Social media offer workers new environments to exchange, get informed and connected: professional networks. Each professional network is characterized by its organisation and the services proposed to its members. Although several types of professional network appeared online all are fostering the professionalisation of workers.

Online professional networks may gather together workers from a particular sector and a specific work. Workers may express their needs, their issues and their challenges thanks to a private environment gathering peers. In this way they share a professional interest with the members of the network unlike less exclusive social networks.

Besides the professional network is a way to promote the careers and the businesses of its members through blogs or personal pages. They air not only their issues but also their results and successes. Businessmen and women may advertise their enterprises and workers may promote their curriculum vitae. In this way the network become a tool to reach customers and employers.

Another service of the professional network is peer recognition. The network further facilitates the exchanges of contacts and the recommendations between members. Thanks to your membership your contacts may also increase the value of your e-Portfolio by adding comments or validating your competences.

The professional network could also become an environment to promote vocational training. For instance in Cornwall the network for women entrepreneurs Leading women UK  organise free training workshops for their members on a monthly basis. The network target topics to support the working life of their members and made the booking of workshops available online.

The professional network is not necessarily based on virtual connections. For instance the French professional network Work’n’meet suggest its members meeting during a lunch. The creators of the website identify the lunch as the traditional moment to negotiate future professional contracts. They thus recall the first function of a professional network: the employment.

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Author: Laure Lhermet

The Sus-IT project ran from 2009 until 2012 with the aim of helping older people to use information technologies for a better and more independent future. During the life of the project, the barriers to the sustained and effective use of ICTs by older people were investigated and  a range of solutions that combined both technology and social context were explored. In brief the project was able to:

  • Produce a conceptual model of the risks to sustaining digital engagement for older people;
  • Develop an innovative suite of tools, methods and guidance for working with older people in research and design of ICT-based products and services;
  • Formulate an ‘adaptivity framework’ to develop prototype software that helps to address problems encountered by people experiencing age-related changes in vision, dexterity and;
  • Produce a user-generated strategy for provision of sustainable, community-based ICT learning and support for older people.

Arguably one of the most engaging outputs has been the production of a design catalogue of 40 product concepts aimed at the ICT industry to stimulate new product development for the older market. These 40 design concepts were generated during four group ‘sandpit’ session strands, each carried out in close collaboration with older people. They covered the areas of: A custom computer for older people; Supporting memory and identity in later life; Combating social isolation; iPad apps for older people. The concepts show an intriguing mix of familiar objects with more advanced technological functions. In one such design, an everyday telephone becomes a ‘Photo phone’. Here, the standard functionalities of a telephone are preserved and augmented by the ability of the user to add electronic photos and then also share them with a caller. The idea behind this concept was stimulated by a desire to find social technical solutions to combating isolation and loneliness.

What further strengthens this approach is the nature of the methodology. By embarking on a process of participatory co-design the concepts encapsulate the authentic voices of the older people who are, after all, the intended end-users of these potential prototypes. This is a compelling message to send to companies building ICT products and also an empowering experience as older people become co-designers of their own tools and services.

Frolich, D., Lim, C., Woods, S. and Amr,  A. (2012). What older people want: A catalogue of co-designed ICT concepts. University of Surrey: UK.

Authors: Steven Warburton

How about having care workers use ICT tools to enhance their employability? It sounds like a great opportunity to combat social exclusion and focus on professional development.

The creation of an e-portfolio would add value to their professionalism by underlining and making visible evidence of their knowledge, experience and skills. It is widely known that the sector of social and care workers is often not treated with deserved acknowledgement, because of the large number unskilled employees. The question we ask here is: could the creation of an ePorfolio be a perfect motivation for them to seek opportunities for educational and professional enhancement? In broad sectoral terms, it would be a great benefit for care workers in order to abolish some the perceived issues surrounding professionalism in the social care work arena.

An e-portfolio is a portable, electronic database, where the user collects and organises text, audio, graphic and video files that provide evidence of their knowledge, skills and training. It is basically a personalised space on the web, easily accessible and sharable, for example with future employers.

There are several benefits that stem from the development of an e-portfolio. It enables a care worker to store and organise their learning and assessment evidence and can significantly enhance their chances of getting a job in the Health & Social Care or Nursing sectors. What is important about an e-portfolio is to use it effectively in order to promote your professionalism. For example, a care worker could represent excerpts from paid experience and jobs , any voluntary work relevant to the care and social sector such as telephone councelling or voluntary work in a care home. It is also good idea to include any memberships to professional organisations and extra curricullar activities, which can give a unique insight into the carer’s personality. In order to give ad value, recommendations from others – both colleagues and employers – can be included. It is especially relevant for care workers that an e-portfolio represents them as an individual with a supportive, considerate and respectful character, regardless of the background.

One of the most well-known applications for electronic portfolio is Mahara, which is an open source system with a range of features and the added advantage that it links closely with the popular virtual learning environment Moodle. Other systems include Folio for me, a free e-portfolio, and PebblePad, which provides a learning space as well portfolio area. Although not classified as an ePortfolio tool the social media site LinkedIn could also be considered as an effective tool for building one’s professional identity through networking and connecting with professionals in the field.

Care workers deserve to upgrade their professional status and with digital tools readily now available the e-portfolio represents the perfect platform.

Further reading:
JISC report 2012. ePortfolios – an overview. Online at

Authors: Theofili Smprini

” I did all the activities but I met some limits with my mother who took part to answer the tests (for older people), to play memory games. Now she can use the “Next” and “?” keys by herself. It is maybe nothing for some persons, but it is a huge step for her. She thought that she was too stupid to use the tablet, now she enjoys it… at her level but it matters. And she also showed the tablet to her 84 years old neighbour who immediately enjoyed and understand it (he never used a computer before) and after few hours he decided to buy a table. He came back 2 days after and asked for more information. We went online and watched his favorite singers, we tested Skype, played, googlemapped, I guess that he will come back soon…”, Mrs C.