It is hard to believe that we are into Week Five of the faculty Domain of One’s Own initiative! I wanted to offer up a few insights as many of the themes/topics/technical areas have carried across these past few weeks. Last week we hit the half-way point – not only are faculty reading, discussing, blogging, sharing, and tweeting – they are learning about each other as individuals and learning about each others disciplines, pedagogy, and scholarship. There have been some fantastic conversations that have resonated and crossed disciplinary boundaries. Reflection is a powerful tool – reflection on digital pedagogy, digital identity, digital presence and ‘owning’ our domains!
I would like to say how much I have enjoyed spending time with each of faculty groups this year. Attending the one-hour sessions has provided me a unique opportunity to listen, laugh, and participate in a variety of discussions with amazing faculty who are wrestling with identity construction, online voice and presence, and domain construction/revisions. Each group has developed and co-constructed their own community; individuals’ insights and experiences related to teaching and scholarship have helped shaped and informed our conversations. And contrary to Jim Groom – each cohort rocks! Just ask them! #teamryanrocks
Caution – Domain Construction and All Things Digital
There were a lot of conversations related to domain construction and all things WordPress. Time has been spent on themes, pages, posts, menus, categories, tags, how to install a plug in, and C panel. One of the features of our one-hour session is the opportunity to ‘trouble shoot’ individuals technical issues. Faculty receive immediate feedback and help. What I find useful about these mini-tech help talks is that they are embedded in a real need – learning a new tool now matters and doesn’t remain some abstract thing. Grounded help in a real problem that gets solved – BAM! The DTLT folks are masters at providing faculty support. I often hear them sharing their own experiences and hurdles as they entered the digital world – we each have a professional journey and stories to share – I think it’s important to ‘remember where we came from’ (something my grandmother would say). It somehow feels reassuring to know that others have felt and are feeling many of the things faculty are sharing as they begin and continue their digital journey. What I also appreciate is how more seasoned faculty are ready to offer up their experiences, advice and strategies – real world examples that mattered enough for faculty to share across a variety of disciplines. Again, amazing faculty who are putting themselves out there and taking risks while exploring what a domain can mean to them.
Another theme was related to the professional – personal – private. Faculty have spent a fair amount of time reflecting on how personal is too personal, what is private, and what professional information is important. There is a tension and finding comfort in that balance is an individual process. What ‘feels right’ to one faculty member doesn’t ‘feel right’ with another. There is no ‘one size fits all’ and that is one of the strengths of this faculty initiative. Faculty get to ‘create’ a digital space that matters to them. And a lot of conceptual thinking is where many of our faculty are currently at as they figure out the right balance for themselves as they build a domain that represents them.
With ownership comes the realization and responsibility of faculty owning and shaping (active engagement) their online presence. One faculty member shared, “really glad I have this [Domain of One’s Own] to allow me to take control of my identity.” And then acknowledged that “this is a huge learning curve – with carrying teaching loads, scholarship, and manage an online identity. I am figuring out how to manage expectations.” Managing expectations was a central theme for faculty (all at very different places with digital work). Cohorts spend time talking about various ways to manage (recurring theme) and construct a digital identity that made sense in terms of workload. Talk often turns to ‘efficiency’ in terms of using digital tools within the initiative and beyond. How do faculty integrate digital identity work into the rhythm and flow of academic life?
Building a Plane while Flying
Often times we want our professional identity to be ‘professional’ – a finished well – polished version of ourselves. DoOO pushes us to be open about our development, more along the lines of formative and reflective – our thinking along the way. This can be new territory (and considered private) for many faculty as we have been socialized in ‘traditional academic cultures’ where we put our best work/scholarship/thinking forward in a polished format. Blogging has been an interesting experience for our faculty as many begin to experiment in this space. Our more seasoned academics in the initiaitve have already ‘traveled the blogging path’ and ‘through that process’ have developed/refined their online persona/identity and are very comfortable in this space. But for many of the DoOO faculty this is a new experience that moves many toward feelings of discomfort and thinking ‘this will be public’ and taking care to blog along academic lines. The private development path is to remain private. A tension exists between “I want to make sure it is good (summative)” vs. “I’m not that comfortable sharing my development (formative).” From a faculty development perspective I am interested in the development journey of the ways in which faculty can be supported to grow and develop an online identity, presence, create a space they own and actively shape to capture ‘who they are’ and ‘what they care about.’ Students often share how they like it when ‘their professors have a website’ because they can read about and see the work faculty are engaged in and how they teach. A domain can be a powerful tool for faculty to tap into – showcase teaching, share projects, research interests, blogs – things that matter. Our students do take the time to seek out their professors online as a way to learn more about them (professional – personal). Just think of the potential to share our domains so students learn more than ‘rate my professor.’ More to follow…..