I’m writing this online, on a flight to London (thank you for the WiFi, Norwegian!) as the first assignment to a course I’m taking on flexible, distance and online learning (FDOL)! The topic is “The digital me – past, present and future”. I really appreciate being able to go online on a flight – which probably gives a hint to just how digital the current me is. I’ve tweeted a couple of times today (it’s 8.00 AM when I draft this post), checked my facebook, the google+ community (which to be honest is quite new to me, but I quickly got drawn in by the FDOL course), and sent a few messages to a friend I’m meeting in London. So, as you might have guessed, I handle a lot of my social interactions online, and I love it! As an example of the “digital private me”, I’m a member of a book club and we meet (in real life) roughly once a month. It’s great to meet up with friends (some old, some new) over a nice dinner discussing both a good book and life in general. That really is good enough, right? However, between meetings we communicate online – everything from deciding on a time/place for the next meeting and keeping track of books we want to read, to looking up reviews and researching authors we’re currently reading. It enriches the social interaction tremendously, without taking away from the “real” meetings we have on a regular basis.
Now, the digital me is not only part of my private life – as much as we take on different roles in our daily lives, we take on different online roles. I’ve already given an example from my private life, so onwards to the professional. The reason I’m flying to London today is that I’m attending a conference called Medicine 2.0, according to the organizers “the leading academic conference series for Internet, Social Media, and mobile apps in health”. This is where my field of research is and it’s fascinating! I’m currently working on a project where we are developing national services for patients/citizens to support their interactions with health- and social care and enable them (us!) to follow care processes and activities online. I’m very excited about this work. One key issue though, is ensuring that we work together with people that are not all as enthusiastic as I am to make sure we develop solutions and services that work for everyone. But returning to the reason I’m in London; during the conference I will most likely be live-tweeting. In august, I was part of a team organizing a workshop at another medical informatics conference, Medinfo, and we actually decided to try to engage with a wider public before and during the conference. As a first experiment it was a great experience – and I hope to be able to continue doing similar things in the future. Overall, for me using social media in my professional life has been a very important learning experience. So, when I use facebook mostly for private interactions, I use twitter almost exclusively for professional tasks. Although the line between private and professional is often quite blurry for me, so far it works quite well. I especially like twitter as a personal learning tool. It enables me to keep up to date on most of my work, and it’s a lot of fun.
Teaching is of course another big part of my working me, and I try to combine digital and real meetings in my courses there as well. Much as in my personal life, I don’t think that online interactions will necessarily replace f2f meetings, however it enriches and expands the opportunities for learning and connecting with other people far beyond traditional meetings. I teach at the international master program in health informatics at KI, and we use the online learning platform PingPong for communication with students. I publish all materials there, use it to communicate with students and encourage them to use the platform for their group work. I feel however that I’m not quite at the level of usage on online tools in teaching as in other parts of my life. So I hope that the FDOL course will give me the tools to take my “digital teaching me” to the next level.
In summary, the digital me is a very big part of me. It hasn’t always been… I vaguely remember life before email, self-tracking devices, and twitter – but I would never go back. For me, online communication does not compete with f2f communication – instead it adds value and enriches the interactions. So, I hope this post will be inspirational to someone out there a bit uncertain about taking the plunge into the digital world – jump in!