Beyond These Walls

Learning everywhere

Digital Identities: Where does your digital self begin and end?

Tonight I watched Bonnie Stewart’s #etmooc session on Digital Identities; it was her last slide that got me.


When I came to #etmooc (as it does feel like a place for me), it was a stepping away, to create a new space for me, the personal me. Not the professional me, not the #flipclass teacher me, around which I have created most of my digital identity. This space here, very intentionally, very purposefully, was made away from my already established professional blog space. At first and still, this space here felt lonely in comparison to my blog where I feel very connected, highly visible, and incredibly supported.  Yet at the same time I felt strangely hemmed in.

This space here had none of that hyper-connectedness and so for me #etmooc has been a bit of a solo journey. You might think it sad, as for many #etmooc was about connecting and it’s not that I didn’t connect, I did. But at its core, #etmooc has been about connecting to myself as a serious, dedicated and focused learner, again, after many years away; falling deliciously, delightfully, head first in love with learning, for the sake of it. No other reason.

Pure process.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I didn’t produce, connect or interact, but these were not the aspects of #etmooc experience that resonated deeply for me (I think this post: Is developing voice a prerequisite for connected learning? explores this tension a bit).

I can’t adequately express in mere words, how immensely and deeply satisfying a journey it was and is and will continue to be; how it pushed out and filled up a space of me that had sat empty. This may sound confusing, I am a teacher, I am learning all the time, reading all the time, thinking, reflecting and sharing. All true. But everything in that arena, is and was purposeful, mandated and on someone else timetable and to suit someone else needs.

This was my learning. No purpose, no beginning, no end, no have to’s, no pressure, no goals….just me. Strange, how when all constraints, definitions, and lines are removed, that out of nothing emerges my interests as bright soft spaces that I can easily push through. No need to question the purpose, the goals. You just know… this way next.




I think at the deepest level, if I keep drilling down, the process provoked a more authentic self to emerge in my digital identity. Less afraid to be undefined and more confident to define for myself, minute to minute who I wanted to be, rather than whom I had created. The process has fused the many disparate identities of me, that don’t seem so disparate anymore. Before I thought that keeping them all separate would be easier. Somewhere about half way through #etmooc, the lines of my digital self, that I had worked hard to create, in the first place, began to blur. I didn’t erase them purposely; they just seemed to fade on their own.

Maybe now I feel empowered as a learner and all other identities are easy off shots of that self? Maybe now I don’t see this digital world as much as a game to be played? Maybe I see that I don’t have to be defined as carefully out here as I thought? Perhaps I can be a person who is layered on top of layer of identities and still have a cohesive identity? Or it is that #etmooc evoked for me memories of my first learning forays in my backyard where everything was interconnected, separate contexts and constructs not needed?

Maybe what I am trying to say is I found a powerful lens to see many facets of me all at once.

“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”
Frank Herbert

8 responses to “Digital Identities: Where does your digital self begin and end?

  1. Jeff Merrell March 27, 2013 at 2:10 pm

    I have this personal bookmarked file – “blog posts I wish I had written.” Just added this one. Honestly after having written what I wrote last night, then coming to read this…Just find it fascinating the common themes.

    One of the pieces that really resonates with me was this: “Strange, how when all constraints, definitions, and lines are removed, that out of nothing emerges my interests and bright soft spaces that I can easily push through. No need to question the purpose, the goals. You just know… this way next.”

    You just know. This way next. (That’d be a great 6-word story, btw). But that really captures something deeply interesting about learning – self motivated, directed learning.

    And yes – “There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.” Wish I had written that. 🙂

    Best – Looking forward to staying connected.

    • Carolyn Durley March 27, 2013 at 3:40 pm

      Thanks Jeff, what a lovely complement. Yes so fascinating how we intersect at these common drinking holes along our learning journeys. I found Bonnie’s session very evocative and provocative in the very best sense; it really helped me to synthesize down to the essence what #etmooc was and will be.

  2. Bon March 27, 2013 at 7:33 pm

    It’s an honour to see my work & ideas spark a reflective post like this, Carolyn. I’m always fascinated by what brings us to MOOCs and more fascinated by what we get out of them…and how we see them intersecting with our perspectives on learning and identity.

    Particularly interesting in your case where the experience seems to have taken an already successful and strategic digital identity and maybe made it more personal and coherent for you…would that be fair to say?

    “You just know…this way next” WOULD be a great six-word story. I need to do one of those quick. 😉

    • Carolyn Durley March 27, 2013 at 8:14 pm

      I found the whole topic and presentation fascinating for many reasons, but it was that one slide that was a watershed for me; I literally sat up and started writing. It was well timed and perfectly provocative, I am so thankful for your ‘catalytic’ abilities.

      Well said…you summed it up perfectly, my digital identity was quite strategic but I had outgrown the space and identity but had no new direction or growth vechicle. #etmooc pushed me to ‘grow up’ my identity and explore an identity that was both personal and coherent. It actually feels quite freeing!

      I am going to six-word story ‘it’ right now 🙂

  3. Mary B. March 27, 2013 at 9:31 pm

    Great post! I think #etmooc has been a wonderful experience. Learning for the sake of learning is quite simply addictive. It is nice to have been apart of a community that so closely supports each other.

    • Carolyn Durley March 28, 2013 at 2:10 pm

      Thanks Mary, I appreciate your comment. I did not understand how powerful self directed learning could be, nor that it could be so compelling. The community then reinforces this and makes it the norm. All together a richly satisfying experience.

  4. catherinecronin March 27, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Hi Carolyn! I loved reading this beautiful post. I remember well reading your first digital identity post at the start of #etmooc (which you link to in your post here) and commenting and engaging in discussion with you then. You sounded on the brink of something and I loved your honesty in writing about that. You describe the journey so powerfully here — I loved this: “Less afraid to be undefined and more confident to define for myself, minute to minute who I wanted to be, rather than whom I had created.” I feel this deeply as well… it is often our own fear and assumptions that hold us back from being our authentic selves (digital and embodied). Only we create our digital identities, for ourselves. When the barriers that exist in our own minds fall away, there is space — your metaphor of “bright soft spaces” is a powerful one. Thank you 🙂

    • Carolyn Durley March 28, 2013 at 2:25 pm

      Hi Catherine 🙂
      You have managed to show up at 2 key points in my #etmooc journey and provide validation, support and insight; I am deeply grateful. Pre-etmooc, I did not realize the digital identity and identity for the matter was the underlying theme to my process, nor did I have words to express it. I am now thinking that when I work with my students (teenagers), that digital identity might be an appropriate starting point. Many of them are struggling with figuring out who they are, and online id where many of them do this exploration. I also see this as a powerful topic as it starts with the person and works out for their, as compared to other approaches to tech that start with the tech. I see daily so many teens looking for clues about how to be the person they want to be, but are unsure where to look and how to translate that into their own identity. Moreover many teens (girls especially) feel trapped in roles they have created for themselves (popular girl, party girl etc) and by grade 12 many ‘hollow out’, as they can no longer play their part. I have always wondered how we could work with them to help them to ‘see’ other avenues for who they can be and who they can become, beyond the limits of their socially defined selves.

      I am enriched by your comments and buoyed by your warmth 🙂
      best to you,

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