Reflecting on INF506

Assessment 3 Part 2: REFLECTIVE STATEMENT

image by geralt, downloaded from pixabay

image by geralt, downloaded from pixabay

Let me start this reflection with a very honest disclosure: I chose INF506 as the 6th module in my MEd studies because I was looking for a potentially “easy” module at an extremely busy time, both personally and professionally. After all, I have had an (evolving) presence on Facebook for the last 12 years, have been tweeting (sparsely) since 2012, have been blogging (first reluctantly and now enthusiastically) since the start of my studies in 2017, am presenting myself (admittedly half-heartedly) on LinkedIn, had my (dormant) Instagram account hacked, etc. etc. “I know about social media, I thought. To be fair to myself, I at least I had a specific goal, as I wrote in my first blogpost, namely to explore development of a social media presence for our school library (Wocke, 2019c). What I did NOT anticipate, however, was for this subject to fundamentally and conceptually bring together so much of what I have already learnt during the past two years. It is as if the penny finally dropped, let me explain…

SOCIAL NETWORK THEORY

I used to see social networking as the use of Internet-based social media platforms to connect with people with whom I have something in common (Nations, 2019a). On these platforms I not only connect, but create and publish digital content, share and disseminate information and collaborate in groups. This was my understanding before INF506, as I used Facebook to connect with other teacher librarians through Facebook groups. During research for the charity project, however, I learnt that social network theory emphasises the fact that the links (ties) between members of social networks are of greater importance than the attributes of the members (nodes) of the network. This social capital is the integral value derived from the relationships among members of a social network and is gained through the strong ties AND the weak ties in the network (Wade, 2014; Utz & Muscanell, 2015, p. 421). This concept was clearly illustrated to me through the INF506 201930 Facebook group: In a comment to my post, a member of our cohort – not known to me and therefor a weak tie – introduced me to inTLlead.org, a grassroots leadership network of international school teacher librarians, which has now become an important part of my personal learning network – therefor a strong tie. This insight has positively changed my view of an extended presence on a platform such as LinkedIn, of the importance of forming and utilising weak ties AND of being a weak tie in someone else’s network. It is vital for individuals and organisations to cultivate and maintain accurate online identities and networks to be successful participants in the connected Information Society. Similarly, my perception of “knowledge creation and “learning” in the Digital Era has also undergone significant conceptual changes during my INF506 studies.

SITUATED LEARNING, KNOWLEDGE CREATION AND SOCIAL NETWORKING

Brown (2000) predicted the development of a social, online learning ecology comprising of a vast number of authors, virtual communities of interest groups, that can develop into a “powerful fabric for learning” (p. 19). He further described learning in situ, or situated learning, where learning happens socially, through participation and collective knowledge creation and the WWW becomes “not only an informational and social source but a learning medium” (p. 14). This incredibly powerful insight from 2000 already, is illustrated in Siemens’s anecdote (see below), where he explains that through his early attempts at blogging that he first realised that learning is a network forming process; that the social systems and technology systems that are part of human knowledge have become part of our capacity to know (USC: Learning and Teaching, 2014). His partner in formulating Connectivism as learning theory, Downes, states that knowledge consists of the network of connections formed from experience and interactions with a knowing community (Downes, 2010). Wow. It is during my INF506 studies that all these theories started to make sense. We ALL learn in the social networked environment. Learning – as an action – is changing, becoming increasingly less isolated and more social as a result of our participation in social networks. This is incredibly important for us as educators to keep in mind. The distinction between formal and informal learning is disappearing in this connected environment and MOOCs provide affordable and flexible ways to learn collaboratively in a social networking environment (MOOC, n.d.). Our students learn as much from watching YouTube videos as they do from being in our classes. Learning can increasingly happen on-demand and is more self-directed, because of the ubiquitous nature of information technology. Ohler (2010), explains that this ubiquity has changed our relationship with time and space and created an infrastructure that surrounds us in a continuous, “familiar stream of experience” (p. 78), that we find difficult to unplug from (p. 85). This technology is now so embedded in our environment that it is becoming invisible to us (p. 91).

Social networking is not a passing fad of personal egocentric feeds on Facebook and Instagram, it is a very fundamental part of how we now find information and learn. Conole (2011) argues that to make effective use of the affordances of open, social and participatory media and the networked information environment of the WWW, learners and teachers need the necessary digital skills, guidance and support (p. 305). As teacher librarian in the library of a secondary school, I see this support, as well as leadership in terms of information seeking and knowledge creation, as part of my responsibility and mission. We have easy and free access to Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs and wikis, but because of issues surrounding data and identity security and safety we need to create and choose safe environments for our students in which to develop the necessary digital skills needed to harness the stream of new technologies that keep appearing and create their digital identities (pp. 306-307).  Teacher librarians need to take a leading role in educating students and teachers about intellectual property, academic honesty, copyright and creative commons licenses, as teacher librarians we also need to ensure that our school libraries, its resources and services facilitate collaborative and creative learning. Hirsch’s (2013) advice (which I have blogged about here): to create physical and virtual environments that foster and encourage learning, mentoring, collaborating, creativity and knowledge creating (p. 7); that facilitate and support the use of new technologies (p. 13); that seek ways to reach out and deliver service into the community (p. 8), will support learning in the connected environment.

AN OPEN APPROACH TO ACADEMIC DISCOURSE
The changes in academic discourse is the last fundamental insight that I would like to reflect on, because it is important for me as a student, social networker and information professional, but also for our teachers, as life-long learners, and our students who are preparing for further academic study. The new open, social and participatory media clearly have potential to radically transform teaching and learning, where “open” refers to the practice of sharing content as a default (Conole, 2011, p. 205). Social networking facilitates many ways to connect, communicate, collaborate and learn with and from an “open” network of peers, teachers, mentors and resources. Digital scholarship is emerging as an increasingly important way for academics to disseminate their teaching, learning and research (p. 307).  The social networking environment enables this to happen in an “open” way. As librarians we need to advocate for and educate about the virtues and vices of important initiatives such as the Open Access Movement and Open Educational Resources (Eisen, 2105; Beall, 2015; “Open Access,” n.d.; “Open Educational,” n.d.).

OTHER STUFF I DID AND DIDN’T LEARN
Having listed my main conceptual and theoretical insights from this module does not really leave me room to reflect on practical learning. My personal practice with and evaluation of social media tools did not change much during these months. I did, however, learn a lot about how incredibly well charities use social media. I also learnt how important it is to choose social media platforms well, according to your audience and purpose, and to tailor content for the particular market and audience. I came across enterprise social networks for the first time and do NOT understand why we as a school “make do” with a one-way communication such as email, when Yammer & company is around.

I thought that through INF506 I would learn how to create an Instagram account for our school library. This sadly did not happen, in part due to the cancellation of the social media project, in part because my creation of a social media strategy for our school library did not entirely convince me of its purpose that (Wocke, 2019c). My gain as a social networker and information professional, in terms of a much stronger conceptual understanding of the information dissemination, knowledge creation and of learning in our social networking world makes up for this in spades.


REFERENCES

Beall, J. (2015, May/June). What the Open-Access Movement doesn’t want you to know. Academe. Retrieved from https://www.aaup.org/article/what-open-access-movement-doesn%E2%80%99t-want-you-know#.XPJGC9MzYdU

Brookes, M. (2016, August 15). Connectivism – A learning theory for the digital age [Video file]. Retrieved from https://youtu.be/vauFOd6XU_Q

Brown, J. S. (2000). Growing up digital: How the web changes work, education, and the ways people learn. Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, 32(2), 11-20. https://doi.org/10.1080/00091380009601719

Conole, G. (2011). Designing for learning in an open world. New York: Springer. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4419-8517-0

Downes, S. (2010). Learning Networks and Connective Knowledge. In H. H. Yang & S. C.-Y. Yuen (Eds.), Collective intelligence and e-learning 2.0: Implications of web-based communities and networking.

Eisen, M. (n.d.). Emerging Visions for Access in the Twenty-first Century Library: Vol. 119. The Open Access Movement in scholarly communication. Retrieved from Council on Library and Information Resources website: https://www.clir.org/pubs/reports/pub119/eisen/

Hirsh, S. (2013, October). The global transformation of libraries, LIS education, and LIS professionals. Paper presented at Library 2.013 Worldwide Virtual Conference, San Jose, CA, USA. Retrieved from https://rikkyo.repo.nii.ac.jp/index.php?action=pages_view_main&active_action=repository_action_common_download&item_id=16425&item_no=1&attribute_id=22&file_no=1&page_id=13&block_id=49

Kop, R., & Hill, A. (2008). Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past? The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 9(3), 1-13. Retrieved from http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/9.3.4

MOOC. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from http://mooc.org/

Nations, D. (2019, May 23). What is social networking? Retrieved May 31, 2019, from https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-social-networking-3486513

Ohler, J. (2010). Digital community, digital citizen. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Corwin Press. https://doi.org/10.4135/9781452219448

Open access movement. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from Science Direct website: https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/computer-science/open-access-movement

Open educational resources. (n.d.). Retrieved June 1, 2019, from UNESCO website: https://en.unesco.org/themes/building-knowledge-societies/oer

USC: Learning and Teaching. (2014, January 21). Overview of connectivism – Dr George Siemens [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yx5VHpaW8sQ

Utz, S., & Muscanell, N. (2015). Social media and social capital: Introduction to the special issue. Societies, (5), 420-424. https://doi.org/10.3390/soc5020420

Wade, M. (2014, December 4). Social network theory. Retrieved May 31, 2019, from Theories Used in IS Research Wiki website: https://is.theorizeit.org/wiki/Social_network_theory

Wocke, G. (2019a, May 14). How our school library can do social [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website: https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2019/05/14/how-our-school-library-can-social/

Wocke, G. (2019b, May 16). Is it a dinosaur, or is it a … library? [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website: https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2019/05/16/is-it-a-dinosaur-or-is-it-a-library/

Wocke, G. (2019c, February 27). Learning about social media [Blog post]. Retrieved from Gretha Reflecting website: https://thinkspace.csu.edu.au/grethaw/2019/02/27/learning-about-social-networking/