Participation on Twitter supports identity development

Today’s editing of the conclusion has been fun, I am sharing my favourite paragraph as it reminds me of the penny-dropping moment of learning I had while preparing for the DRHA2015 conference. I was exploring how higher education professionals  were using Twitter for learning, but I had neglected to give importance to identity and it’s relationship with learning. Data brought up issues of belonging, participants feeling different from others and confidence, all related to who they perceived themselves and others to be.

I am sure I will re-word this again, but here it is now warts and all…..

This research has highlighted that development of digital capabilities (Beetham, 2015) digital and identity (Neary & Beetham, 2015) is important to the many activities and responsibilities of those who work in higher education. Indeed Wenger (1998) argued the politics of participation included influence and personal authority (Ibid, 1998) but with that in mind Visitor participants in this study, lacked a digital footprint and digital identity which suggests a lack of power to influence others (Stewart, 2015).

In this study professional confidence arose an issue that inhibited participants from engaging outwardly on Twitter and this was correlated with feelings of lack of a sense of belonging with other professionals on the online space of Twitter. However reflections on the research findings and literature have highlighted the opportunities for developing awareness of the self that online social networking offers (Wesch, 2008). Investigation of other literature (Turkle, 1997) emphasises the critical learning opportunity that being online offers the professional in that “computers brought philosophy into everyday life” (Ibid, p.x). Indeed this study shows that presenting oneself and exposing one’s views, opinions and practice online contributes to dilemma inviting further inquiry into the self, into who a person identifies as professionally and personally. To summarise activities online on social networking services such as Twitter can inspire thinking about digital identity but in turn can trigger significant consideration of the self and about one’s position in societal, cultural, institutional and global contexts. Therefore, I think, that introduction of social networking services such as Twitter into professional learning and development opportunities might prove very helpful in the identity work of academic development, whereby academic developers endeavour to develop the professional.


About Muireann O'Keeffe

I am an educational developer currently working at DCU. I have a passion for researching and evaluating technology that can support and enhance learning. In the past I have taught on Masters programmes (Msc Applied elearning & Postgraduate Diploma in Third level Learning and Teaching) as well as Leadership development programmes.
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