Participation in our learning community – student, professional, me?

My natural instinct when first engaging in communities is to be quiet, careful and observe my environment: there could be danger anywhere.

Author: Shawn Carpenter; Source: License:

Danger by Shawn Carpenter; from:
CC BY-SA 2.0:

I believe I have done this since I was a small child.  Shy and self-conscious, I didn’t like to ask questions (I would have to talk to someone! And, it might make me look stupid), so I tried to find out how things worked on my own.  It probably took me a bit longer, and may have been frustrating for my parents and teachers who were probably thinking, “Just join in already!”; but it worked for me.  I still do this to some extent as an adult.  I am not as shy as I once was, but you would probably still call me reserved with new people.  As I become more familiar with the community, and start to know what I am doing, I might start to gain confidence and form a few relationships.  It just takes time.

As for my role in this community, I am here as a student, so I am here to learn, but I hope that I can share some of the learning I do, too.

Community of Inquiry Model; by Matbury (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons; Source:

Community of Inquiry Model; by Matbury (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (, via Wikimedia Commons; Source:

I would like to model my participation in our learning community on Garrison’s concept of “teaching presence”, in which everyone in the community of inquiry is actively engaged in the learning process, and contributes based on their knowledge and ability.  Within our community, I would also like to demonstrate emerging information professional skills, but still be able to present myself in an honest, authentic way.  I would like to appear friendly and supportive.  I am a low risk-taker, and don’t like to look stupid, so I am bound to be careful with what I post, to ensure accuracy.

I also strive to avoid conflict in my life, so while I love Garrison’s idea of a community of inquiry allowing for assumptions and beliefs to be challenged, and perhaps transformed, I may not be doing any of the challenging; however, I will certainly be observing and learning from any discussions that may take place.

As a professional, I know a lot of ways that professionals could / should behave in communities.  Professionals should:

  • be respectful
  • be competent
  • be knowledgeable
  • be responsible
  • be accountable (this means they should do what they say they are going to do)
  • be organised
  • be punctual (yes, punctual – when I started work as a speech pathologist, (fledgling professional that I was), I was not good with time, and I had a 30 minute window of time in which I found it acceptable for me to be late to an appointment. Over time, this time frame has decreased, so that now I strive to be less than 15 minutes late to an appointment.  People who have a better concept of time than me may still see this as a failure, but I can live with this).
  • be able to work in a team, representing their profession.
  • reflect on their practice, and always seek to learn from experience
  • know their boundaries
  • know and respect the roles of other professionals
  • maintain currency in their profession
  • uphold the code of ethics of their profession
  • implement evidence-based interventions.

All of these professional behaviours are important to me in my role as a speech pathologist, and I do think that a lot of these skills are transferable across professions; but I am still learning the ropes of what it means to be an information professional.  I am definitely a novice when it comes to having an online professional identity, and building an online professional learning network, but I am here to learn and participate.

I think this post is representative of the characteristics I think I should display in the community this semester. I have tried to be honest and reflect on how I naturally behave in communities, discussed how I would like to participate in our learning community, and thought about how professionals should behave, reflecting on some of my areas of weakness in the process.

Twitter and me

As for how I feel about using Twitter this semester, I feel like I am coming around to it.  When I started the MIS (LIP) at the beginning of last year, I remember feeling strongly resistant to the strong encouragement we received to develop an online professional identity; and I remember thinking “Oh no! Not Twitter!”, “Not Facebook!”, “Not LinkedIn!” (I still don’t do Facebook and LinkedIn).

Twitter is not brand new to me, but I have never used it well.  My first foray into Twitter was 4 or 5 years ago when I was working in private practice as a speech pathologist, and I thought it would be good to be connected to a network of speechies to stay up-to-date with developments in the profession. I felt like it moved too fast for me to keep up.  I didn’t understand that you didn’t have to read every single tweet, so I thought I was failing at Twitter, and gave up. Then I started this course, and the teaching staff gave me a better understanding of Twitter.  I realised that you could “lurk”, and that often, good tweets aren’t tweeted just once, and that you could probably dip in and out as you wanted, and not miss too much. So, here was another opportunity to give Twitter a try.

My concerns around using Twitter are that I still don’t really know how to use it to its best advantage – I’m not a “pro-user”; and that I am naturally so long-winded in my written expression that I doubt I will ever be able to squeeze a complete, coherent thought into 140 characters.

I am beginning to see that Twitter could be useful for some functions; e.g. getting a quick question to, and response from, teaching staff. 😉  I can see that a lot of people post links to other content that could also be useful.  I can see its value in staying across happenings in the library twittersphere.

I don’t think I can think fast enough to keep up with a Twitter chat.  I need time to think about what was said, and then work out what to say in response, which can take a long time, as I tend to deliberate over every word.  I will definitely be checking out Kate’s Twitter chat tips.


You can’t rush the evolution

Who am I online? What is my digital footprint?

Apparently, I don’t have a digital footprint.  I have a really common name, and when I google “Michele Smith”, I do not make an appearance, and I am ok with that.

Here is the first page of results

There are quite a few famous Michele Smiths who do appear on the first page of results: a softball pitcher, a politician, an Irish swimmer and an actor.

None of them me.

I am anonymous and incognito online.

  • I have an account on MFP under a pseudonym
  • My Garmin Connect account is private.
  • I do have a Facebook account, but I do not use it socially. I signed up last year because it was highly recommended that we do so for a couple of subjects in this course.
  • I have a Google + account that I use for uni purposes, not socially.
  • I have a twitter account (again, highly recommended by lecturers in this course), but don’t yet participate in the “Twitterverse”.

Who do I want to be online? My answers:

  • I don’t know yet how to represent myself as an information professional online
  • I’m not yet sure what I am ready to share
  • Can I just be a student for now, and have some more time to evolve into…something else?

It takes me a long time to consider and deliberate before I put something online.  This is my default position:

Caution Tape, Eugene Zemlyanskly,; CC BY 2.0

Caution Tape, Eugene Zemlyanskly,; CC BY 2.0

I think it is important to be conscious of a critical audience at all times; and realise that people will not necessarily interpret your comments in the way you intend them to be interpreted.

The written word cannot convey your tone or facial expressions (speech pathologists refer to this extra information as paralinguistics) and is extremely vulnerable to misinterpretation.  When we write, we speak in our heads at the same time, adding the intonation and emphasis, perhaps even the facial expressions; however when we post that comment, we strip away that extra layer that conveys so much meaning, and are left with just the words.  People will read it with their own intonation and emphasis, and it might not sound anything like the way you said it; hence leading to misinterpretation.

Emojis go some way towards remedying misinterpretations.  In her blog, Andrea Ayres discusses how people overestimate their ability to communicate clearly using email, and how beneficial emojis can be in adding the emotion back in.

I think because I am a speech pathologist, I cannot bear the thought of miscommunication, so I think I must attempt to embrace emojis if I am to have a successful time online (insert relevant emoji here).

Although I don’t seem to have many ideas about what I want to be online, I probably have more ideas about what I DON’T want to be online:

  • I don’t want to be someone with a personal brand. Shama Hyder’s Forbes article recommends that you start thinking of yourself as a brand, and lists “7 things you can do to build an awesome personal brand!”

Uhh…no thank you, that’s not how I want to represent myself online.  I associate personal brand with companies and business people; people who have something to sell.  I don’t want to sell anything, online or in real life.

  • Well, I guess that’s really only one idea.

Am I worried about how organisations use my information? 

The short answer is “No”.  But should I be? Maybe. If I could be bothered.

What are they going to do?  Try and sell me stuff? That’s ok.  Steal my credit card details? I can cancel my card.  Steal my identity? I would LOVE someone to go to work in place of me.

Perhaps my imagination is too small; but I can’t truly imagine that anyone would be that interested in me personally that I would need to worry about what they do with my information.  Although, clearly, Identity theft is a thing.

How will I present myself in this unit?

  • I have an idea that this unit will give me the opportunity to express my fledgling student identity in a protected, supportive environment.
  • I will engage in the play and reflect activities and learn all I can about emerging technologies
  • I will present myself honestly, and I will be respectful and supportive of others.