I am attending the New Media Consortium (NMC) Conference at Princeton University today and tomorrow (Thursday June 12- Friday June 13) and am giving a talk tomorrow with three of my favorite colleagues at Duke. Currently I am sitting in a morning session hosted by Susan Barnes and Stephen Jacobs of RIT discussing LMSs and social media. A special focus was shared on the formation, identification, and communication of student identity and its role in educational media, specifically LMSs.

Stephen and Susan posed an interesting question to the audience as to how students construct and communicate their identities to others. The answers tended to focus within contexts, ignoring the wholistic nature of computing contexts and what a student’s presence or absence form those contexts communicates to others. If we have backend access to Facebook or an LMS we can certainly build a model of what a student is like, at least to some extent.

What is absent or tacit, and yet what may be most telling about a student about their identities, hwo they contruct them, and how they communicate them, is the presence/absence of students from multiple web contexts. What sites do they use? What don’t they use? How much do they even use the web? How long were they members (or active members) at sites? What years? Were they late-comers to MySpace? Are they students not on Facebook?

I think most web users at least have tacit knowledge of this sense of identifying people by identifying the character, location and scope of participation across the whole web: this is why people Google one another. The search results on a person project this sort of finely detailed whole that might tell us most.

Great presentation on social networks in LMSs by Susan and Stephen. I found it useful in part because it leads me to better understand & appreciate the value of person search engines and the creation of sites like ClaimID (http://claimid.org). This knowledge may also be of great help as we move forward with building our MacArthur DML Virtual Conflict Resolution website. Maybe we want to be aware of how we help students manage their identities as complex heterogeneous wholes.

The practical implication is that I may be using a combination of Ning and Moola for the Virtual Conflict Resolution project site. Maybe I will encourage students within the course sites to actually use ClaimID as they traverse their academic years to construct a sort of timeline of their web presences–and absences. Makes me want to apply our (Casey Alt’s) timeline software to ClaimID, or to the Virtual Conflict Resolution site.