Literature in digital environments (INF533) has challenged participants to incorporate digital environments into their schemata for both the literature genre and literacy pedagogy. Throughout the modules in this course, we were challenged to consider questions such as:
What impact has the digital revolution had on books, reading and literature?
What challenges and opportunities might digital literature bring to the classroom?
What are the policy and practice considerations for including digital literature in school library collections?
These questions have been considered in the reflection on learning in INF533 that follows.
Once upon a time storytelling was an oral tradition. Due to Gutenberg’s press, it evolved to include print. The Third Industrial Revolution has expanded the mediums of storytelling yet again and the narratives and dialogues of human experience are now also shared via interactive, transmedia, digital spaces. In the twenty-first century, when someone tells us they are reading a book, it can no longer be assumed that they are turning paper pages from the beginning to the end of a story. While this may be the case, they might also be plugged in, clicking, swiping, pinching, listening, viewing or interacting (Sadokierski, 2012). Lamb suggests that a book can now be defined as a published collection of related pages or screens (2011, p.13). As discussed in a blog post on this topic, titled Digital storytelling – distinguishing features, these new forms of storytelling not only change our definition of the physical book but also require new conceptions of author, editor, publisher and reader. Associated with this shift is a new breed of reader who, with the availability of connective technologies, is vocal, social, creative and collaborative resulting in reciprocal relationships between authors and readers (James Kennedy, as cited in Valenza & Stephens, 2012, p.78). Further to this, new technologies are changing our view of literature. An author goes beyond the classical definition of literature when they integrate digital and literary features in authentic ways and a synergy is formed between textual, artistic, multimodal and functional elements (Walsh, 2013, p.187). Consequently, the very nature of narrative and story are changing because of digital environments (Unsworth, 2008, p.63). These new definitions of book, reader and literature hold important implications for those involved in school libraries where literacy is the goal and the focus of our life work is to educate young people for successful futures.
The emergence of digital literature means that new reading environments are now connected and participatory and this has implications for our understanding of what it means to be literate. Digital literacy broaches the idea that participation in contemporary society requires a set of skills beyond those of traditional literacy that included reading, writing, listening and speaking. Rowan states that “this is not just a question about working on screens rather than on paper, it is about moving between different forms and different genres with a degree of confidence. It is about editing and production” (2012, p.112). It follows then that literacy pedagogy also needs to be examined and Walsh’s research confirms that literacy needs to be redefined within current curriculum contexts (2010, p.211). As discussed in the blog post titled The place for digital storytelling in the classroom, incorporating digital texts and storytelling into classroom programs has the potential to provide students with opportunities for comprehending narrative elements, engagement in collaborative and explorative production practices and building digital competencies. Exposing students to multimodal literature and an opportunity to experiment with producing such stories is one method of digital literacy pedagogy explored in INF533 via the Digital storytelling project.
The digital story experiment
Through the Digital storytelling project, I was required to create a digital text, experiment with digital tools and platforms, experience social-networked literature and incorporate digital media texts into reading and literacy experiences in the school context. Pushing beyond my comfort zone, I chose to create a fan fiction response to John Green’s The fault in our stars on Instagram. Among the students for whom this project was designed, Instagram is the social media tool of choice and was therefore selected for this project. As a platform for digital storytelling, Instagram presented a number of challenges. These included copyright considerations, embedding multimedia elements and offering the reader an opportunity to interact with the story. These challenges and the creative problem solving used to overcome them are discussed in the blog post: Fan fiction on Instagram – the digital story experiment.
Changing professional practice
The reality that the digital revolution is changing books, storytelling and reading is a fact teacher librarians need to embrace because it has implications for our pedagogy and library management. These implications are discussed in three blog posts written for INF533:
In essence, the world is now characterised by ubiquitous connectivity and change resulting in the need for school library practitioners to redefine reading, remodel collections and rethink pedagogy in order to support students’ literacy development and promote lifelong reading practices.
Fora.TV. (2009, September 23). Once Upon These Times: New Stories for New Audiences [Video file]. Retrieved from http://fora.tv/2009/09/23/Once_Upon_These_Times_New_Stories_for_New_Audiences
Lamb, A. (2011). Reading redefined for a transmedia universe. Learning and leading with technology, 39(3), 12-17. Retrieved July 25, 2015, from http://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/ login.aspx?direct=true&db=ehh&AN=67371172&site=ehost-live
Rowan, L. (2012). Imagining futures (Ch. 13). In L. Rowan, & C. Bigum (Ed.),Transformative approaches to new technologies and student diversity in futures oriented classrooms: Future proofing education (pp. 217-225). Dordrecht: Springer Science +Business Media B.V.
Unsworth, L. (2006). E-literature for children: Enhancing digital literacy learning. Oxford, UK: Routledge.
Valenza, J. K., & Stephens, W. (2012). Reading Remixed. Educational Leadership, 69(6), 75-78. Retrieved fromhttp://ezproxy.csu.edu.au/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ulh&AN=73183267&site=ehost-live
This digital storytelling venture endeavoured to create a fan fiction response to The fault in our stars by John Green and consisted of Instagram posts from Hazel Grace Lancaster, the protagonist of this story and a connected website containing author notes.
It was a conscious decision to make the reader aware that the Instagram posts were a fan fiction response because fandom is a theme presented in the novel and because John Green himself has commented on fan fiction, social media and the relationship that exists between an author and reader.
Two interviews I discovered with John Green prompted this idea for a project that combined social media, fanfiction and The fault in our stars. The first was an interview by Zuckerman (2014), in which John Green states:
“I am really interested in fandom because I am a fan myself”;
“I think in the age of the internet – in the age of social media – it’s just much harder to separate the artist from the art. Particularly when the artist is constantly inserting himself into the conversation on Twitter or Tumblr or whatever”.
Secondly, in this extract from a Youtube interview with John Green on the red carpet of The fault in our stars film premier, he discusses the future of media and the relationship between the author and the reader. Both of these concepts have been of particular interest to me throughout the course of Literature in digital environments (INF533).
Among the students for whom this project was designed, Instagram is the social media tool of choice and was therefore selected for this project. As a platform for digital storytelling, Instagram presented a number of challenges:
Firstly, it was time consuming to produce images that were my own creations or licensed for reuse. One solution I found was the Canva platform that proved very useful for the creation of original images to use throughout the story. Creative Commons images were also a good resource for this project.
A second difficulty with using the Instagram platform is that, on face-value, it is quite superficial. In order to go beyond image sharing, and create the multimedia elements Lamb describes as necessary for a transmedia story (2011, p.15), I had to research how to use and incorporate other apps such as Flipagram.
Finally, creating the opportunity for interactivity and collaboration between author and reader is a feature of digital storytelling that allows the audience to become part of the journey (Fora, 2009, 24min,10sec). To provide an interactive facility in Instagram beyond ‘liking’ posts required some thought and the resultant comments and posts from readers were a highlight of the project.
For me, the biggest highlights of the project occurred when readers interacted with the story. These included:
Occasions when readers spontaneously responded to a post:
Reader responses to questions that were embedded into the text of posts:
Content contributed by readers when invited to share with a hash tag:
Comments and questions added by readers to the forum in the connected website:
My favourite response was when two readers discussed and issue raised with one another:
It may never end ……..
When discussing Instagram with the students in my class, they have a very strong opinion that one post per day is the accepted convention when using this social media. Adhering to this convention meant that only twenty-seven posts were achieved for this project. As a fan fiction piece, this story will persist as long as the author (the fan) wishes to continue interacting with the text this way. Because the reader has become involved in the story, the author also loses some control over the structure of the narrative, and as observed by Fitzgelrald, the digital story may not have a narrative conclusion (2013, 8min50sec). As an assessment piece for a university subject, this also poses an interesting conundrum to the notion of a due date. The story present at the time of submission may in fact be different to the story read at the time of marking.
Beyond the Trailer (Director). (2014, June 5). The Fault in Our Stars interview 2014 : John Green, Hank Green, Wyck Godfrey [Video file]. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt-e7Nwj3Bk
Teachers in the digital age are becoming increasingly aware that technology is having an effect on the traditional definitions of reading, learning and literacy and this necessitates changes in reading literacy pedagogy (Felvegi & Matthew, 2012, p.41). New technologies, however, do not reduce the value of literature studies in the new millennium and the need to spend time reading and discussing stories remains important for freedom of thought, cultural continuity, and engaging imaginations (Robinson, 2001, pp.1-8). The fact is, new realities are expanding the meaning of reading a book and have come to include electronic literature (eLiterature) as works with important literary aspects (Rettberg, 2012, para.4). The emergence of eLiterature provides an opportunity for teachers to combine digital literacy and literature studies in the classroom. This digital storytelling proposal explores one way that this may be done in a secondary school setting.
The school context
The school context for this proposal is a Catholic secondary independent girls’ school that caters for approximately eight hundred and ninety (890) students ranging from years seven to twelve (7-12). Because of the school’s inclusive enrolment policy, these students are made-up of a diverse range of learning styles and needs. In terms of technology integration, the school has a Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) model and supports a philosophy of digital participation, acknowledging the need for digital learning environments in order to adequately prepare students for life and work outside of school. The role of the school library (also known as the iCentre) is to support the school in the delivery of library and information services. Supporting literacy development is one such service provided by the iCentre. In line with the Australian School Library Association (ASLA) Standards of professional excellence for teacher librarians (2014), the iCentre works collaboratively with teaching teams “to plan and implement information literacy and literature programs that result in positive student learning outcomes” (standard 2.2).
In year seven, eight and nine at the school in which I teach, an integrated curriculum approach is taken and Core Studies is a class that incorporates the English, History, Geography and Religion curriculums.
This proposal is designed for year 8 Core Studies. In this subject, students undertake a literature unit called “Book Club”. This unit has traditionally required students to read five novels and complete a creative response task to each. After consultation with the team leader of Core Studies, it is proposed that one of the reading choices for this unit be a piece of eLiterature and one of the creative response choices be a digital story. As the Teacher-Librarian, I will provide a reading list of eLiterature options available through the iCentre that students can choose from. I will also create a digital story as an example for students. This digital story will be in the form of a fan fiction response to The fault in our stars by John Green and will consist of Instagram posts from Hazel Grace Lancaster, the protagonist of this story and a connected website containing author notes. It is a conscious decision to make the reader aware that the Instagram posts are a fan fiction response because fandom is a theme presented in the novel and because John Green himself has commented on fanfiction, social media and the relationship that exists between an author and reader.
Proposed digital tools and/or spaces to be used
After surveying the Year 8 students, I have chosen to use Instagram as the platform for my digital story as this seems the most popular choice of social media in our school context. This Instagram account will be supported by an ‘Author notes’ website that includes a forum page for interactivity. The purpose of this website is to experiment with creating a story, like those described by Alexander (2011, p.228) that requires a reader to negotiate across multiple platforms such as hyperlinking, media embedding and browser tabs. I have also chosen to make my story a spin-off from The fault in our stars by John Green as most students in this year level have read the story or seen the film and will have prior knowledge or familiarity with the character of Hazel Grace Lancaster. This project would fit within the Literature strand of the Australian Curriculum (Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, 2013) and provide opportunities for students to:
Beyond the Trailer (Director). (2014, June 5). The Fault in Our Stars interview 2014 : John Green, Hank Green, Wyck Godfrey [Video file]. Retrieved September 22, 2015, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gt-e7Nwj3Bk
Felvégi, E., & Matthew, K. I. (2012). eBooks and Literacy in K–12 Schools. Computers In The Schools, 29(1/2), 40-52. doi:10.1080/07380569.2012.651421
Rettberg, J.W. (2012). Electronic literature seen from a distance: the beginnings of a field. Retrieved from http://www.dichtung-digital.de/journal/archiv/?postID=278
Robinson, M. (2001). Standing on the faultline: The value of literature in the new millennium. In Books up front: Investigating the value of literature [ed. S. La Marca] (pp. 1-10). Carlton, Victoria: School Library Association of Victoria.
An important question for those interested in literature is: Has storytelling changed since the birth of electronic media? To answer this question, it is important to define what we mean by story and digital storytelling. When considering the definition of story, Alexander deduces that “for a given audience, a story is a sequence of content, anchored on a problem, which engages that audience with emotion and meaning” (2011, p.13). He also maintains that digital storytelling is simply telling stories with digital technologies (2011, p.3). Yet, after exploring a range of digital storytelling, I wonder about the simplicity of his definitions and have questions about the impact of digital technologies on the nature of story. These questions include:
Is the digital construction and delivery of the story the only thing that distinguishes digital storytelling from other forms of storytelling?
How does storytelling in a digital environment impact the production and consumption of stories?
How does storytelling in a digital environment impact the relationship between author and reader/audience?
How does storytelling in a digital environment impact the structure of a story?
When seeking answers to these questions, a number of interesting points are noteworthy:
“creating stories in a world of ubiquitous computing may no longer rely on the Romantic model of a single creator” (Alexander, 2011, p.227).
An example of multiple authors is a Twitter story featuring multiple characters, each with a separate author (Alexander, 2011, p.228).
It is possible to tell a digital story across multiple platforms, moving through hyperlinking, media embedding, browser tabs etc. (Alexander, 2011, p.228).
Interactive fiction requires repeated textual input in order for the text to progress (Ciccoricco, 2012, p.475).
The ability of digital fiction to combine multiple modes of text, image, sound and video into one surface create “mixed media” art and this “necessitates an enlargement of what we think of as literary and indeed, our conception of literacy itself” (Ciccoricco, 2012, p.476).
In digital story telling, an author can have a real time relationship with an audience and construct a character and then let the audience be part of the journey where that character goes (Fora, 2009, 24min10sec).
Digital storytelling can empower fan communities and allow fans to move the story from something that is passive to something an audience can interact with, shape and run with on their own (For a, 2009, 25min01sec).
We are starting to build new structures on the internet and these are the new formats of storytelling (Fitzgerald, 2013, 2min19sec).
Digital story telling offers a quick feedback system that has no mediator between the author and the audience – the author connects with the audience directly (Fitzgerald, 2013, 3min15sec).
In traditional stories, the reader controls how fast they move through a text but in some digital storytelling, for example Twitter stories, if the audience is experiencing the story live, they have no control over when it is broadcast and this can create suspense (Fitzgerald, 2013, 5min05sec).
Digital storytelling can engage with the real world (Fitzgerald, 2013, 7min45sec).
A digital story may not have a narrative conclusion (Fitzgerald, 2013, 8min50sec).
The lines between fact and fiction can become blurred in digital stories (Fitzgerald, 2013, 11min18sec0).
Alexander, B. (2011). Storytelling: A tale of two generations, Chapter 1. In The new digital storytelling: Creating narratives with new media. ABC-CLIO.Retrieved from http://CSUAU.eblib.com/patron/FullRecord.aspx?p=678297
Ciccoricco, D. (2012). Digital fiction: networked narratives (Ch. 34). In J. Bray, A. Gibbons, & B. McHale (Ed.), The Routledge companion to experimental literature (pp. 469-482). London: Routledge.
When considering how to shape digital citizenship development among students, the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) considers it paramount for teachers to possess the skills and behaviours necessary for participation in the digital age and to model these for students (2008). It is argued that understanding both digital competencies and new ways of learning in order to model digital citizenship become possible when educators take on the responsibility of developing a Personal Learning Network (PLN) (Richardson & Mancabelli, 2011, p.10).
Sometimes, the idea of beginning a PLN may sound daunting for teachers. The following two-part guide aims to introduce the basics of building a PLN specifically for educators, including the terminology, tools, and methods necessary to get started.
Richardson, W., & Mancabelli, R. (2011). The power of networked learning. In Personal Learning Networks: Using the power of connections to transform education (pp. 1-14). Moorabbin, Cictoria: Solution Tree Press.
The Students I work with live digital lifestyles. They attend a BYOT school that requires them to own a laptop. Additionally, the majority of them also own personal mobile device such as a phone or tablet. Some of them also have wearable computers such a smart watches and fitbits. They use social media and belong to online communities. They are often texting, downloading, updating and searching and they are always looking for Wi-Fi and chargers. Come to think of it, this same lifestyle is lived by their teachers, parents, grandparents, coaches and employers. It’s just the way life is for many in modern society.
Public roles as media makers & community participants
Modern society requires people to take on “increasingly public roles as media makers and community participants” (Jenkins, Clinton, Purushotma, Robison, & Weigel, 2006, p.3). Preparing students for the modern workplace and academia requires adding non-traditional skills, knowledge and cultural competencies to our curriculums. To be best prepared for their futures, students will need to:
understand right behaviours and build the practical skills required to use technology in healthy, responsible and safe ways;
be able to learn from and build knowledge with peers and teams of people, often whom they may never meet face-to-face;
value intellectual property in order to use the work of others legally and ethically and also to license their own work appropriately;
be critical users of information so that they choose authoritative sources and are aware of the ways that media shape perceptions of the world; and
understand how to contribute to the collective in order to develop meaningful solutions.
Digital citizenship education
In Australia, the Digital Education Revolution saw laptops put into the hands of students. As this initiative has reached its conclusion, schools across the country are implementing BYOD policies (Smith, 2014, Para.2). Given this, it is time for education to shift the focus from the equitable provision of digital access to the equitable provision of opportunities to use technology to develop the social, academic and cultural literacies required for digital participation. Furthermore, teachers who simply use devices as electronic notepads or textbooks will fail to provide opportunities for students to build digital citizenship competencies and attitudes such as those outlined by Mike Ribble (2011, p.11):
Digital learning environments
Authentic digital citizenship education requires digital learning environments. By enabling students to communicate, create, collaborate, disseminate, store and manage information in these environments digital citizenship knowledge and skills are not a choice for students and teachers to adopt, they are a necessity. Schools that are preparing young people for 21st century pathways understand the need for such environments and their responsibility to “develop the skills needed for critical evaluation, online collaboration and communication and behaviours which support safe, responsible and ethical use of digital technology” (Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, 2010, p.8).
What does this mean for my students?
That brings me back to my students and what I need to consider for their learning. One of the things that I think is important for authentic digital citizenship education is for students to engage in environments beyond the Content Management System (CMS). This means we need to use Web 2.0 tools and social media in our classrooms. By doing so, we can lead our students towards positive digital footprints. Furthermore, if we don’t guide students to participate in authentic online environments and communities, we risk the proliferation of ignorance about the consequences and permanence of their online interactions.
Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A. J., & Weigel, M. (2006). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century [White paper]. Retrieved from MacArthur Foundation websitehttp://digitallearning.macfound.org/atf/cf/%7B7E45C7E0-A3E0-4B89-AC9C-E807E1B0AE4E%7D/JENKINS_WHITE_PAPER.PDF.
Ribble, M. (2011). Digital Citizenship in Schools : Nine Elements All Students Should Know (2nd Edition). Eugene, OR, USA: ISTE. Retrieved from http://www.ebrary.com
Smith, A. (2014, February 21). End of free laptop program means it’s BYO device now for many high school students. The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved March 14, 2015.
The course work for Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506) has provided opportunities to participate in social media environments and examine literature on this topic. These experiential and academic exercises aimed to broaden students’ understanding of the concept, theory and practice of social networking technologies for education and public organisations. An examination of three blog posts created during the course, RSS feeds for school libraries, ASU Libraries: do they achieve the 4C’s of social media? and Reasons why school libraries should be using social media, highlights an expanding knowledge of social networks, Library 2.0, information services and library management in digital and networked environments.
Understanding social networking technologies
Understanding social networking technologies and their use in the professional setting, first involves learning how to use social media tools. Some of the tools investigated and evidenced in the blog posts include Twitter, Facebook, blogs, YouTube, RSS and Google+. In addition to this, the goal of using new tools should be to improve patron services rather than provide an excuse for implementing cool technologies (Farkas, 2008, para. 1). As such, it is essential that library professionals comprehend what different tools may offer patrons and any issues and processes that need to be considered when adopting these (Dellit & Schnindler, 2012, P.3). Schrier states it is also essential that librarians’ usage of these tools is focused on developing a rapport with users, broadening an awareness of the collections and establishing the librarian as an easily accessible source of authoritative information or they will achieve the opposite of the desired outcome and result in disconnecting rather than connecting the library (2011, para. 21). An examination of RSS feeds for school libraries will provide one example of these understandings.
Understanding Library 2.0
A key learning in INF506 has been that social media use by libraries is about transforming them into the participatory services that characterise the Library 2.0 movement. The blog post, ASU Libraries: do they achieve the 4C’s of social media?, evaluates one library’s attempts to adopt a Library 2.0 model. Integral to such a model is customer driven service in which feedback is an essential component (Casey & Savastinuk, 2010). The blog post examines how ASU Libraries do this through an online suggestion box. Meredith Farkas states that Library 2.0 is a difficult concept to grasp and whereas libraries have always sought to meet user needs and garner feedback to that end, in a 2.0 model, they also need to: embrace a position of radical trust and give users a role in the library; get rid of the culture of perfect and adopt constant iterative processes; keep up with new technologies; and look outside the library world for inspiration By embracing these values, it is believed, libraries will move towards a greater culture of assessment and learning (2008, para. 8). The analysis presented in the blog post concludes that the ASU libraries had embraced some of these values but could improve further by incorporating the fourth principle of Library 2.0, that is, content creation by methods such as publishing user reviews and inviting patrons to participate in tagging resources.
Delivering information services via social media
An examination of all three blog posts, will demonstrate that the course work in INF506 required participants to investigate how social media can be used to deliver information services. The blog posts document that one of the common ways libraries have employed social media tools is to promote their collections, events and services. According to Schrier, the power of social media for libraries lies in the use of these tools to communicate with users. The danger, he warns, is that libraries will use social media only as a means of promoting content rather than establishing trusted relationships with users (2007, para.5). Other usages for social media in the delivery of information services include: providing reference help to patrons; obtaining feedback; providing opportunities for patrons to participate in online communities; and crowd sourcing in which users contribute to the work of an organisation (Dellit & Schnindler, 2008, P.2). Examples of these usages are also found within all three blog posts and in particular the post entitled Reasons why school libraries should be using social media, provides an infographic that illustrates how three libraries use social networking to support service provision. The role of involving users to value add to collections via crowd sourcing and content curation to find, aggregate, tag, rate, comment on and update information are among the interesting possibilities made available to libraries using social media.
Managing social media for an educational organisation
For school librarians, a key takeaway from INF506 is an understanding of how to develop and implement strategies and policies around the social, educational, ethical and technical management issues that exist when using social media. The blog post Reasons why school libraries should be using social media, explores the issues of why school libraries are sometimes tentative to adopt social media for information service. Following this, a number of examples of libraries using social media are provided and a case is made for the special role social media use can play in the education of young people. Digital citizenship education is among the opportunities afforded to students when school libraries engage social media in their service delivery (Valenza, 2009). It is important, however, that strategies for the use of these tools are clear so that the scope of use can be defined, budgets can be allocated, training can be provided and staff roles are adjusted to provide time for managing these communications. To this end, policies and guidelines should be developed as means of enabling and protecting both the educational organisation and the staff within (Society for new communication research. n.d.).
Students in Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506) were provided a variety of opportunities to explore social media use in both practical and academic learning experiences. These experiences will instruct future initiatives undertaken by students to use social media in their work places and to build Library 2.0 practices.
Part B: Reflective Statement
As a Teacher-Librarian, the use of social media to deliver information services has been a key focus of my practice over the past three years. In my first blog post for this subject, I wrote:
“By completing INF506, I hope to achieve the following goals for both my personal and professional use of social networking:
examine and interrogate the effectiveness of existing practices;
explore methods to improve the effectiveness of social networking; and
develop a set of good practice points and recommendations for future involvement in social networking”.
The course work for Social Networking for Information Professionals (INF506) has provided many opportunities in these areas and significantly broadened my thinking about future professional directions. For the purposes of this reflection, I would like to address these points firstly in reference to the use of social media for the school library I manage and secondly in reference to my personal use of social media for professional growth.
Interrogating the effectiveness of existing practices has certainly been an outcome of completing Social Networking for Information Professionals. One of the opportunities afforded through the course was to complete a case study based on the practical application of a social networking site or environment. I chose to interrogate our library use of social media to investigate how well we are satisfying user needs in our community. The recommendations from this case study have already been passed on to the rest of the team for consideration and discussion about how we might better lead and manage future use of social media. One of the recommendations resulting from this case study was to move beyond using social media purely for promoting our services and collections. The team and I are now rethinking our strategies so that we can have more meaningful interactions with users via our social media channels such as offering reference services. It was also highlighted that we need to obtain feedback from our teachers and students for the ongoing evaluation and updating of services (Casey & Savatinuk, 2010, para.21).
Exploring methods to improve the effectiveness of our library’s social networking practices was a second goal of completing INF506. The blog post Embracing Library 2.0 reflects on some methods we can employ to improve the effectiveness of our existing services. Additionally, one of the readings for this subject was a case study of social media use by the National Library of Australia (Trove). This study presented a successful example of a library utilising crowd sourcing to facilitate participation and contribution to the collection as Trove do through the Flickr and the newspaper correction programs they operate (Dellit & Schnindler, 2012, p.2). This idea is particularly exciting to us because a survey together with a number of focus group discussions we conducted suggest teachers and students at our school want a direct say in what information they need or find useful. Resultantly, we have begun our first attempts at crowd sourcing by setting up group boards in Pinterest and inviting teachers to contribute to these. Further methods for improving our use of social media were also explored during the online journal (OLJ) tasks during which the Arizona State University Libraries and the New York Public Library presented examples of effective practices in action such as the use of Youtube, Facebook and Twitter.
The course work for Social Networking for Information Professionals has also informed my personal use of social media for professional practice. Through participation in the subject, I used Facebook as a learning environment for the first time and this broadened my knowledge of the platform, including its functionality. It also gave me confidence to extend my personal use of Facebook to share ideas as opposed to simply posting and catching up on day-to-day events. The requirement to complete reflective blogging through online journal (OLJ) tasks has been a fruitful process for me. The opportunity to step back and think critically about the motivations and patterns of my PLN as per blog post PLNs – is there ever too much of a good thing?, brought an awareness of my habits of engagement in my PLN and the need to seek balance.
Furthermore, as a teacher-librarian and curriculum leader, one of my responsibilities as set out in my role description is, “promoting the positive interaction of individuals in online environments through digital citizenship” (Mt Alvernia College, Staff Handbook, 2014). Being a student of INF506, has required digital citizenship in many forms and is a good example of positive interaction in online environments. Such interactions took place through sharing resources on Twitter and Facebook, and posting, reading and commenting on blogs. The blog post, What are the right questions for digital literacy?, reflects on how I can subsequently assist students to learn in social media environments.
As the subject draws to a close, the challenges and opportunities afforded have been many and have already started to impact my working life. My goal is to transfer these understandings to library and classroom practice to prepare students for futures in connected and participatory environments.
Using social media to enhance service provision can be a difficult prospect for school libraries because there are often a number of hurdles in the way. These hurdles may include:
Fear of the misuse and abuse of these technologies – schools have a responsibility to keep students safe and often the fear of students accessing inappropriate information online, unsafe behaviours and cyber bullying results in schools developing policies that restrict technologies and social media use.
Fear of academic distraction – keeping classroom disruptions to a minimum is a key goal of teachers and possible interruptions caused by phones, devices, texting and social media is a significant issue that schools need to consider.
Giving away intellectual property – schools &/or education systems own the copyright on all resources produced for their context. Some administrators have difficulty in adopting an open source model and may restrict online sharing and collaboration.
It’s all too hard – there may be a lack of knowledge, experience and understanding of how to use social media for library services and taking that first step seems just too hard for some.
These hurdles suggest there are many reasons why school libraries are not on social media. Nevertheless, there are many examples of libraries, in and out of the school sector, using social media to successfully enhance their services. Three examples of these are presented in the following infographic:
These examples demonstrate how libraries can use social media. If Teacher-Librarians are going to be persuaded into the social media landscape, however, they will need to be convinced why it is a good idea. Here are some good reasons why school libraries should use social media:
Social media can provide online channels for broadcasting library content and drawing attention to the collection material. The National library of Australia believe that these media also provide high-value word-of-mouth marketing and are a successful method of reputation management and brand strengthening (Dellit & Schindeler, 2012, p.3)
Through social media, libraries can interact with users and provide opportunities for them to join groups and share ideas and information. When discussing why she blogs, Terri Bennett, a public library director from New York says that blogs “have the power to break down the institutional wall between libraries and their community members” (in Brookover, 2007, p.28). Furthermore, social media can provide opportunities for libraries to respond to feedback, both positive and negative, and to engage in conversation with patrons and better understand their needs (Burkhardt, 2009, para.3 & 5).
Digital Citizenship education – Teacher-Librarians are in a great position to be leaders of digital citizenship practices in their schools and teaching social media can be one method of enacting this. Joyce Valenza believes that using social media for learning will open students to:
respect for and creative use of intellectual property;
operating search tools so they work harder for them – receiving pushed information through feeds and widgets;
understanding their digital footprint;
building their own Professional Learning Networks (PLNs);
connecting with authors and experts;
communicating research; and
valuing intellectual freedom (2009).
Crowd sourcing involves individuals contributing to the collective to create a product that is far greater that the sum of individual achievements (Thomas & Seely Brown, 2011, olc.767). Wikipedia is a great example of this. Trove, an online library service of the National Library of Australia, is a world leader in crowd sourcing. They believe libraries can use crowd sourcing to facilitate participation and contribution to the work of an organisation, advocating this enriches their collections in ways previously not possible (Dellit & Schindeler, 2012, p2).
For school libraries contemplating going down the path of using social media, there are some important considerations that need to be kept in mind, including:
Strategies – a social media strategy is important as it articulates what individual libraries wish to gain from using social media. This will then inform the tools chosen, the types of conversations that will take place and the time and energy invested in these communications.
Policies – having guidelines for social media use is particularly important in the school setting where the age of students, institutional values and parental concerns necessitate consideration. Sharlyn Lauby’s blog post, 10 Must-Haves for Your Social Media Policy, contains good advice for those considering a social media policy. If libraries are contemplating patron/student-generated content through crowd sourcing, this also necessitates the establishment a clear set of guidelines. The New York Public Library’s Policy on patron-generated web content is an excellent example of such policies.
Licensing – when publishing to social media, school libraries need to adhere to the ethical use of the creative materials they share and attribute sources appropriately. This can be a legal issue as well as role modelling good practices for students. Teacher-Librarians should also consider having a discussion with their school principal about licensing the work they publish and participating in a creative commons culture of sharing information with the view that access to information has always been a core value of libraries.
Staff roles – good social media communications take time. When libraries are sure their reasons for using social media mirror their core values, staff roles need to be redefined in order to allocate time in the working day for staff to learn these technologies and then engage in these environments on behalf of the library.
Risk & trust – mistakes can be made and when these are online the potential audience is always large. Letting go of the culture of perfect and trusting users to play a role in library services are essential to the successful use of social media which at it’s core must be about understanding, connecting with and involving users (Farkas, 2008, para.16).
Brookover, S. (2007). Why we blog. Library Journal, 132(19), 28.
2015 is the ten-year anniversary of the Library 2.0 movement (Wallace, O’Connell & Hsang Lui, 2015, para. 1). Since its inception, libraries have been trying to transform the way they serve and interact with customers (Casey & Savatinik, 2010, para. 2). This service model is participatory and based on the underlying principals of Web 2.0 including collaboration, conversation, community, content creation and crowd sourcing. In Building Academic Library 2.0, a presentation for a symposium sponsored by the Librarians Association of the University of California, Berkeley Division in 2007, suggestions were put forward about how to embrace the Library 2.0 ethos. In his opening remarks, Shel Waggener, states that today’s library should endeavour to know what people need and plan for it. He goes on to specify that forming partnerships is essential to this understanding. Following these opening remarks, the keynote speaker, Meredith Farkas agrees that Library 2.0 is essentially about meeting user needs. She also says that libraries need to: embrace a position of radical trust; get rid of the culture of perfect and adopt constant iterative processes; keep up with new technologies; and look outside the library for information and inspiration.
At the Mt Alvernia iCentre, we are four years into our journey of embracing Library 2.0 services and have identified a need to enter into a phase of reviewing and reconsidering of our virtual spaces for learning. This blog post will consider how our change process might be informed by the insights presented at the Berkeley symposium.
Meeting user needs
The first phase of our journey was about moving into digital environments to complement our physical collections, services and spaces. This was driven by the changing information landscape and the College’s strategic directions to embed technology into classroom pedagogies. In order to do this, we engaged in creating a website, building digital resource collections and joining social media networks. This period involved a lot of experimentation, learning, and advocacy. Through reflection, research and feedback, we have identified that some of our work has been successful and yet there is room for improvement in meeting user needs. When asked if his class used the library website, one teacher responded with “why should we, what is in it for us?” This is a very important point – we need to make conversations with teachers, students and parents our priority, to listen carefully to what they need, and to use our expertise to meet these needs. Throughout this, we must ensure we communicate our intentions clearly and keep our processes transparent.
Embracing a position of radical trust
Not only should we be meeting the needs of our users, but also think about ways of giving users the opportunity to be participants in our iCentre services, spaces and collections. While we have been very busy curating resources in Pinterest, pushing great ideas to our followers on Twitter and building a beautiful website, this has more often than not, followed a more traditional library model of “us on behalf of them” rather than the “us with them” philosophy of Library 2.0. In order to shift more in the direction of involving users as co-creators, we need to embrace a position of radical trust much like that evidenced in the crowd sourcing processes used by Wikipedia and the Ushahidi website which are powerful examples of collectives in action. Thomas and Seely Brown maintain this is important in the digital age in which participation now “shapes and augments the stream of information” (2011, loc. 596). In digital collectives, the contributions of people, skills and talents lead to results greater than the sum of individual achievements (2011, loc. 767). As we move forward, we are thinking about ways that we can embed user comments, tags and ratings to feed user-created content back into our website as suggested by Casey & Savastinuk to create a more informative product for subsequent users (2010, para. 11). In the iCentre, we are taking a first step in this direction by involving our teachers in our efforts to curate resources in Pinterest and their expert knowledge of the curriculum and students, we hope, will build an even stronger collection. Our hope is that it will also provide a sense of ownership in the collection and make it more useful and more widely used.
Getting rid of the culture of perfect and adopting constant iterative processes
This is something that we value highly in the iCentre. We position ourselves as learners and view our endeavours to date as only the beginning of an ever-changing process. We value ongoing assessment and need to continue thinking about methods of embedding feedback to inform our services.
Keeping up with new technologies
Learning is a key value in the iCentre and we believe every member of the community is a learner. As a staff, we endeavour to enact this value. Each member of our professional team that consists of two Teacher-Librarians and three Library Technicians is engaged in formal study. Each member of the team is also committed to building a Professional Learning Network (PLN) through connections made in person and online. Through these avenues, we are constantly discovering and sharing new technologies and thinking about ways that these might benefit the students we work with.
Looking outside the library for information and inspiration
Louise Starkey maintains the impact of connected environments is widespread and is changing the nature of knowledge. Her research suggests that, “ideas about ‘knowledge’ appear to be changing from something that is found in the heads of individuals or in books to something that is not fixed, is debatable, accessible through a range of media and created through networks, connections and collaboration” (2011, p. 22). Given this, it is important that we consider ways of providing our users with the tools and skills that will connect them to ideas beyond the library and empower them to form their own networks. For this reason, we believe it is important to keep investing in a website that offers avenues for these connections rather than restricting students’ library experience to the OPAC.
As we move forward in our journey to develop Library 2.0 services, a key focus must be on involving our community of users every step of the way. We need to listen carefully to their needs when planning, we need to involve them as co-creators of information and we need to do this by embracing a position of radical trust. At the same time, we need to continue our practice of positioning ourselves as learners in order to adopt constant iterative processes, keep up with new technologies, and look beyond the library for inspiration.
The Library 2.0 movement is all about transforming libraries into participatory services based on the underlying principles of Web 2.0. These principles include collaboration, conversation, community and content creation (CSU, 2015, para. 2). The Arizona State University (ASU) Libraries are an example of how one organisation is attempting to put these services into action using tools such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook and online forms.
The Library 2.0 model is a customer driven service and as such, feedback is an essential component (Casey & Savastinuk, 2010). Investigating the ASU Libraries services reveals much evidence of engagement with users. Most particularly, the online suggestions box encourages input from users and the responses provided by the libraries clearly demonstrate they value this input and adjust services in response where possible and applicable. The libraries response in these forums is important and Schrier tells us that in order to build trust with customers, libraries must answer people’s questions out of a desire to help rather than a desire to promote the library (Schrier, 2011). In this respect, the example below, of the ASU’s online suggestion box, demonstrates the libraries use of collaboration and communication to receive feedback, to answer questions helpfully and to provide customer driven offerings.
Submitted: January 20, 2015 Regarding: Online Catalog
Comment/Suggestion: When viewing the list of checked out books, it would be really nice to have a way to export the list to a bibliography tool, such as BibTeX.
Library Response: Thank you for the suggestion. While the ASU Libraries does not support BibTeX, we were able to create a button to export checked out items to RefWorks, which is a web-based bibliography database manager that allows you to collect, organize and manage a personal database of book and article citations. You will now see this button in your library account when you are viewing checked-out items.
We hope this improves your research experience at ASU Libraries.
A second example of the ASU Libraries incorporating the Library 2.0 model is their connection to community. The ASU Facebook page and Twitter contains a number of example of valuing community above collections, including providing charging stations for users and rewarding feedback in the form of prizes for completing surveys.
Meeting user information needs and communicating the usefulness of the collection to users is an essential role of libraries. Miller states that this communication must reach the user “where they happen to be, and in association with the task they happen to be undertaking” (2005, para. 18). The ASU Libraries Youtube channel – The Library Minute is a very good example of a library performing this role.
Despite searching the ASU Libraries website, I could not find any examples of the fourth principle of Library 2.0, that is, content creation. A more thorough investigation into the catalogue and twitter feed might provide some examples of this but there are no obvious user reviews, invitations to participate in tagging resources or user generated content on the site.