How does it feel to
participate in public?
Nicola Osborne, Jisc MediaHub Service
Manager / Digital Education Manager
What do I mean by “In Public”
• Posting something online to friends and colleagues
doesn’t necessarily mean it is “private” to them.
• Posting something open to the world doesn’t
necessarily mean you wanted it to be public, to be
global, to be seen by everyone.
• Public and private blur (boyd 2010), particularly in
online learning spaces and social media spaces – we
are a Google away from our identities merging.
“In Public” can also be about student context
Participating online can mean participating in public or semi-
public spaces, with viewers, distractions, restrictions,
overhearing, being observed…
Home Office – relaxing mode by Flickr user jholster / Jaakko Holster Cindarella’s Using WiFi by Flickr user CarbonNYC / David Goehring
What is “Participation” here?
• Participation may range from asking
questions and engaging in discussions
through to elaborate collaborative projects
or peer learning activities.
• Negotiating roles and contribution may look
different, online can mean:
– Absence of physical cues and indicators of
who is speaking, their frustrations or
– Lurking students or absent students making
group construction and bonding challenging.
– Asynchronous discussion and planning,
sometimes across timezones.
– Greater non-learning pressures for time and
accompanying preference for focusing on
– Contributing can mean overwriting or editing
others’ work in a very direct way (e.g. wikis,
Yoly, Peter, Holly & Rob by Flickr user joeflintham / Joe
Presenting to the group by Flickr user epredator / Ian
(Lack of) Anonymity
• In the classroom students (largely) elect who to expose full names
• VLEs usually attach real names to comments, postings, collaborative
work and, often, connect these to student numbers used in numerous
semi-anonymous administrative functions by the University.
• Wikis track and record every change attributing changes to specific
users and timestamps. Errors are public. Corrections are public.
• Google+ launched requiring the use of real names (see e.g. Blue
• Facebook have repeatedly re-set privacy settings to default to
“public”, most recently with search changes in October 2013 (see
• Twitter updates are public. Even “private” accounts can be easily
accessed via the API.
Teaching and Learning online means understanding and
acknowledging the more public nature of the space.
Constructing Online Identity
• When performing in public we may present
ourselves in highly curated ways. Who is
watching and where we are participating
changes what we are willing to expose about
ourselves (Goffman 1959).
• Looking at academics’ engagement online
Barbour & Marshall (2012) suggests use of:
formal self; public self; comprehensive self;
teaching self; uncontainable self.
• What does that mean for learners constructing
their learning identity online?
• How does an online learner’s identity connect
to their other online or offline lives? How is this
different to the in-person learning experience?
This makes me gag just looking at it –
sword swallower of Clan Tynker by
Flickr user Alaskan Dude / Frank
Safe Spaces for Learning
• In person engaging and collaborating
can mean taking a risk, exposing
ignorance or misunderstanding, being
visible in the room…
• The same actions in online learning
contexts can mean:
– Identifying yourself by name, by image or
both as you take that risk…
– Exposing your non-learner identity online,
particularly if engaging via social media
used for learning and personal activities…
– That may include exposing your subject or
professional misunderstandings or
ignorance to professional contacts or future
employers (as in Ferdig et al 2008).
– And your comments and participation may
never disappear – it can remain there
20120209-RA-NCATT-0001 by Flickr user USDAgov /
U.S. Department of Agriculture
Group work “Geopolitical Aspects” by Flickr user
Lisavanovitch/ Lisa Vanovitch
• What can you do to create that safe online space? For making
errors and learning from them? For sharing and collaborating
• How will you negotiate your own online identity or identities
as you interact in your teaching and learning spaces?
• How can you make students who are not keen to actively
engage visible, confident, part of the group?
• How can you manage more vocal, more active, more
attention seeking students who are not collaborating well
• How will you be able to detect an absence of collaboration
and co-creation? Or assess the balance of contributions? How
can participation be prompted or supported online?
Empathising with the Student Experience
• The online medium is often text, and that can feel different
than a comment or response in person:
– Informal feedback can seem to carry the weight and significance
of formal assessment and feedback.
– It can be reread and fretted over
– It may also be read and reread by others
– It can be more easily misinterpreted depending on the
perspective of the reader…
• Online participations in informal collaborative learning
contexts appear to be sensitive to correction and may try to
make corrections in private rather than in public (Osborne
• Co-creation of learning in these spaces can mean a greater sense of
ownership and agency, improved confidence in using the online
learning spaces or tools, a greater sense of community (as discussed
in Delahunty et al 2013).
• The diversity of student contexts can create serendipitous
opportunities and unexpected perspectives…
• It can also be a really fun and engaging way to learn!
• A safe online space can mean quieter or more shy students engage
more actively or vocally, emboldened by the differing etiquette and
affordances of online spaces.
• Peers may support each other beyond official teaching and learning
times, or beyond the bounds of a module or course.
• Peers may form social communities which can be productive and
constructive (although not always). See Hallam et al (2011).
Terms and Conditions
• Making informed choices is central to use of social media and non-
institutional online spaces and tools…
• What type of spaces or experiences are appropriate to your
students, their context, their professional aspirations or experience
(e.g. see the General Medical Council’s Social Media Guidance)
• You need to know what you asking your students to do:
– Are you requiring them to register for new sites/spaces? Is that
appropriate or justifiable?
– Understand what data they will be sharing and what might happen to it –
engage with the Terms of Service for any tool you use.
– What happens if students do not want to use a particular space,
particularly a third party/commercially operated space?
– How will you ensure your teaching and learning activity is accessible, or a
suitable alternative is accessible, to your students?
• University of Edinburgh Managing Your
Digital Footprint project:
– Campaign: http://www.ed.ac.uk/schools-
– PTAS-funded Research Strand:
• danah boyd (2014) “It’s Complicated”:
• Jon Ronson’s (2015) “So, You’ve Been
• Barbour, K. and Marshall, D., 2012. The academic online: constructing persona through the www. In First Monday,
17(9) [Online]. Available fromhttp://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/3969/3292.
• Blue, V., 2011. 2011: Nymwars Year Zero. In Violet Blue’s ZDNet Pulp Tech Blog, 22nd December 2011. Available
• boyd, d., 2010. Making sense of privacy and publicity. South by SouthWest (SXSW) conference. Austin,
Texas. Available from: http://www.danah.org/papers/talks/2010/SXSW2010.html.
• boyd, d. 2012. The Politics of 'Real Names': Power, Context, and Control in Networked Publics. In Communications of
the ACM, 55(8), pp. 29-31. Available from: http://cacm.acm.org/magazines/2012/8/153809-the-politics-of-real-
• Constine, J., 2013. Facebook removing option to be unsearchable by name, highlighting lack of universal privacy
controls. In TechCrunch, 10th October 2013. Available from: http://techcrunch.com/2013/10/10/facebook-search-
• Delahunty, J., Verenikina, I. and Jones, P., 2013. Socio-emotional connections: identity, belonging and learning in
online interactions. A literature review. In Technology, Pedagogy and Education. Available from:
• Ferdig, R., Dawson, K., Black, E. W., Paradise Black, N. M., and Thompson, L. A., 2008. Medical students? and
residents? use of online social networking tools: Implications for teaching professionalism in medical education. In First
Monday, 13 (9), 1st September 2008. Available from:
• Goffman, E., 1959. The presentation of self in everyday life. New York, NY: Anchor Books.
• Hallam Goodband, J., Solomon, Y., Samuels, P.C., Lawson, D. and Bhakta, R., 2012. Limits and potentials of social
networking in academia: case study of the evolution of a mathematics Facebook community. In Learning, Media and
Technology, 37(3), pp. 236-252, DOI: 10.1080/17439884.2011.587435. Available from:
• Osborne, N., 2012. Continuous professional development in collaborative social media spaces. MSc. University of
Edinburgh. Available from: https://sites.google.com/site/cpdaandsocialmedia/home.
• Osborne, N. and O’Shea, C., 2012. Copy of Managing Academic Identities in Social Media for IDEL [presentation].
Available from: http://prezi.com/efevcec_kiug/copy-of-managing-academic-identities-in-social-media-for-idel/.
Useful Resources: Terms & Conditions
• University of Edinburgh Social Media Guidelines: http://www.ed.ac.uk/website-
• University of Edinburgh Writing for the Web Guidelines: http://www.ed.ac.uk/website-
• University of Edinburgh Social and Cloud Based Learning and Teaching Advisory Service:
• General Medical Council Doctors Use of Social Media – notes on the new Good Medical
Practice guidance: http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/10900.asp
• IBM Social Computing Guidelines: http://www.ibm.com/blogs/zz/en/guidelines.html. A
good example of an open but well thought through organisational approach to social
• JISC legal: http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/A source of guidance for HE and FE on the use of
technology in education, research and external engagement. Includes legal guidance on
various social media tools including Facebook and Pinterest.
• Facebook Terms of Service: https://www.facebook.com/legal/terms
• Twitter Terms of Service: https://twitter.com/tos
• Google and Google+ Terms of Service:
• How have you found it learning and reflecting in front of
• Did this feel different from developing thoughts and ideas in
your normal offline space?
• In the Padlet activity did the merging of your offline identity
with your online learner identity feel comfortable, safe,
• How do you feel about this being public to the world?
• How did you find this week’s Wiki activity?
• Did anyone edit your text?
• What was your response to or experience of that?
• Please do continue discussions via Learn or Twitter
• I am happy to answer specific questions around
the use of social media, especially in teaching and
learning contexts. Also happy to chat about
anything we do here at EDINA. Email me: