My digital environment
As an illustration of how we as practitioners are using technologies to support our practice I will describe some of the key tools I use on a daily basis. I can honestly say that the way I work and communicate with others has been transformed in the last five years or so because of this. Obviously I still use email, but now use gmail as well as my institutional email address. Skype is constantly open and used for short chats with others, as well as more detailed meetings or brainstorming sessions via the video conferencing facility. One thing I have noticed about interacting in audio and video conferencing systems is that the visual clues of being co-present in a room are missing, hence turn taking and participation is more stilted. I use Twitter extensively to share thoughts from conferences I am attending, to disseminate research outputs, to point to interesting articles, but also to ask questions, get good ideas and resources via tweets that others post. The tone tends to be light hearted but predominately professional. I also use facebook a lot more for social interactions; for communicating with friends and family and keeping abreast of what others are doing. Repositories such as Slideshare and Dropbox are invaluable for sharing papers and presentations. Obviously there is my blog that provides a mechanism for me to share developing ideas, as well as reporting on interesting meetings or conferences. Finally, I have recently started using diigo as a social bookmarking tool and I am already finding it invaluable.
Obviously there is a wealth of other tools that I use (various audio and video conferencing tools, LinkedIn and Google+, Cloudworks, etc.) but I don’t necessarily use these on a daily basis.
It would be interesting to find out what others are using as their core set of tools, how they are using them and why they are important. There are parallels here with the discussion in recent years on Personal Learning Environments (PLEs) and a number of writers have tried to represent PLEs visually. Clearly as new tools emerge as practitioners we explore them and consider whether or not it is relevant to include them in our daily practice. Diigo, for example, instantly became useful for me, whereas I am still struggling to find a role for Google+ and LinkedIn and can’t yet see what this offer above and beyond what I get from facebook and Twitter. This repertoire of digital tools is extremely powerful. For example, I recently couldn’t find the complete reference for a paper by Kay, 1972. I searched and searched the Internet, there were lots of citings to it but none of them were complete! In frustration I tweeted a query about it and within five minutes had five replies giving me the complete reference, now that is powerful!
Participating in such media means I feel part of a global network of peers; from which I get support, encouragement, ideas and inspiration, but which in turn I also hopefully reciprocate by answering queries that others post, retweeting useful resources or simply providing support or encouragement. For each of us participating, we need to decide what our digital identity/voice is in these digital spaces. What style of discourse do we present to others? How is our discourse different through blog writing, as opposed to Twitter or facebook? How are others perceiving us?