Twitter

#LILAC14 – behind the #hashtag

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Initial thoughts

I attended the Librarians’ Information Literacy Annual Conference (LILAC) last week (23rd – 25th April) at Sheffield Hallam University. The conference is an established, UK based conference, with an international programme and delegation. I facilitated two workshops: ‘What does digital literacy mean for information literacy practitioners? Business as usual or a disruptive force?‘ and ‘Canoodling with careers: cross-team working in information literacy‘ with my colleagues Maria Carnegie and Vanessa Vivian-Shaw. Both were well attended and generated a lot of interesting discussion. I will blog more on the outcomes of these sessions soon.

My hope for the conference was to learn about good practice in information and digital literacy from around the World, meet and network with other professionals and to discuss the world of IL. I certainly wasn’t disappointed – the conference provided ample opportunities for all three! I attended sessions which showcased all the innovative working going on. The topics covered were diverse, interesting and inspirational: collaboration with diverse teams, engaging students as advocates and partners in learning, teaching e-safety to students, using games and active learning in the classroom and contributing to Wikipedia.

Behind the #hashtag

I used Twitter throughout the conference for a range of purposes, as did many others, using the hashtag #LILAC14. The two tweets below are from @briankelly and @librarygirl79 . These tweets collect together some of the communication going on around the conference on Twitter. They have put together the collections using Storify:

Looking through the tweets using #LILAC14 and thinking about my own practice, it is fascinating to see all the different ways that people use Twitter at conferences. These appear to be the main ways in which it is used:

  • share and collect links, media and/or resources
  • network, collaborate and/or ‘meet’ other delegates
  • record notes, ideas, thoughts and actions
  • discuss, question and respond to sessions
  • feedback to presenters/panels and ask questions
  • read about other sessions and the viewpoints of others
  • watch presentations and other media
  • observe other sessions and conversations

Twitter – my favourite CPD tool!

The interactions can become quite complex, with people using the basic features of Twitter (such as hashtags and lists) to interact in diverse ways. Here’s a few examples:

  • @durtante created a Twitter list of those leading workshops he had attended. I received an update on Twitter to alert me to this. I followed @durtante and subscribed to the list. I went through the other members of the list and followed a few other people. I will now see their tweets and be able to learn from what they share.
  • collecting together archives of Tweets using Storify (see example above)
  • uploading and generating content on other platforms (eg. blogs, presentations, open access repositories, social networks, apps etc.) and using the hashtag. The hashtag then extends far beyond Twitter and arguably becomes the main way in which people discover shared content from the conference.
  • I spoke with @briankelly (in real life!) at the conference after attending one of his sessions. This led to me following Brian on Twitter. I looked through Brian’s LILAC tweets and saw the link to his blog post about using Storify at conferences. This led me to look at his Storify. Storify suggested @librarygirl79’s Storify as related content. I viewed librarygirl79’s Storify and then viewed her Twitter page. Saw that I already followed @librarygirl79 (Claire McCluskey). Realised that I sat on the same table as Claire at the Conference dinner!
  • I have used #LILAC14 in the title of this blog post so that when it is automatically shared onto Twitter and LinkedIn it will instantly become a part of the conversation. During the conference I used Evernote to type notes from the sessions. Over the coming days I will go through these notes, tidy them up and publish the folder they are stored in, ‘#LILAC14’, to the public version of Evernote. This will then also be shared to Twitter using, you guessed it, #LILAC14.

The way that social media usage before, during and after conferences has exploded in recent years has meant that a conference is now about much than going to a venue for 3 days. Social media content is now arguably a key part of any conference with much of the networking, sharing of information and media, and discussion of ideas happening online. Harnessing the power of Twitter in this way is obviously a very valuable way of learning and could be useful as a CPD tool. The question is, if you are not using Twitter before, during and after conferences what are you missing?

In the news #1: Trolls, abuse, threats and cyberbullying

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Stories have hit the UK headlines over the last couple of weeks which highlight the weaknesses of/lack of safety features within two popular social networks: Twitter and Ask.fm.

The first is the stories of how campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and classicist Mary Beard were sent threatening and abusive tweets on Twitter by ‘trolls‘. This has been followed by much debate as to whether social networks need to do more to protect their users, and what form this can take. One of the most popular calls has been for Twitter to implement a ‘report abuse button’ on every Tweet. This petition on the matter had over 130,000 supporters at the time of writing this post. However, the BBC’s Rory Cellan-Jones pointed out that Twitter will find it difficult to strike a balance between maintaining free speech on the site whilst implementing a ‘report abuse button’.

The second story is that of the tragic death of Hannah Smith, who committed suicide after becoming the victim of bullying and abuse on the social network Ask.fm. The suicides of four other UK and Irish teenagers have also been linked to bullying they received on social networks including Ask.fm. This, like the Twitter stories, has led to calls for abuse to be dealt with more effectively by social network organizations and has also led to a boycott of Ask.fm by some UK advertisers.

Ask.fm was not widely heard of before this case and with only 60 million users worldwide it is quite small when compared with other social networks. However, around 30 million of these users are under 18, so there is a good chance that your students will have heard of it and some might be using it. This article discusses 5 social networks teenagers are using in preference to Facebook in early 2013. It is worth reading this article and noting the common features of these sites and the differences they have from Facebook. Whilst we can ‘trend spot’, we need to ask whether we as teachers can know about, understand and educate about all the different social networks and platforms available. The answers is, of course, we can not. There are just too many social networks (see this constantly evolving list on Wikipedia of the most popular sites) in existence and like any other teenage trend, usage of them can go quickly in and out of fashion.

What we can do then is teach around the issues involved in these cases: Cyberbullying, abusive behaviour (on and off-line), and personal responsibility online.

My approach to a lesson/workshop/seminar for students in further or higher education would be to look at the issues around the area of online abuse and cyberbullying and create lesson activities to encourage debate. This allows for active learning which leads to factual understanding. The debate could be framed around issues of free speech and/or the legal and ethical issues involved. This could start and end with a whole class discussion and have, as an activity in the middle, group work involving scenarios, discussion points, statements or questions on cards given to the groups. The students could then work through the cards and produce a response, strategy or action plan which they could present back to the wider class.

Here is a selection of useful resources available for free online to help you to plan for teaching these complicated and sensitive issues. They are mainly written from a secondary (KS3 or KS4) perspective.

  • The TES website put together this article listing teaching resources around cyberbullying in 2011. The three videos on ‘Combating cyberbullying’ are particularly interesting.
  • Alexander Findlay posted this teaching resource to the TES Connect website. The idea for this KS2 and KS3 lesson is to explore what should be and should not be shared on a social network profile. Primarily based on a Facebook style social network, this could be adapted to allow for lively discussion in the classroom and could be used as part of a wider scheme of work to teach the differences and similarities between the real and the virtual world.
  • This resource from the USA provides an engaging practical activity which allows students to analyse material around cyberbullying and discuss the impact of it.

This article is the first in a series of ‘In the news’ articles. The aim is to highlight digital literacy issues in the headlines, identify the educational issues and suggest/link to teaching resources and ideas. Please feel free to comment below and provide more suggestions for teaching strategies and activities.