Creating and Curating Your Online Brand

Recently I spent some time looking at the materials I presented at the NLI last summer in Cambridge and I started thinking about what I would possibly present if I had the privilege to work at the next edition of the NLI. I would still run sessions on visual walkthroughs or screen-capture tutorials to use with students and staff. One area that really needs to be addressed, especially with those of us that are frequently online is managing our online identity...and possibly creating a brand for ourselves.

I see this as being a multistep process that really should be done every year. The first step would be to decide what online tools and environments are out there..and which do you want to be a part of? I'm currently on Twitter, Facebook, Mendeley, Scribd,, Foursquare, numerous Google Sites pages, and about 45 NINGs around the planet. I view my identity on each of these as different than one another, and sometimes they intersect or support one another. What I mean is that I see myself as being more like "me" on Twitter, than I am on Facebook. On Facebook, I share links about interesting projects I'm working on, or things I read that I find interesting. However on Twitter I share many more links and ideas, and don't feel the need to vet my ideas before sending them out. It's important to understand what the affordances are for each group, or tool...and also decide how you chose to use them.

The next step would be investigating your Google Dashboard and seeing what Google knows about you. Of course you could be proactive and add your own information. If you visit Google Profile you can add/edit/revise your own identifying characteristics that will be used by Google as people search online for information about you. By filling in this information for yourself, you can be a little more sure about what people will find when they search online for you.

Additionally, registering a domain name is a great way to be proactive and build online information about you that YOU control. Domain addresses and hosting are relatively inexpensive and allow you to have online spaces in which you house your brand. Building a webpage using Google Apps, or hosting it elsewhere provides you with an opportunity to share biographical information, blog..or even link to your other online accounts. A very basic, yet somewhat slick tool to use as a basic homepage that I love is puts together a home page for you in a couple of minutes that gives you the opportunity to compile and distribute information about your online identity.

Whatever choices you make about your online brand, I ask that they are CHOICES. You should understand what each tool or social environment can do...and more importantly what do you want it to do. For most ICT tools there really are no rules for how they must be used. So, if you want to go nuts...and add avatars for all of your online accounts...feel free. The real key is to understand that your online brand is constantly evolving, even now as you're reading this. The question is whether or not you're informing that evolution or not. I would rather be proactive and create online content that people will be directed to when they search online for information about me.

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Tags: digitallit, literacy, newlit, technology


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Learn Digital History Blog

Teaching about Historical Reconstructions using the Vail Telegraph Key

The reconstruction of historical inventions can provide a powerful context for students to explore how inventions affect society. In fact, the social impact of the invention of the telegraph ripples through to today. It set the stage for the invention of other communications technologies such as radio, television, and the Internet. The ability to send messages across wires in a fraction of the time humans were accustomed had a profound impact on society. Rossiter Johnson captured the spirit of that change in an 1882 poem written in tribute Morse and the telegraph. The poem describes limits of humans imposed by nature, but imagines that with the invention of the telegraph those limitations begin to fade away.

But one morning he made him a slender wire,
  As an artist’s vision took life and form,
While he drew from heaven the strange fierce fire
  That reddens the edge of the midnight storm;
And he carried it over the Mountain’s crest,
And dropped it into the Ocean’s breast;
And Science proclaimed, from shore to shore,
That Time and Space ruled man no more.

Students often have myopic views about how technologies impact their own lives. While it is true that students today seem to live in a constant state of ‘revolution’ regarding new technologies, an understanding of history can temper our enthusiasms. By studying records and relics from the past, such as Johnson’s poem, students can build up a long view of technological innovation and understand how the telegraph fits in that history.

Students can also use these experiences to explore important historical skills related to cause and effect. A reconstruction of the Vail telegraph key provides students with an opportunity to examine the development of scientific knowledge and challenge the narrowly constructed textbook history of the telegraph.

The history of the telegraph is typically transmitted to students as a neat and tidy story about Samuel Morse and the 1844 transmission from Baltimore to Washington DC of the message “What hath God wrought?” But, history is never so simple. Behind the story of Morse is the complex history of the invention of the telegraph, and that story is impossible to tell with Alfred Vail.

A social studies activity exploring this complicated history might begin with the simple question – Who was on the other end of the message sent by Samuel Morse on May 24, 1844? Of course, it was Alfred Vail. From there, students might explore Vail’s 1845 book length survey of the history of the telegraph, The American Electro Magnetic Telegraph: With the Reports of Congress, and a Description of all Telegraphs Known, Employing Electricity or Galvanism.  The book, which has three parts, includes a detailed description of the telegraph system developed by Vail and Morse; letters, reports, and other correspondences about the development of the telegraph system; and a contemporary history of the telegraph. Students can analyze this source to develop questions for inquiry about the development of the telegraph in the 1830s and 1840s.

From Hathi trust and Harvard Library at

The Lincoln Telegram project provides another avenue for exploring the newly invented telegraph and, specifically, how it affected the course of the Civil War and its participants.

The Lincoln Telegrams Project

The Lincoln Telegrams project ( includes digital versions and transcriptions of 354 telegram memos written by Lincoln from March 10, 1864 to his death in April of 1865.  The telegram memos function as source material for helping students and teachers understand how to analyze historical sources using the Hicks, Doolittle, and Ewing’s SCIM-C method ( Direct access to the telegrams, either via the web or through an iPad app with the same content, allows students to explore the historical context and follow the ways in which the telegraph affected communications during that era.

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