Identified in Galway!

The Computer Education of Ireland Conference ended in Galway yesterday. It was described by many as epic.

The speakers ranged  from teacher-practitioners giving of their own valuable classroom experience to keynotes from

  • John Naughton, vice-President of Wolfson College, Cambridge and
  • Dan Meyer on encouraging perplexity in education.

Dan Meyer was excellent – our own Ted-Talk in Galway! His was possibly one of  the most engaging, practical and challenging education/technology presentations I have ever been at.

John Naughton was thought-provoking and controversial. Some attendants did not like what he had to say about teaching certain skills. I liked what he said about Open-Source, data-ownership issues and empowerment of people over technology. I will write about this again.

Anne Looney of the NCCA captured the mood in the room very well as she opened the conference with thoughts around the need for a critical ethical framework around the use of technology.

A s usual ,I was tweeting the event (#cesi40), curating with many others, our observations on the speakers we heard and keeping an eye on proceedings from other rooms, as many back-to-back presentations took place.

The Twitter stream was also followed by many who could not make Galway and by educationalists abroad.

It became evident very quickly that participants in Galway were trying to put faces on people they had only ever met on Twitter, via primarily the edchatie hashtag.

By the time the day was over, this seeking out of people had become a topic for conversation in itself. Many were in agreement, we need to use our own photos on our Twitter profiles.

Catherine Cronin has a well referenced piece on her blog called  “Enacting digital identity“. Ultimately that comes down to two words Be Yourself.

This has sent me thinking about Anne Looney’s introduction to the conference. In our worries about the internet we sometimes encourage anonymity, putting ourselves and our students out there  as face-less people.

Ethically I do not believe this is not a good place to be. Face-less-ness encourages less responsibility.

I gain credibility on Twitter via the quality (usually!) of what I tweet. Followers like quality links and follow me with a purpose. Why not back this up with a photo of  who I am?

As Chris Poole says “its not who you share with, but who you share as.” (Source: Cronin, Exploring Digital Identity, Slideshare 2012).

This post is my first reaction to the CESI conference in Galway. Like many of the participants I am still trying to process all the information and collaboration experienced. Well done to all the organisers and thank you!



  1. Charleen Hurtubise

    As an educator in Ireland, I have followed your blog with interest for a few years now. I agree with many of your views and appreciate your perspective on most things digital.

    Also, on occasion, I disagree with your point of view but can shrug my shoulders and respect the difference of opinion. However, this time you raise an interesting point for debate on digital identity and have compelled me to respond to your blog to assert the choices I make in the land of twitter and beyond.

    There are two statements in your blog that I am particularly responding to:
    “Many were in agreement, we need to use our own photos on our Twitter profiles” and “Face-less-ness encourages less responsibility.” I address these with the example of my own profile, not to defend my choices – because I am quite confident in these – but to illustrate my point of view on intentional choice in exercising digital identity and responsibility.

    This topic of digital identity belongs in the educational conversation world of #edchatie. You can follow my participation there on my handle @charlisolo. You’ll notice that I choose to use my Second Life avatar as my icon and that this “face-less-ness” has never encouraged me to act less than responsible. In fact, my choice is part of my own ethical framework that I have intentionally developed and taken great measures to enact and protect. Just because I am “face-less” at this particular level (more on levels in a minute) I am not nameless. If impelled to find out further about my background, you’ll see in one click on my profile that I am “ Charleen Hurtubise: Educator, zestful life-long learner, process over product, theme-based projects, technology in education and overall 21st century learning & teaching.” This is a sliver of “who I am” in the professional world and I am not sure a photo would add any more credibility to the content that accompanies my professional digital profile. In fact, is this not the beauty of the internet – that we can be judged for the content of our digital footprint and not our worldly container? Isn’t this what equality has been striving for – our voice to be heard above the assumptions associated with gender, skin colour, age, nationality and overall physical appearance in general?

    Back to the levels I mentioned above, once you get to know my professional profile and you want to know more about who I am, you may want to send an invitation to my Linkedin account. If I research your public content and I want to give you further access to more personal, yet still professional content, I may accept that invitation. In this slightly more protected world, you will even see a photo of my image. This image says the least about “who I am” on my Linkedin page.

    At the deepest level of my online profile (Facebook, etc.) I exercise a great amount of discretion, inviting in only close friends and family. Here you may even see a photo of my family. However, no one from my professional sphere, including M. Sc classmates, has yet been invited to partake in my digital content at this level – and this is intentional as well. These are choices I want to model for my children and students and so I practice what I preach.

    I also reference Catherine Cronin’s blogpost when I quote this important statement from her piece: “considerations of digital identity are personal and individual.” I don’t think we need to come to a consensus on what we need to put in or leave out of our digital profile. We can “be ourselves” with or without a photo.

    On a lighter note, I am not missing the point of wanting to enable people to meet fellow twitters at the CESI meet. Unfortunately I couldn’t make this year’s event, but usually in conversation with fellow CESI attendants we straight away swap twitter identities. Wouldn’t it be fun to have an icebreaker on the Friday night at CESI where we spend ten minutes roaming around the room identifying as many tweeters as you could in under ten minutes? I even have a name for the game: Seek the Tweets (or the Twits) 🙂

    Thank you for continuing this debate on digital identities and also thank you for allowing me to respond to it with my own rationale for choice.

    Charleen Hurtubise

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  4. Catherine Cronin

    Great blog post, Donal, and many thanks for the mention. As always, I enjoy your ability to tie disparate strands together and to see new connections and themes. Moving online conversations and relationships into new space, physical space, can be so powerful. At conferences like CESI and ICTedu many of us meet one another face-to-face for the first time (including the two of us!) — adding a new depth to our existing friendships. I love Joanne’s suggestion for badges. I always wear my Twitter badge to conferences ( but the inclusion of a profile photo/avatar would help even more. It also would make it easier for those, like Sharon Flynn, who use avatars instead of photos to connect with their Twitter friends as well — although Sharon actually looks quite like her avatar 😉

    Like you, I’m still mulling over the wonderful experience of CESI40. Hope to blog soon, inspired by your example 🙂

  5. Sharon

    Interesting post Donal. I was following #cesi40 on twitter and it was great to see all the tweets coming out of the event.

    I wrote a blog post some months ago on this topic: whether I should change my twitter avatar. I do hide behind my avatar a little, and it makes me more difficult to identify IRL, but I’m happy with that. Also, my avatar is my brand now, and I decided not to change it.

    See the two posts at:

    One thing that I think should be done more is to include a twitter handle on conference badges, maybe even reproduce the person’s twitter avatar on the badge. It could be done easily enough and would allow for easier identification of twitter friends at conferences.