Saturday, March 31, 2012

Online Identities - Having An Impact

As an academic librarian and early adopter who follows new and emerging technologies, my blog posts are more about emerging and educational technology than they are about library work, though that distinction is blurring. Many librarians are ahead of the curve when it comes to new online tools, digital initiatives, social media, etc. An understanding of technology has become critical to our profession as the digital revolution continues to transform our world.

This semester I’ve been teaching a new online course as an adjunct at my university. It’s a one credit hour course offered to graduate Counseling students, TRMA 585 - “Developing a Professional Online Identity.”
Working on my online professional #identity course - made this #wordle for #moodle site #fun
I was pleased to be asked to teach the course by a Counseling Department faculty member with whom I've worked as a department liaison librarian, and who follows me on twitter and other networks.

The professor felt the topic was important for soon to be professional therapists to better understand the importance of personal branding and a professional online identity.

The 15 week course began with everyone in the class sharing where they currently stand with online experience and social media. Facebook naturally being the big winner and for many their only or most significant experience.

Due to the nature of the course, much of the work done by the 11 students in the class was completed on the web and is accessible to all. However, the course syllabus, weekly assignments, most posts and comments are inside Moodle, the Learning Mangement System (LMS) used by my university.

Each week’s assignment has explored ways to develop a positive professional online identity utilizing various tools and tips. Everything from LinkedIn to profile pages, google+, twitter, professional facebook pages, blogs, websites, domain names, and more. The course is winding down and we are starting week 13. This week’s assignment is on having an impact, and it’s partly what led me to write this blog post.

My belief is that anyone with access to the web can have an impact, and that we can all utilize and benefit from the online tools available to us. Whether that means creating a positive professional identity for yourself to help in your job search, utilizing social media tools like twitter for professional development purposes and to make connections, creating professional facebook pages, blogs or websites to promote yourself in your area of expertise, or for other ways to contribute to changing our world. The Internet and social media tools have enabled and empowered us like never before in our history.

An important technology I regret not having time to explore in this course has been the amazing impact online videos can have (often propelled by other social networks). Whether it’s using video to creatively promote yourself in a job search, to be recognized as an expert in a specific field, personally branding yourself, or to simply provide another fomat for valuable content to reach your audience, video is an increasingly important tool.

By now, with over 86 million hits on their single Youtube upload in less than one month (much more if you count others’ uploads), most have at least heard of the Kony 2012 - Invisible Children campaign. This post isn’t about that campaign (which I realize has its critics), but about how being innovative and using the Web and social media, the campaign spread beyond anyone’s dreams. As a TRMA585 student posted on twitter on March 7th:
 “The power of social media comes alive! Very moving. #TRMA585 should watch. KONY 2012: via @youtube”

What I find especially interesting is how others have been able to build on the original campaign. Two compelling related but unaffiliated examples having an impact are: How Technology Is Helping Kony Victims in Uganda and The Next KONY 2012? Invisible Children Co-Founder Releases ‘I Am Mother’

I think most will agree with this Read Write Web post that social media ROI doubts can be put to rest. As I've stated, the Internet has provided “A Way to Have a Voice That Matters.” It’s up to all of us to decide how/when/where and if we want to use that voice.