Several years ago, I developed a revision plan assignment, based on information I first found on Kristin Arola’s website and that is also discussed in Writer/Designer, the textbook I was using for a multimodal composing course I was teaching at the time.
In my version of the activity, students wrote a revision plan for their websites instead of rewriting the sites. I certainly believe students benefit from rewriting and revising, but there are situations where it’s not practical or even possible to have students revise a project. This week, I want to discuss using this strategy to ask students to evaluate their online identity and make a plan to improve it.
Why Plan Instead of Revise?
In the case of online identities, students won’t have time to demonstrate concrete improvements to their online identity beyond simple and cursory changes. It takes a while to remove problematic photos, eliminate troublesome websites, and delete questionable social media accounts. The Internet has a long memory unfortunately.
Further, cleaning up your online identity requires an ongoing process, so students need to develop a plan to continue monitoring their online identities so that they can take action when necessary. Creating a long-term plan will be more useful than making a few short-term fixes.
Why Does Online Identity Matter?
Chances are that students already know that their online identity matters. If students completed the project to research a public figure’s online identity, they have already had a chance to think about how what they post online and what others post online about them shapes what people think about them.
You can use the infographic (full-size version) on the right, from kbsd, to review the importance of establishing a strong, positive online identity. Sections 1, 2, and 3 directly address why online identity matters and how it can affect a person’s career.
Once students understand the goal for the revision plan, they’re ready for the assignment.
The Online Identity Revision Plan Assignment
- Ask students to begin by assessing their online identities. If they mapped their online identities, they can return to their maps as a starting place.
- Have students explore their identities by using the tips in the “Stay on Top of Things” category of Section 4 of the infographic. The class can brainstorm additional online spaces to check.
- Encourage students to gather all evidence they find—the good, the bad, and the neutral. Everything they find will contribute to the plan they make.
- Provide the following brainstorming questions to help students gather ideas for their revision plans:
- What are the strengths of your online identity that you want to be sure to keep?
- What aspects of your online identity are problematic, and how can you change them to improve your reputation?
- What is the balance among good, bad, and neutral information about your identity? What can you do to ensure there is always more good information than bad?
- How secure are your accounts? Do you need to make changes?
- What personal information is online about you that shouldn’t be?
- What positive achievements have you made that you can add to your online identity?
- How much is your online identity affected by family and friends? Do you need to work with others to improve your identity?
- Once students have assessed their online identity and worked through the questions above, ask them to write a revision plan that outlines how they will work to improve and/or maintain their online identity.
- Discuss possible organization structures as a class to help students get started, such as the following:
- Go site by site (e.g., Facebook, then Twitter, then Instagram).
- Arrange the plan chronologically, focusing on immediate plans, short-term plans, long-term plans, and so forth.
- Organize the plan by kinds of information, like factual information on profiles, images, and subjective information in blog posts and status updates.
- Share expectations for the project with students to ensure they understand the project. Students are probably more familiar with actually revising projects than with creating revision plans. Emphasize these ideas:
- Students are writing a revision plan memo. They are NOT actually revising their online identity (though obviously, you should encourage them to take that next step in their own time).
- The best submissions will go beyond providing a cursory answer to the brainstorming questions. They will show a concerted effort to rethink their online identities and improve them.
- The best responses will talk not only about what changes are needed, but specifically how to change things.
- Students can include whatever makes sense for their revision plans (e.g., mock-ups, a revised online profile, a chart showing a new design or structure).
Any Ideas to Add?
How do you address online identity? What concerns do students share? Do you have activities to encourage students to pay attention to how they are represented online? Please leave me a comment below with the details. I’d love to hear from you!