I’ve been looking for an reason to get back to blogging, and spending some time with Jon Udell at the Educause Seminars for Academic Computing helped provide the motivation to stop looking and start posting. In a presentation on disruptive technologies, Jon made the point that, for all practical purposes, you are who Google says you are. Current job candidates can expect that potential employers will Google them, review their Facebook and MySpace sites and use that information in the selection process. Our potential students tell me that they extensively searched faculty members as they chose their graduate school.

In the face of that reality, it makes sense to ask some questions: what is my current digital presence? Is it helping me or hurting me in accomplishing my goals? If it’s not helping me, what can I do to improve the chances that it will help in the future?

Jon’s session inspired me to revisit my own digital presence–and it’s not at all what I would like to be. My blog provided my primary way of actively creating my digital identity. When I was doing it well, it provided a persistent narrative of the things that are important to my personal agenda. Over time, a blog developed a kind of internal coherence where I reflected on a set of ideas and issues that I was interested in. It became the basis of a small community of colleagues who were interested in some of the same things I was interested in. For multiple reasons I let it die last semester while I focused on some non-computer activities.

When I Google “Gene Roche”, which is not something that I do often, my blog still comes up first. (It took a long time for me to displace character actor Eugene Roche). But the blog itself certainly doesn’t inspire much confidence in my ongoing activity as a an active learner/teacher and citizen of the digital universe. I need to do something to change that.

There was a lot of rich discussion during the session about how we help prepare students to deal with the realities of their digital reputations. (That their digital reputations will be even more important to them seems indisputable.) For all their experience with technology tools, most students need lots of support and guidance from faculty to learn to collaborate and participate in the complex relationships that the technology makes possible. It seems to me that one of the most important goals of the 21st century university will be to help students choose the important conversations and collaborations in which want to be participants. Clearly we can’t be much help to students if we don’t invest to make the time to do it ourselves.