What does Digital Identity mean for the Classroom?

A couple weeks ago at the CR 2.0 meet up in Sacramento we were talking about using social networks and how to set up accounts and use them. The discussion shifted to how to create an identity and I realized that there is a schism happening between teachers as adults and our students and how they create identities at least on social networks. Having read Dana Boyd‘s recent “crib notes” on a presentation at Penn State, there is an interesting difference between teens in writing their identity versus adults. Teens consider their digital identity most important, however they are prone to purposeful misinformation in how they present themselves because they expect their friends to understand the humor in what they are writing.

Teachers on the other hand can be such a serious lot and our perception of what we should write about and create for our identities is different. If you asked an adult what was most important they might propose that their “real world” identity was most important and informs or constructs their digital identity. So on the one hand teens think the digital identity is most important but not being factual acceptable. While adults who may value their real world identity as more important place greater importance on factual truth or to be as close to the perceived reality of themselves as possible. I’ve come to realize that for many of my virtual relationships since I have never met these people F to F that this is all we have to go by. The different roles we play and the relationships we form are based on ever changing roles and responsibilities. There is no possible way of anticipating and writing identities that will be permanent and inclusive of all we are. This problem can be especially problematic if expectations and perceptions do not meet the reality of the person or we mismatch our involvement with others beyond what we should such as was shared by Jen Wagner.

Bud Hunt was tweeting about questions and ideas about creating identity and I realized that we may continue to struggle with our expectations of what our identities should look like when teens or students don’t approach constructing identity in the same manner.

And then Will Richardson responded:

Of course the question is can we teach what we perceive so differently than our students?

Do we begin helping the students think about digital identity and try to change their approach to identity?

I realized the question is more complex once the idea of “writing” as a part of creating identity is taken into consideration. Writing can now take the form of the squence of pictures that are posted on Flickr, the series of videos uploaded onto youtube, and writing is now really an act of the creation of content, the juxtoposition of a sequence of media either text or images. I’ve been creating content for years, some content is still available some content has been erased or destroyed. I have placed my identity in the hands of different Web 2.0 companies and the servers they run. I also have content that sits on my computer or is stored on hard drives but it is no longer formated to be “readable” by others. For that I need the help of others. And do other’s include my PLN, professional organizations that I participate in? In Second Life how does the lines of code that give shape and form to my appearance affect my identity? So how much do I really control my digital identity?

Perhaps our students and teens have it right as I really wonder how much I do determine my digital identity. Should we worry about the veracity of what we try to represent ourselves as because after all we don’t really control much of what formats and frames our identity. The shifting of what others see as our identity seems to me like quicksand that we’ve risen above with some constructed identity that slowly sinks over time to be dredged up only by someone seriously interested in exhuming one’s past. I can post as much contructed information as I want but to me the Google search is still the most telling representative of my identity. If I search on Google for myself, much of the content is based on recent chronological events or on what has been most examined by others. But in my instance no matter now much I’ve worked, the music databases that have been created push my actions of twenty five years ago when I played a minor role in independent music circles to be intertwined with the past few years with my identity as a teacher. How much choice or control do I really have in creating my digital identity?

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