INF506 Twitter and the Library

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As part of my studies for INF506 I have established a Twitter account and have enjoyed my experiences. I was initially skeptical of the educational benefits of Twitter as it limits users to 140 characters, what  meaningful things can students create with 140 characters? (As an English teacher I am forever encouraging students to write more, not less!)

However, in completing the course readings and through immersing myself in the technology, I have found some excellent uses for Twitter in an educational context. I now see the advantages to having a social networking site that is limited in characters as it is easy for students and teachers to stay informed about a multitude of topics. I was impressed with Valenza’s idea of using Twitter to ‘follow conversations about breaking issues in the news’ (2009). I thought this was an excellent point as I am often saddened about students lack of knowledge about current issues, so this idea is one that I will certainly be trying in the classroom. I am also enthused about Valenza’s idea as, through Twitter, students will not only be able to receive reports of breaking news but can follow conversations about such topics that may lead them to thinking more critically and to realise that there are often many perspectives involved in an issue.

Another idea presented by Valenza is that of using Twitter to ‘locate and contact experts’ (2009). Again this was something I had not thought of prior to completing this course and I think that it is a fantastic way to engage students in issues. I am also excited about using this idea as an English teacher, as I think it would be great for students to follow and contact authors. A while ago I had a year 7 class who kept asking me questions about the book that we were reading so I eventually sent the author an email, not expecting anything to come of it. Well, the author contacted me back with a great email answering the many questions I had sent her. I read the email to the year 7 class and they were absolutely delighted, not only to have their questions answered but to have received an email from an author. It made reading a much more personal experience and I am excited about using Twitter in this regard.

This course has opened my eyes to the many educational benefits that can be gained from using social media and it has encouraged me to keep researching and exploring.

References:

Valenza, J. (27 September, 2009). 14 ways K-12 librarians can teach social media. Tech & Learning: Ideas and Tools for Ed Tech Leaders.

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OLJ Task: Authentic Information in a Socially Networked World

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Task: Based on your readings on issues related to finding authentic information within a socially networked world, identify two essential take-home messages that you believe will inform your work as an information professional.

Based on the readings, the first essential take-home message for me is one that relates to spam. It is clear from the readings that spam is an increasing issue and can adopt new formats in social network sites such as Twitter. Yardi, Romero, Schoenebeck and Boyd point to the effects that spammers can have in the Twitter universe by doing such things as retweeting and changing legitimate links to illegitimate ones (2010). The authors also make the point that spam accounts are hard to detect and that spammers ‘invest a lot of time in following other users (and hoping other users follow them back)’ (2010). This has two implications for me as an information professional working with young people. Firstly, when promoting library services in social network sites I need to be aware of spam accounts and what they are capable of. Secondly, in my experience, the young people I work with are very trusting online, so I need to better educate people about the dangers of spam (and other potentially serious consequences) of using social networking sites.

As a result of the readings, the second take-home message for me is one that relates to information literacy and critical thinking skills. Lorenzo writes of three primary skills that young people need; basic information technology skills, information literacy skills and critical thinking skills (2007, p.2). Lorenzo points to the fact that search engines are the most popular choice when looking for information and that young people ‘are at sea, drowning in a pool of information, looking for life preservers’ (2007, p.3). It is clear from this that guiding students when searching for and evaluating information is a critical need of learners today. Wittenberg adds to this message saying that librarians must see themselves as ‘partners’ with students when teaching students how to conduct research because students understand the ‘new ways in which people engage in research, communicate and learn’ (2007). Therefore the take-home message for me is two-fold; students need to better understand how to navigate the web and other sources when searching for and critically evaluating information. However, students may easily switch off if the teacher assumes the role of the all-knowing guide. Therefore, teachers must work together with students to better learn to navigate and evaluate the vast array of information that is now available at the click of a button.

References:

Yardi, S., Romero, D., Schoenebeck, G. & Boyd, D. (2010). Detecting spam in a Twitter network, First Monday, 15(1), 4 January. Available http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2793/2431

Lorenzo, G. (2007). Catalysts for change: Information fluency, Web 2.0, Library 2.0, and the new education culture. (March). Retrieved from http://www.edpath.com/images/IFReport2.pdf

Wittenberg, K. (2007). Credibility of content and the future of research, learning, and publishing in the digital environment. The Journal of Electronic Publishing, 10(1). Available  http://quod.lib.umich.edu/cgi/t/text/text-idx?c=jep;cc=jep;rgn=main;view=text;idno=3336451.0010.101