Our world is abounding in social networking tools, from Facebook to Twitter and Instagram and many others; the world seems to be connecting on a new site every day. These technologies have changed not only the way we share information but how people communicate, learn and research. Ripe for this interaction are academic institutions full of bright-eyed, tweet-happy, knowledge-hungry students who are prepped to engage in a literacy unique to the culture; the understanding and use of social media to meet their information needs.
The exploration of this topic led me to find librarians not only using social media for information-seeking but teaching about it as well. In her article, “Librarian as Professor of Social Media Literacy”, Laurie Bridges (2012) outlines a course she taught titled Social Media: A Life Lived Online. In describing social media literacy, Bridges states, “social media literacy is one form of literacy under the information literacy umbrella” (p. 50). This “umbrella” encompasses the standards set forth by the Association of College and Research Libraries defined as Information Literacy Competency Standards and areas in which a student is able to absorb, analyze and make critical determinations on materials and their sources (“Information Literacy Competency Standards for Higher Education”, 2014). These standards are important in research because they fuel the student’s ability to make good judgments in using information for any course-related work. They also provide a foundation for librarians to teach from as they help students grow in knowledge of research technologies. Bridges also provides information on constructing the curriculum and gives an overview of the different areas of discussion each week. The course ran a ten-week period and included topics of discussion ranging from web history to addiction regarding the use of the internet and gaming (p. 53). The unique content of courses like this one gives students a chance to explore internet tools that they are comfortable with, and also be challenged in reflecting on topics they wouldn’t normally gravitate towards like addictions.
Another interesting area that librarians are exploring is the use of social media is in searching techniques. Paige Alfonzo (2014), in her article, “Using Twitter Hashtags for Information Literacy Instruction” and making the case for hashtags in information literacy classes states, “These metadata tags could be the librarians’ ‘in’ when teaching information classification and advanced digital search concepts in the classroom” (p. 19). It is an idea that again focuses on what students already know and are comfortable with. In a way, it is meeting them at their level and capturing interest with the technologies they engage in every day. Alfonzo goes on to give background on the hashtag, their evolution and outlines various activities to aid in the understanding of areas such as controlled vocabularies and indexing (p. 20). Although, I am not as familiar with using hashtags, I can see the value in applying them in searches. These hashtags provide a way to limit the content of information one is looking for, and can also focus one’s search on interest level or popularity. In searching for content that is not only generating massive amounts of tweets, but the world’s interest as well, it is a great tool to explore in finding information quickly.
Along with these ideas of using social media platforms with searching and developing new skills, there are inevitable challenges that come as well. Nathan, MacGougan and Shaffer (2014), in their article “If Not Us, Who? Social Media Policy and the iSchool Classroom” outline various challenges that can affect the use of social media in learning. These issues range from privacy to content ownership as well as accessibility (p. 116, 117). These concerns are legitimate and must be addressed effectively should librarians and instructors move forward in using social media to aid their students in research. In drawing conclusions on policies that will assist instructors in this, Nathan, MacGougan and Shaffer state, “social media policy should be treated as a living document that allows for iteration and its creators should be willing to make and learn from mistakes in order not to stifle innovation and learning” (p. 124).
It is important to keep in mind that in all instructors do as they discover new teaching methods, there is always a learning curve. This allows for mistakes, opportunities and growth. It is a fundamental aspect in the lives of librarians as they adapt to new technologies and find new ways to embrace their technologically-savvy students. It is an aspect that provides the chance for connection and creativity as well. And of course, there is also space for the selfie, the status update, and the occasional #tweet.
Alfonzo, P. (2014). Using twitter hashtags for information literacy instruction. Computers in Libraries, 34. Retrieved from http://www.infotoday.com/cilmag/
Association of College and Research Libraries. (2014). Information Literacy Competency Standards. Retrieved from http://www.ala.org/acrl/standards/informationliteracycompetency#ildef
Bridges, L. (2012). Librarian as professor of social media literacy. Journal of Library Innovation, 3. Retrieved from http://www.libraryinnovation.org/
Nathan, L., MacGougan, A., Shaffer, E. (2014). If not us, who? social media policy and the ischool classroom. Journal of Education for Library & Information Science, 55. Retrieved from http://www.alise.org/jelis