information and enabling interactivity with others. Applications that run on these devices let users not only consume but also discover and produce content” (Chen & deNoyelles, 2013).

Mobile learning, then, represents this intersection of the Learner Aspect, Device Aspect, and Social Aspect. Considering these three elements of mobile learning will help us maximize the potential of mobile devices to positively influence higher education.

References

Avey, S. (2016, January 6). Mobile-ready education: Making education more accessible. [Web log comment]. Yale Center for Teaching and Learning. Retrieved from https://campuspress.yale.edu/yctl/tag/mobile-learning/

Bonk, C. (2010). The world is open: How web technology is revolutionizing education. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Buff, T. (2013, October 8). Top 5 design considerations for creating mobile learning. [Web log comment]. eLearning Industry. Retrieved from https://elearningindustry.com/top-5-design-considerations-for-creating-mobile-learning

Chen, B. & deNoyelles, A. (2013, October 7). Exploring students’ mobile learning practices in higher education. Educause Review. Retrieved from http://er.educause.edu/articles/2015/6/~/link.aspx?_id=F2A5EF6E40704CAC8729BEDA7514E1AF&_z=z

Dahlstrom, E., Brooks, C., Grajek, S. & Reeves, J. (2015, August 17). ECAR study of undergraduate students and information technology, 2015. Educause. Retrieved from http://www.educause.edu/library/resources/2015-student-and-faculty-technology-research-studies

Gipple, J. & Lord, E. Understanding mobile learning and best practices. ICS Learning Group. Retrieved from http://www.icslearninggroup.com/whitepapers/understanding-mobile-learning-and-best-practices/

Kim, J. (2016, May 11). 3 theories why we are intrigued by mobile learning. [Web log comment]. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from https://www.insidehighered.com/blogs/technology-and-learning/3-theories-why-we-are-intrigued-mobile-learning

Mobile learning. Jisc. (2015, November 12). [Web log comment]. Retrieved from https://www.jisc.ac.uk/guides/mobile-learning

Norris, C. & Solloway, E. (2013, June 5). Is a laptop a mobile computer? And why is that even an important question? [Web log comment]. The Journal. Retrieved from https://thejournal.com/articles/2013/06/05/is-a-laptop.aspx

Sergio, F. (2012, May 31). 10 ways that mobile learning will revolutionize education. [Web log comment]. Fast Company. Retrieved from https://www.fastcodesign.com/1669896/10-ways-that-mobile-learning-will-revolutionize-education

Remington, K. (2015, April 23). Mobile learning’s impact on instructional design. [Web log comment]. Designed to Learn. Retrieved from http://lpd.nau.edu/mobile-learning-impact/

West, D. M. (2013, September). Mobile learning: Transforming education, engaging students, and improving outcomes. Center for Technology Innovation at Brookings. Retrieved from https://www.brookings.edu/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/BrookingsMobileLearning_Final.pdf

Wong, W. (2012, June 1). How mobile devices are changing higher education. Community College Daily. Retrieved from http://www.ccdaily.com/Pages/Technology/How-mobile-learning-devices-are-changing-the-face-of-higher-ed.aspx

 

 

 

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Web Presence

Web Presence and Digital Footprints

A formal definition of “web presence” reads as follows: “A web presence is a location on the World Wide Web where a person, business, or some other entity is represented” (“Web Presence,” 2016). An obvious interpretation of the concept of “web presence” is simply, “being present online.” Another given definition, which I feel more accurately captures the nuances of the term, states that “web presence” is, “The art and science of being found online” (Pick, 2011). Developing a web presence is both an art and a science. Loosely speaking, it’s an “art” because of the creativity one must exercise to craft an accurate and positive presence. However, it’s also a “science” because it requires logic and strategy.

After considering this, I concluded that I’d like my personal definition of web presence to be, “the art and science of being present online.” I chose to flip the last part of the previous definition. While it’s important to be “found” online, that is more passive; it’s something that happens to you. I would prefer to define web presence in a proactive sense. A person can still achieve a strong and positive web presence without being dependent on others to “find” them.What I think? Web presence is the art and science of being present online.

As described in the assignment prompt, digital footprints are the “intentional or unintentional traces that you leave behind when you visit web pages, search for information, post on Facebook, tweet, shop online, or engage in similar activities.” Wikipedia (2016) similarly classifies our “digital footprints” into two categories–active and passive, or intentional and unintentional. According to this article,
“A passive digital footprint is created when data is collected without the owner knowing, whereas active digital footprints are created when personal data is released deliberately by a user for the purpose of sharing information about oneself by means of websites or social media.” (“Digital Footprint,” 2016). Clearly, our digital footprint defines and influences our web presence.

Curating Your Web Presence

If web presence is “the art and science of being present online,” than it is the sum of active and passive digital footprints that creates a web presence. In the tangible world, we “walk” where we want to be present. Digital footprints are no different–we should “walk” in the locations in which we want to have a “web presence.” What does this look like?

  • The “art” of web presence requires creativity. This means we walk in unexpected places; we try out new ways of expressing ourselves, and we seek out new opportunities to learn and engage with other like-minded individuals and groups. I think this can more easily relate to “active” digital footprints. In this sense, we intentionally travel to new and familiar places on the web, with the goal of establishing a positive and strong web presence.
  • The “science” of web presence requires strategy. As much as possible, a well-crafted web presence seeks to turn as many “passive” digital footprints as possible into “active” digital footprints. This requires analyzing and interpreting privacy settings, cookies, and other tracking tools, so that you become aware of all of the digital footprints you’re creating.

Passive Digital Footprints

Turning passive digital footprints into active digital footprints requires an element of digital fluency. According to Posner, Varner, and Croxall (2011), you should avoid signing up for any digital tool or social media platform “without understanding what it does with your data, whether you can maintain the privacy you want, and the conventions that govern the way the community operates” (para. 6). This “familiarity” informs my knowledge of privacy settings, and prevents “passive” digital footprints from taking my web presence where I do not want it to go.

As described by Dachis (2011), many sites use cookies to track your footprints on the web, and “As long as there’s a “tweet this” or “follow me” button on the site, Twitter harvests information on where you are” (para. 3). According to this Dachis (2011), if you don’t like the idea of creating passive digital footprints as a result of participation in a site like Twitter, you can take advantage of tools like Disconnect, Ghostery, or Do Not Track Plus. Alternatively, according to Reilly (2014), many sites use so use SSO to track your web movements. Any time you use your Facebook or Google credentials to sign up for a third-party website, “Facebook is watching, following, and cataloging your destination points” (para. 4). By becoming aware of how common sites I visit use cookies or a SSO to track my digital movements, I can more intentionally monitor and direct my passive digital footprints.

Active Digital Footprints

Adjusting privacy settings and learning about the ways in which online behavior is being tracked can help identify when passive digital footprints are being created. However, creating active digital footprints requires strategy, too. As you curate and develop your online presence, you should consider the interests and policies of employers or future employers, or of students. Who will see your work? Who will benefit from your work? What do you want them to see?

Creating strong, active, digital footprints isn’t just about avoiding posting things that I don’t want them to see, or avoiding the creation of passive digital footprints. It’s also about curating quality work. Typos, inaccuracies, plagiarism, and copyright violations could all harm my professional credibility. Active digital footprints require attention to detail and intentionality in the content and quality of your curation. The more I strive to create active digital footprints, too, over passive digital footprints, the more you will be in control of what I’d like to share publicly, and what I’d like to keep private.

According to Richardson (2011), “transparency fosters connections and with a willingness to share our work and, to some extent, our personal lives. Sharing is the fundamental building block for building connections and networks” (ASCD). Creating active digital footprints, though, means that I choose what you share. I choose where I walk. Consequently, I have power to create a web presence that reflects as much or as little of my personal or professional life as I choose.

Web Presence for Students

According to Richardson (2011), modes of learning are changing. Richardson quotes author John Seely Brown as stating,

“these shifts demand that we move our concept of learning from a “supply-push” model of “building up an inventory of knowledge in the students’ heads” (p. 30) to a “demand-pull” approach that requires students to own their learning processes and pursue learning, based on their needs of the moment, in social and possibly global communities of practice” (para. 7).

What does a “demand-pull” model of education look like in practice? In this type of new learning environment, students use the tools available to take control of their own learning and their own work. Students develop a web presence; students actively walk into places on the web where education and their interests meet. Traditional models of learning emphasized the transfer or knowledge. Perhaps, now, “we need to focus more on developing the learning process—looking at how kids collaborate with others on a problem, how they exercise their critical thinking skills, how they handle failure, and how they create” (Rebora, 2010, p. 20). Digital tools and network literacy offer students an opportunity to take charge of their own learning, to curate a collection of their own work, and to personally explore subjects that interest them. In other words,

“More than ever before, students have the potential to own their own learning—and we have to help them seize that potential. We must help them learn how to identify their passions; build connections to others who share those passions; and communicate, collaborate, and work collectively with these networks. And we must do this not simply as a unit built around “Information and Web Literacy.” Instead, we must make these new ways of collaborating and connecting a transparent part of the way we deliver curriculum from kindergarten to graduation” (“What Students Need to Know,” para. 2).

By developing a web presence, students have the opportunity to “own” their own learning. As an educator, I should be aware of the power of online presence, not just for knowledge, but for learning.

Web Presence for Educators

Many articles focus on the “resume-building” or “image-creating” or “networking” power of a strong web presence. While those are certainly some side effects of a strong and positive web presence, I think that I prefer to conceptualize the development of my web presence as a natural byproduct of an organic pursuit of my interests.

To provide a comparison, some people will attempt to establish a relationship with another individual simply because they think that person could help get them a job. Yet, others see networking as an opportunity to get to know people who are interested in the same things that interest you; you are curious about their perspective, and as a result, you are eager to build a relationship with them. In this second perspective of networking, the networking becomes a learning process in and of itself instead of a means to an end.

I’d like to view web presence in a similar fashion. Some people will develop a web presence because it is a way to strategically support their resume or help them “be Googled better.” It’s a means to an end. Although that is part of web presence, I personally would like to develop a stronger web presence because it can become a learning process in and of itself. By being “present” in certain places online, I can access new ideas and knowledge. I can travel places online that speak to my own interests and develop my own skills.

We are continually learning, and by developing a strong and positive web presence, we have an opportunity to take control of that learning and direct its path. It’s an art: so, creatively search out new opportunities and engage with new individuals and groups. But it’s also a science: so, be intentional and strategic.

Works Cited

Dachis, A. (2011, Oct. 14). Establishing a professional web presence this weekend. Lifehacker. (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://lifehacker.com/5850029/establish-a-professional-web-presence-this-weekend

Digital footprint. (2016, Sept. 22). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Digital_footprint

Posner, M., Varner, S., & Croxall, B. (2011, Feb. 14). Creating your web presence: A primer for academics. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved from http://www.chronicle.com/blogs/profhacker/creating-your-web-presence-a-primer-for-academics/30458

Pick, T. (2011, Oct. 11). What is web presence optimization, and why should I care? Webbequity. (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://webbiquity.com/social-media-marketing/what-is-web-presence-optimization-and-why-should-i-care/

Rebora, A. (Interviewer) & Richardson, W. (Interviewee). (2010, Oct. 11). Change agent. Education Week Teacher PD Sourcebook, 4 (1), p. 20. Retrieved from: http://www.edweek.org/tsb/articles/2010/10/12/01richardson.h04.html

Reilly, R. B. (2014, Oct. 8). The cookie is dead. Here’s how Facebook, Google, and Apple are tracking you now. Venture Beat. (Web log comment). Retrieved from http://venturebeat.com/2014/10/06/the-cookie-is-dead-heres-how-facebook-google-and-apple-are-tracking-you-now/

Richardson, W. (2008, Nov.) Footprints in the digital age. Educational Leadership, 66 (3), pp. 16-19. Retrieved from http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/nov08/vol66/num03/Footprints-in-the-Digital-Age.aspx

Web presence. (2016, Aug. 21). In Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Web_presence

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