I have been fascinated by an article in The New York Times that is doing the rounds: The Professor as Open Book. It talks about how professors and academic staff are getting into networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace, as well as having their own web sites and blogs. They are giving out personal information about their private lives in an effort to engage with students, which makes them and their teaching appear to be less boring.
This whole issue of how much of your personal identity you make visible to students is one that I have been working through since I started this blog. Initially I was very against the idea because I was adamant I wanted to keep my professional life separate from my personal life. And then there is the issue of being professional - is it appropriate or relevant for students, potential employers, PhD supervisor, conference conveners etc to know that I am a passionate rugby fan?
However, as this blog has evolved and I have started to put my ePortfolio together, I have started to realize that my personal and professional selves intertwine quite significantly online. And that overlap is spilling into my face-to-face professional life. For example, I have started to put my ePortfolio together and have made it open access, and have shared what I am doing with my students. I will be using it to demonstrate how to develop a portfolio in my face-to-face teaching. So I feel I have moved my 'whole' self, personal and professional, from an online context into a real environment, as opposed to a lot of people who are thinking how they can move their 'real' identity into an online context. Being myself online has given me a lot more confidence to be myself in the face-to-face environment.
Of course, there are still boundaries that I must observe. I am a role model to students, so there must be an element of being professional in my online behavior. And I am in no great rush to become friends with anyone on Facebook because I hate all the irrelevancies of Facebook. But if students find me more approachable and learn from my online activities and writings, then I am doing my job and learning myself at the same time.
How do you feel about your online identity? What are you happy to share with students? If you are a midwife, what about sharing your online identity with the students you work with and the women in your care?
If you are a student, what are you happy to share with your lecturers/teachers? How do you want to interact with them online - would you make your teacher your 'friend' in Facebook?
Image: 'She Was Completely Transparent With Me'