The human desire to connect with other people and communities has always led to improved efficiency in those connections. The result has been a greater access to information and the sharing of knowledge throughout the world – evidenced in Worldwide Web (www).
Now even greater sophistication of digital technologies and the interconnectivity of global communications networks and suitable software, allows for more ‘two-way’ responsive and social interaction opportunities along those connections.
‘Web 2.0’ is the evolution of the www (Web 1.0) and is comprised of many different interactive platforms. These digital connections and interactions through ‘social media’ are where much of the world’s communication activity is increasingly occurring. Information is being created, shared, stored and accessed by those with the technical means to be online. People who work as information professionals have an obligation to ensure they themselves and their clients have the access and skills to participate in this online information environment. The growing significance of social networking through a digital medium is making it imperative for Librarians to participate and promote its ethical and effective use to meet client needs. These views are prevalent in the online writings of information professionals such as Joyce Valenza – ‘Never Ending Search’, Bev Novak – ‘NovaNews’ and Judy O’Connell – ‘Heyjude’.
My own learning process was fairly dense with skill acquisition in a variety of software tools. Though I achieved a satisfactory level of usage in the majority of these – all could be enhanced with further use and investigated for possible ways to integrate them into the current educational curriculum. In an overview post entry to my OLJ blog platform, I share how my Social Networking Experiences have expanded through exposure and use.
A Web 2.0 immersed world means that information is available to the seeker in new ways. Where an information search traditionally took one to a library to source reference collections and journals, it can now be affected away from a library through electronic collections and systems available 24/7. The collaborative nature of the Web2.0 finds people using their ‘network’ to assist with their searches and learning. However, not all information is ‘free’ – accessing certain databases and journals is cost-prohibitive for most individuals. Following assessment, the qualified personnel of a library are best positioned to select and maintain the digital tools and subscriptions appropriate for their clients needs. Casey and Savastinuk (2006) have suggested:
”The heart of Library 2.0 is user-centered change. It is a model for library service that encourages constant and purposeful change, inviting user participation in the creation of both the physical and the virtual services they want, supported by consistently evaluating services. It also attempts to reach new users and better serve current ones through improved customer-driven offerings. Each component by itself is a step toward better serving our users; however, it is through the combined implementation of all of these that we can reach Library 2.0.”
With the exponential increase in available information, the corresponding understanding and use by people has not kept pace. I’ve outlined in an earlier OLJ post, the aspects and implications of being a Web 2.0 Information Professional in a Library 2.0. Concluding that a librarian needs to be constantly building their capacity by establishing a manageable Personal Learning Network (PLN), being active in a focused Community of Practice (CoP) and reinforcing newfound skills by demonstrating them within their professional circle.
Whether we are participating to build our own knowledge capacity or that of others as part of our teaching role – it is the quality of the reflective thoughts and interactions we have with people that allow us to be effective learners and teachers. Quite early in this course – as identified in the Dec 2nd post: Essential interaction! – I had perceived that the interactions through the social media platforms were their unique feature. With the actions and reactions along the connections, the conversations expand and develop and knowledge grows. Like many, I am experiencing that ‘ease of connection’ as a plethora of information that still needs to be filtered to identify what is valuable specifically to my needs and therefore worth further intellectual input on my part. More recently, information aggregators (I use Scoopit!) are being used to control the flow of visually appealing articles on topics nominated by the searcher. These articles take time to read and assess for worth. Then quality curation demands that this new information gets ‘added value’ when you link and relate it to other available information. Like any new tool, software applications need to be practiced, applied and continually evaluated for their usefulness.
My own development as a social networker is certainly underway – within the T.E.A.M. I’m connecting! In my first blog post for INF506 – New Connection for Growth – I eluded to a general knowledge about social media and how I am aware that the digital connections we collect ‘are becoming prolific and a significant part of all aspects of our interactive lives – learning, earning and living.’ Then I really got to know about it! The sizable collection of information I was managing at the time seemed to treble in a period of weeks. I began living the learning! When starting a new digital tool as part of the course content, I was constantly evaluating my time management and working to meet the learning challenges. Each new account needed a username and password and mail was continually being fed to me with alerts from Facebook and RSS feeds. There was a repeated mental pull to check my emails and I used the word ‘befuddled’ a few times. The graphic organizer I created on PersonalBrain was an effort to show the connections in my PLN . I recently considered where I am located now on that continuum – I believe I’m still in the first two of Jeff Utecht’s five stages of PLN Adoption (2008) – ‘immersing’ and ‘evaluating’ and honing the filtering process. Though I now know that I also have the ability and self-discipline to keep some ‘perspective’ about my online life. Although I’ve contributed to each of the various social networks joined – I have tried to stay focused only on the topics related to my current needs and not get sidetracked just because a link ‘looked interesting’.
Learning the basics of Facebook was fine but I found the push for me to ‘find friends’ quite intrusive. I chose limit my interactions in this platform to the INF506 group members at this time. I did come to value the friendly and resourceful INF506 community on our Facebook page and the Fun (and some frustration) of the Second Life virtual environment.
Likewise to begin with I limited my exploring to what was needed with the Flickr image and Delicious bookmarking sites. I have now searched further into both these platforms to find artifacts of use in my own OLJ and the project blog – Teacher-Librarians Connecting. The only thing certain in life is change! I experienced it when the Picnik program I’d spent time on – to add an attribution to photos – no-longer existed (a minus) and the Delicious site added the ‘stack’ feature to help with grouping links and further searching (a plus!). I have plans to investigate both Diigo and GreaseMonkey for possible future use now that I have some experience for comparison.
As a source of ‘information snacks’, I found Twitter another useful tool to find and share links without the time-consuming expectation to ‘curate with your own added perspective’. But the reciprocity of the system needs a disciplined approach to keep the flow of tweets under control. Twitter seems to exemplify what Watkins (2009, p160) believes: that the young are consuming smaller portions of much more content – and with more mobile devices – it is happening constantly! Since using more social media platforms myself, I have felt a daily need to action updates and to maintain currency of contact. A purchase jump to the latest iPhone has allowed me to be part of the tech-mobile group with apps like QRReader and Easybib in addition to mobilizing the previously mentioned platforms. Watkins (2009, p160) goes on to suggest: “ the social- and mobile-media lifestyle represents a new cultural ethos and a profound shift in how we consume media”. He adds: “Young people are media rich.” These are the devices many of our students are familiar with and will use in their adult working lives – so we need to be onboard and supporting the learning processes associated with these readily available devices. Most significantly TLs need to identify how these social media tools can enhance student learning, particularly within our established role in relation to information literacy and digital citizenship in an evolving transmedia learning environment. The individual students, the curriculum content and the available technology will all influence the pedagogy used. I need to keep in mind what Fred Cavazza said: There is “No tool to rule them all”. What is effective on one occasion may not be right for another. Continual evaluation!
The very openness of these social network connections allows searchers serendipitous finds – but it does also serve up undesirable ‘spam’. These seem to be driven by the SEO perspective that relates the quantity of visitors with the quality of the site. The accompanying qraphic ($ sign of icons) exemplifies their drive for the $$$. They look for the effect of crowd-sourcing power! Though I have though that getting that exposure can be of benefit as TL advocacy. I did not allocate enough time to the consolidation of my knowledge in relation to Social media use policies and the recording of my reflections. I believe my increased involvement in these last two months has developed my understanding and use of these technologies and with time I’ll have a greater capacity to evaluate the usefulness of existing and emerging individual tools and devise policies to suit my professional needs.
I have suggested that ‘the jump into the Web 2.0 water has made me feel part of a future where the current is strong and wide. It’s empowering to be part of the @ flow’.
Casey, M. E. & Savastinuk, L. C. Service for the next-generation library. Library Journal, 09/01/2006 retrieved from: http://www.libraryjournal.com/article/CA6365200.html
Greenhow, C. (2011) Online social networks and learning. In On the Horizon (Ed.) Christine Greenhow Vol. 19 No. 1 2011 Emerald Group Publishing Ltd. Via ejournals.ebsco.com
O’Connell, J (2011) Revolutionizing Libraries with Social Media. Via Heyjude blog. Retrieved from:
Utecht, J. (2008) Stages of PLN Adoption. Via The Thinking Stick. Retreived from: http://www.thethinkingstick.com/stages-of-pln-adoption
Valenza, J. (2012) Hooray, we’re mobile! Our new App. Via Never Ending Search blog. Retreived from:
Watkins, S. C. (2009) The Young and the Digital: What the Migration to Social-network sites, Games, and Anywhere Media Means for Our Future. Boston: Beacon