Today I attended a workshop called “Marvellous Mapping: reflecting on Online Identities and practices using Visitor and Residents Mapping” at NUIG. The title “Marvellous Mapping” combines two concepts: “marvellous” refers to Catherine Cronin’s wonderful ALT 2014 conference keynote speech “Navigating the Marvellous” (this is in turn a metaphor borrowed from Seamus Heaney) where she argues that education is in need of greater openness in many forms, including when it comes to “spaces” where we meet our students. The concept of “mapping” refers to the Digital Visitor and Resident Mapping Project which helps us understand our digital networked practices, whether it is for personal, professional or (informal) learning purposes.
Key points that emerged in the course of the day were that motivation for inhabiting digital spaces is key, so we really need to think about why we are present on a given platform – what’s the purpose of it? Another thought-provoking question was whether people experience convergence between their personal and professional lives in those digital spaces, or whether they are separate (mine are, most definitely, and deliberately!). Another dimension that emerged was that some participants inhabit online worlds in several guises (I have a hard time with just one persona…).
The take-home message for me was that even when we inhabit the digital spaces of the online world, we are seeking something very simple and fundamentally human: a sense of belonging, connection and community, moments of fellowship with others. For educators who are working to create meaningful learning experiences for students in real, online and blended learning environments, that is something worth remembering.