Writing an Effective Bio. for the Web (Part 2 of 6)
Lesson 2 of 6
Objective: Students will be able to develop their (first?) web-based biography in order to establish a web-based voice and persona.
Introduction and Context
[THIS IS ONE PART OF SIX PARTS IN A SEQUENCE OF LESSONS FOR THE FIRST "MINI-UNIT" IN MY COURSE.]
Before you begin this lesson it is important that students have written/rewritten some personal writing about themselves for homework. I use the "About Me" assignment, a lesson from the first days of the course for this purpose. Also, this short piece of writing needs to be accessible as an e-copy before the lesson begins.
When students come to class, I have my website bio posted on the screen as they enter. After the bell rings I read it aloud to them, and I ask them to comment on how it seems that I might be if one meet me in person. I lead a short discussion.
Generally, students answer that it seems I would be engaging and (maybe) interesting, but that I have had lots of "life experience" beyond theirs. (Such is the rub of using a teacher/adult example for the opening of this lesson.) I agree; especially about the "interesting" part!
I articulate, though, how important one's "web persona" or "web presence" is, and I compare that to the old fashioned resume of their parent's generation. I share that in my reading about the need for a good web-bio./persona I've discovered that the web-bio. has, in fact, begun to replace the resume altogether. I also mention the new Google Authorship project, and we discuss the use of these kinds of technology across the web. I really want them to think of their sites as a portal for them and about them.
Finally, I make reference to Playbill (the theater program publisher) and their actor bios. I point out that the bios at the back of a Playbill are something to aspire to, and I also share examples, using the document camera or from photocopies, of the student-editor bios. in The Best American Nonrequired Reading.
The Dave Eggers Nonrequired project makes excellent, indeed inspiring, use of selected high school, student editors, and these editor bios. are the best example of the form I have found. (Special note: the 2012 edition of Best American Nonrequired is available to preview at Google Books; look at page 392 for student bio. examples.)
These examples and this discussion gets them thinking ...
After the introduction, it is time for some assisted practice. I ask students to access the e-copy of their "About Me" and simply cut this into the "bio box" of their Research Notebook. I ask them to consider changing the "narrative" to third person, and I mention that this technique lends a certain "authority" to their bio. I give them ten minutes to change person (from 1st to 3rd) and to edit their bio down to a paragraph (or about 4 - 6 sentences).
At the end of the first 10 min., I have my students stand up and swap chairs with a partner sitting next to or near them. Then I ask all students to review each other and offer feedback. About 4 or 5 min. before the bell rings, I ask students to make any changes they believe are necessary to their bios., save, and log-out.
Just before the bell rings, I mention that I will send an email with a few links, and I ask students to review this before class again tomorrow.
Here's an edited version of the text of that email:
- re-read the text of your short bio and take a look at this very straightforward advise from a WikiHow contributor ... how does your work compare?
- despite the fact that you are not yet "working for a living" and you have yet to decide what industry to apply your talents to, it's never too early to think like an "information age careerist" ... here are examples of good advice from some leading business consultants, regarding personal branding:
- from the award winning website/magazine Fast Company
- from former Microsoft engineer and business consultant Scott Berkun
- from Bernadette Jiwa, voted best Australian Business Blogger of 2012 from the Australian Writer's Centre (do not overlook the examples she posts from around the web, linked near the bottom of her entry)
During the course of last school year (2012-2013), I did not emphasize the 3rd-Person approach to bio. writing, but rather "mentioned" it and shared the examples from Non-Required Reading. This past fall (2013), I did, however, conduct the very specific lesson I have described above, which, in fact, makes it a point to write in the 3rd person about one's self.
I've added some student examples of bios., cut from the home pages of their sites, to the resources section. You will notice that the difference between writing in the 3rd person and the 1st is rather striking!