Teaching in Tweets: Social Media & Instruction

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


9 thoughts on “Teaching in Tweets: Social Media & Instruction

  1. I really enjoyed the Technology Sandbox assignment that has use explore new social media technologies. I learned a lot from the blogs and teaching materials I found, although now were as extensive as 10 week courses or anything of that nature. I do appreciate a guide and hope that one day I can provide a tutorial through technology or social media to help others. I also find the concept of tagging interesting in searching techniques. The Listserv I belong to is currently talking about how to use tags for reader’s advisory, and while I haven’t looked all the way through it, it seems like it could be very fruitful.


    • It is actually a relatively new concept for me; I understood it only in part. I found a lot more articles than the ones I presented here, but the idea of integrating these tools certainly seems to have value. I also like that librarians are not only engaging with the technology but teaching its history and affects to students, which I think are important ideas to discuss.


  2. I am amazed at how fast things are moving towards social media and the tools available for librarians in social media. I loved the article and that mentioning that there is always room for growth and changing the way it was normally done is good to keep up and embrace technology.


  3. Yes, I also find it really interesting how quickly technology has changed how students can engage and librarians can teach and then there is also the daunting aspect of how quickly it continues to change. We’ll be in a constant process of keeping up with that movement but it is very exciting indeed.


  4. Through all of the class work this semester, I am really learning just how important and necessary technology is in the LIS field. I knew it before, of course, but I didn’t realize all of the ways technology impacts what we will be doing in our future profession. As someone who isn’t a natural explorer of new technologies, I am starting to try and be more open to using technology in different ways. Your post on using social media to teach is definitely an interesting one. I would like to see it in action. I do like the idea of meeting students where they are (using social media), but then also leading them to more traditional ways to search for information. That is part of teaching. You meet students where they are and then help guide them to the next level. It is great to be able to see other LIS professionals being so innovative because it inspires me to try new things and not be afraid of the “learning curve” you talked about. Thanks for sharing!


  5. Going into this post I was a bit hesitant about what I would find, because embracing different technologies can sometimes be overwhelming but I was pleasantly surprised at how bold and focused librarians are in using it. It was encouraging to find out it can really be simply trial and error with adapting something to research and gauge how students react. The ingenuity and courage I found through my research of these librarians was definitely bolstering for me also in trying new things.


  6. Personally, thinking about learning and teaching social media to students makes me cringe. I have a hard time learning all these new terms and new gadgets. Yes, it makes my life easier when I do learn it, but no, I don’t want to be the go-to person to have to tell someone how to use some new technical device. It is just so easy to fall at the wayside. I desperately want to keep up, but there are so many other things to learn, it makes it difficult to keep up.


  7. It certainly can be daunting. I was pretty ignorant going into this post of how librarians are using newer technologies. One thing I did realize that is not that they had to learn a lot of new things, but more so really took one piece and ran with it, or took the overall idea of social media and used it as a background for discussing deeper issues too as with the 10-week course.


  8. I have always thought that at the very least, libraries could use these tools to share what they offer. Like a tweet that says ” Did you know you can make a one-on-one research help appointment with a librarian, go to (hyperlink) to schedule an appointment.” Just spreading the word about what is available would be valuable to the students. There is also the act of posting interesting factoids and sharing information about the instruction librarians that might drum up more interest in seeking out help.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s