Final Thoughts

I came to this class at the beginning of the term knowing a lot about social media, and a fair amount about emerging technologies, but I wasn’t sure how they would be effectively used. I’ve seen many organizations (including my own employer) attempt to use tools like Facebook and Twitter, and either fail or at best have middling success. There have also been some great successes, but those have generally been marketing campaigns. Despite this, I wanted to be convinced that it could be done, and I think that by the end of this class I have been.

What I’ve really learned is that it isn’t about the tools themselves, but it is about the people behind them. These are social tools, so the motivation of those using them should be to create relationships and conversations. When they are used to simply blast information at people, that’s when they fail. So our job as librarians is to have a goal when we set out implementing new technologies. We need to ask questions like:

  1. Who do we want to reach?
  2. Why are we reaching out to them?
  3. What do we want to communicate to them?
  4. How do we engage them in meaningful conversation?
What struck me in the end, is these questions represent the same things that make Facebook so valuable between family and friends. In our personal lives, we have an audience that is important to us. We want to share moments and thoughts with these people, and so we reach out with comments, photos, updates, etc. In the end, if used effectively, we could potentially create really great relationships with our communities.
Anyway, I’ve really enjoyed this class and getting to know everyone. I’ll miss having the blog next term. Have a great holiday everyone!

Research Paper Presentation

Technology and Social Media Impacts on Learning Behaviors of Digital Natives

One of the topics I found most engaging while covering the materials in this course was the topic of Digital Natives, and what sort of challenges they may present to librarians and educators. Young people today grow up surrounded by technology that allows a constant online presence, which has resulted in a generation that has grown up with a very different experience with information sharing from previous generations. Consequently, students today need to be taught both how to use these technologies effectively, and to understand the implications of their actions.

Digital Natives have a different way of viewing information, where they see bits of information as part of a stream, and they are always searching for connections. They find digital media to be just as valid as traditional print media, and they are very social, despite the fact that they spend less time in face to face conversation. Although there are these behavioral differences, there is no evidence that they are physiologically different, this simply have developed different cognitive processes.

It is important to realize that although students today have grown up with technology, it doesn’t mean they are all experts at using it. Their skill level and usage of technology varies, but they generally have the same expectations. Digital Natives expect to be able to conduct Google searches or access Facebook on their smartphones, iPads, laptops where ever they go. They often prefer to communicate through text, rather than on the phone.

One of their greatest strengths is their willingness to experiment with technology. They have grown up knowing that most things they do with technology can be undone easily, and this gives them the courage to explore. Interestingly, although Digital Natives use text based messaging frequently for communicating, studies have found that they do not perform as well with distance learning as other groups. Most of them prefer the direct interaction with their peers while in the classroom.

The best skills that can be taught to the Digital Natives would be strong critical thinking and the ability to self educate themselves on emerging technologies in the future. As for resources and tools to be provided, search tools need to be able to access many types of media, not just the traditional books, journals, and databases. They should be able to find video, audio, images, streaming media, and other new forms as well. These tools should also be easy to use, and behave in a fashion similar to the search engines they already use. If they are too difficult to use, students will not want to use them.

Not only do the students need to be able to educate themselves in the future, but educators and librarians need to be able to do so as well. It is important to prepare the students, but they are not so radically different that it is necessary to do a complete overhaul of the way they are educated. New processes can be integrated into existing ones to make the change less jarring to those who have to execute them.

The technology that surrounds Digital Natives today certainly has an effect on their behavior, but they are not physically different from previous generations. They view information in different patterns, and they often don’t seem to understand or value copyrights. Educators should be prepared to make changes to the tools they provide students, and to address new technologies in the future, but at this time critical thinking skills should be the priority. This is one of the greatest weaknesses of Digital Natives, and is one of the lessons that will best prepare them for their future.

Photos by courosa, trustypics, and hollysuewho.

 

Video Games in the Library

I have to admit, I love video games. I have spent hundreds of hours playing them, and I can tell you, many of them are serious business. The very best of them can involve complex story telling, impressive scenery and artistry, economics, and branching story lines. They are a unique media that deserves to be studied and curated, and it is frustrating to hear people who don’t understand their value disparage them. I will allow that if used in excess, they can be detrimental, but the same can be said for spending too much time reading books, watching movies or television programs, or listening to music albums.

In game screenshot from the new Elder Scrolls: Skyrim

Despite my belief that video games are a worthy art form, I understand the concern of critics mentioned Ben Weider’s article who are concerned that spending thousands of dollars on video game labs for libraries. It does appear as though it is just another form of pandering to students, and in some settings it certainly makes more sense then others. Libraries that serve people who study video games probably should make an effort to accommodate them, but I can also see arguing that any library that provides contemporary and popular fiction, DVDs, and CDs should also make them available.

At some point in the future, I’m sure video games in libraries will become less controversial, as their largest hurdle at this time is the fact that they are a very new form of media that is primarily popular with the younger population. Over time, those that understand the value of video games will be the ones in charge of the decision to add them to library collections.

Everywhere I Go

There are a lot of really incredible things that can be done with location-based services, but I have to admit, I am not entirely comfortable with the idea of creating a deliberate record of everywhere I visit (both physically and online). That said, I know that there are records created every time I use my credit card, anytime I have to used my RFID badge at work, and every time I use my cellphone. The difference between those activities, as opposed to checking in on Foursquare, is that those are not publicly visible and they are things that can’t really be avoided. I can choose to not check in using Foursquare or Facebook, and I can choose to use private browsing on my web browser, but at the same time I feel as though I am probably just going to have to get over my discomfort. Trying to prevent digital records from being created just isn’t possible, and in a social media world, they are becoming more and more visible.

I hadn’t every really sat down and thought about why this concept bothers me so much before. Maybe it’s just from reading too many stories like 1984 and Minority Report, maybe because I have an untrusting and suspicious personality (so says the DISC assessment I took at work – I had a rock bottom I score), but it really comes down to a privacy and trust issue. How is the information collected by these geolocation services going to be used and stored? Are they gathering information they don’t need? If this type of service were to be implemented by a library, it would be their responsibility to ensure this data would be protected. I would be inclined to trust my library I think, but I don’t know that I would trust a third party service they might utilize, since developing this type of software would likely require resources they don’t have.

Emerging Technologies: A blog for Nicholson Library

For this assignment I created a plan for implementing a blog for a smaller liberal arts college library. Specifically, I created a plan for the Nicholson Library at Linfield College, which is the college I received my undergraduate degree from. I chose this library because I am familiar with the prospective audience and the community setting. The hope of this plan would be to create a blog that was more than just a bulletin board on which announcements are posted, but something that would encourage interaction and conversation between library staff, students, and faculty. At the end, the blog created would be a useful tool that was well worth the effort spent to develop it, and would become an integral part of the way the library communicates with it’s users.

View the Emerging Technology plan for Nicholson Library.

Empathetic Signs

Seeing some of the signs in this weeks lecture, with their dire threats and condescending tones, made me cringe. I completely understand that fact that food spills, excessive noise, and a myriad of other distractions can be a frustrating thing for libraries to deal with, but whether they intend it or not, these signs often come across as angry and vindictive. They are uninviting and hostile, and after seeing some of the more encouraging versions of these messages, they seem very reactive. Instead of explaining why these rules exist and asking that patrons comply, the signs yell at them and threaten them with expulsion if they violate the demands being made.

These days I rarely go to the library with the intention of staying there any longer than is necessary to retrieve what I came there for, so signs like this would probably just make me roll my eyes. It wouldn’t make me leave any sooner, although a sign saying I couldn’t use my cellphone might prevent me from ever going there for any extended period of time. For a college library however, this could be a very real problem. When I was an undergraduate I rarely used the library largely because it was incredibly inconvenient, as it was all the way across campus, there were no internet ports for laptops, and it was cold in there.  I don’t remember what the food/beverage/phone policy was, but I do remember that it didn’t take much to deter me or my friends from spending any considerable amount of time there. Hostile signage certainly wouldn’t have made us more inclined to use the library as a resource, and the primary purpose of school libraries is to serve the students. We shouldn’t be chasing them away.

While we are on the topic of user experience this week, I went to my alma mater’s website and found it incredibly difficult to navigate. Try finding the library from the main page! I hope they didn’t pay a lot for that design.

I Love My Nook

Last year for Christmas my boyfriend got me a Nook. While I was excited and appreciative of the gift, I have to admit I wasn’t sure how I much I would use it. As it turns out, about a third of what I read this day is on my e-reader, with most of them being library checkouts. I have not however, explored any of the shared reading or “conversation-based reading” as described in Scanning the Horizon. The type of activities described in that article, such as posting passages on Twitter, may not even be possible if you don’t have a Kindle, but I don’t know that for sure since I’ve never actually attempted it the Nook. I was going to go check, but the battery is completely dead at the moment (I’ve been told the Kindle battery lasts longer).

The idea of conversation-based reading is really appealing to me though, because I wonder if people who are normally not that interested in reading a book might find the activity more worthwhile if they could actively share it with others. Maybe something even like a book club, but one that could be carried on in there own time, where they could interact with the others reading the same book using social media wherever they happened to be. If a community library could get enough licenses for a book, or use ones that are available through Project Gutenberg, they could organize their own book club.

It could also be a good way to make kids in school want to read their assigned books, or even just compel them to read them at all. Although with students it would probably only work with college students, where you could ensure that they would have at least a personal computer that could be used to read the ebooks on.

How to Talk to Your Community?

When I consider the prospect of actually implementing social media, the most intimidating step is deciding what the best platform or platforms should be used to reach the intended audience, and how they should be used. In her article “Ten Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy,” Sharlyn Lauby says that social media is more likely to pay dividends if it adds value to the users. So the problem then becomes who are we trying to reach and what types of social media are they already using. These days it seems Facebook is probably the safest bet, but the internet is fickle, and perhaps the best social media plans are ones that can be somewhat interface agnostic.

Another thing that I think should be considered is that websites like Facebook and Twitter have become kind of overwhelming. Most people are flooded with posts from dozens (and often hundreds) of people and organizations they are linked to. Things get pushed down very quickly in the activity feed, and in the case of Facebook, they are only provided with a sample of the most recent posts in the default view. They might not ever even see your posts unless they go to your actual page. This suggests that whatever you desire to be broadcast-ed to the community you serve needs to titled with a very enticing tagline or else it will just get passed over.

One way that these tools could be very helpful is in they way they can be used as a forum for interacting with library users. I wonder if people who are not very technically savvy might find the typical message board in the style of http://www.reddit.com/ difficult to use? I personally try to avoid them whenever possible, as they seem like a kind of mucky swamp of unanswered or inadequately answered questions – and I am a rather enthusiastic browser of the web. Facebook and Twitter allow direct questioning, and as long as they are properly moderated, I think that the typical library patron might feel more comfortable communicating online in this fashion.

Context Book: Content by Cory Doctorow

As a longtime reader of Boing Boing, I instantly recognized the name Cory Doctorow on the proposed reading list. In his book Content: Selected Essays on Technology, Creativity, Copyright, and the Future of the Future he discusses how information is created, dispersed, accessed, and shared using technology. Most importantly, he explores how technology has changed the way content is shared, and what the implications of those changes are. Although some of the articles are somewhat dated (Amazon Unbox anyone?), the arguments and conversations are for the most part still relevant.

Doctorow begins with Digital Rights Management (DRM), and why he believes that DRM is harmful to freedom of speech. Not only does DRM limit the ability of people to copy material, but it also limits the way it can be used. Furthermore, he makes the point that even while the record industry succeeded in shutting down Napster, it is still losing to file sharing. These industries have a hard time seeing that the information economy benefits everyone who participate in it, and they refuse to let go of the idea that information economy is about selling information. It’s not about money though, it’s about the movement of information, and the accessibility. It’s about the way people find each other, the way people conduct business, and the way people find information (p. 64). In this economy more then ever, “…people with more time than money would rather copy information than pay for it (p. 45).” To succeed in the world of digital content, they need to adapt a new business model and perspective.

While Doctorow believes that the copyrights protecting these works are important, he believes that the ease at which artists are censored on the internet should be of greater concern to them than whether or not their content is being illegally used. He argues that the proposals for online hosts to figure out what content is posted on their websites is valid is ridiculous, and that to enforce this, one would have to assume that everything is copyrighted, and then to make the users prove that they have the right to post any and all content they wish to post on the web (p. 69). It simply wouldn’t be possible, and the whole process would greatly reduce the ability of users to access content created by artists.

With his own works, he has found that providing free ebook copies of his novels has greatly increased distribution, and he believes that his sales have been greatly increased as a result. People who enjoy the ebook typically purchase a paper copy, and those who chose not to buy wouldn’t have paid for a copy anyway (p. 72). He further discusses the uses of ebooks, and although he himself used the ebook as a marketing tool, he fully believes that they will be the predominantly used format in the future. The issue here, as with digital video and music content, is convincing publishers that digital content should not be treated in the same way that printed materials are.

Later on in the book Doctorow discusses the value of metadata and community editing, particularly the success of Wikipedia, artificial intelligence and singularity, and the uselessness of overly complex EULAS. While these essays were valuable, they weren’t as applicable to the subject of this class as the other topics were. Overall, I found that there were a lot of important points made in this collection, but many of the topics and analogies were too often repeated. Additionally, I felt that many of the supporting statements to the argument being made were disjointed or simply irrelevant. As I agree with most of the author’s sentiments, seeing the arguments being not particularly well made was somewhat disheartening.

Doctorow, C. (2008). Content: selected essays on technology, creativity, copyright, and the future of the future. Tachyon Publications. Retrieved from http://craphound.com/content/download/

Millennials

As someone who falls into the category of a “digital native” this week, reading about the different arguments about this groups learning and technology needs this week was kind of odd for me. I was born in 1982, and for several years now I’ve read about the “millennials” and how growing up with information and communication technology (ICT) has changed the way we learn and our expectations with how people will communicate with us. But until this week, I’ve never really contemplated this all that much, I’ve just kind of thought “well, I guess that makes sense” and moved on.

I don’t recall any specific articles I’d read previously, but my impressions have always been one of urgency and the need for radical change. The paper by Bennett, Matton, and Kervin was first I’d read that urged any sort of caution. There were many good points made there, such as the fact that although digital natives maybe more familiar with ICT, they were not necessarily more adept at using these technologies, and that there are definite socioeconomic factors that affect students comfort and confidence with ICT. In The digital natives debate: A critical review of the evidence one quote at the end rang very true for me:

“We may live in a highly technologised world, but it is conceivable that it has become so through evolution, rather than revolution.”

In my experience, most people my age are comfortable with and confident while using ICTs, but it’s not as though we were suddenly submerged in these technologies. They have been around, but our schools generally employed traditional learning methods, and those methods didn’t hinder our learning experience. They also didn’t inhibit our ability to learn those technologies when they were in front of us. The more I’ve thought about it, the more I feel that ICT may not be critical as part of the learning process, but that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be. I don’t really think anyone is saying that we shouldn’t, but we have these powerful tools that students aren’t always able to use effectively, and it seems the more students learn to use them in school, the better.