Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Professional identity and social media

It seldom happens these days that I meet someone - or hear someone speak - who causes immediate recognition and identification. This morning was one of these occasions where you think: "How come I wasn't following this person already?" Anne Marie Cunningham's talk about professional identity was very much related to the work that I have been focusing on the last couple of years, namely the role of social media in professional learning. We at CELSTEC have been focusing rather on the technology side of what we call "Learning networks for professionals", but I notice that in recent workshops and presentations people keep asking me more about the issues around social appropriateness, openness vs. safety,  reputation, being taken seriously, etc.
Anne Marie's talk - similar to this workshop - addressed exactly those issues. Looking forward to getting the presentation and recording online. Some of @amcunningham's most remarkable quotes were:
  • "Online identity has more to do with behaviour and relationships than the information provided." True, but usually the information constitutes the 'social objects' around which behaviour and relationships are centred.
  • "I'm too busy to be unprofessional online." A great oneliner, but I forget the context in which she said this. Personally I do not distinguish much between my personal and professional online identity. I prefer those online 'friends' who tend to blur the professional and the personal. I don't expect my students or colleagues in real life to just forget their personal background or worries between 9 and 5.
  • "To be a doctor is to be who the patient needs you to be". Does that apply to my students and professional network as well? Could you paraphrase this as: "To be a professional is to be who your customers need you to be?" Tricky, that one. @amcunningham quoted this in relation to an anecdote that she reported on, in which a seemingly innocent question for information suddenly turned into a kind of online doctor-patient consultation. I had a similar episode a while back when someone contacted me on Skype. She was an exchange student studying at a Dutch university, taking an elective distance e-learning course in the UK, and she had a problem with one of her assignments. I spent a good half hour 'coaching' her in trying to solve her problem (without solving it for her), whereas I could have just ended the conversation and said: "I am not your tutor or coach, so I am not the right person to talk to". Are you ever a non-teacher / non-e-coach when you are online 24/7?
  • Levels of professional identity: (3) socialised mind -> (4) self-authoring mind -> (5) self-transforming. This sounded very interesting, and I will be looking for the source of this theory.
Interesting issues, brilliant presentation. Great start of the day.

1 comment:

Anne Marie said...

Hello Steven,
Thank you for this great feedback. With regards to Kegan's theory of constructive developmen, I perhaps did not make clear that I was suggesting that perhaps it could be applied to professional identity. This is something I would like to explore, but I thought that it perhpaps gives us a way of thinking about identity and I will be interested to hear what other's think.
When I say 'unprofessional' I don't mean personal but actually a way of being that might make people think I was not a good professional. I don't count having a life outside work as 'unprofessional'- it is perhaps 'nonprofessional'. So if I go to see some music or a film I am quite happy to tweet about that from my one and only twitter account.
I look forward to many more conversations and learning.