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Learning with social media: An information literacy driven and technologically mediated experience

DSCN0068

This was my second presentation for the 3rd. European Conference on Information Literacy (ECIL 2015), which took place during October 19-22 in Tallinn, Estonia. This second participation, presented on October 22 2015, was about the final stage of my PhD thesis, and it took place just a couple of days before the official defence. The full text of this presentation (as well as that of the other one) was published in Springer’s Communications in Computer and Information Science (see below).


Abstract: This paper summarizes the theories, methods, and results of a doctoral research that integrated social media (SM) in a learning experience for students and explored the roles that information literacy, digital literacy, and new literacies played in such a learning experience. Participatory action research was the methodological approach used for two rounds of data collection, resulting in the development of the research framework ‘Doing Online Relearning through Information Skills’ (DORIS). The data collection methods used included students’ reports, diagnostic, and final questionnaires; and semi-structured interviews. Data analysis relied on content analysis, open coding, and constant comparative analysis. This paper provides a summary of the discussion leading to the answers to the research questions, including topics such as issues and challenges of using SM for learning; participants learning experiences in such a technologically mediated environment, their engagement and the mutual shaping of SM, learning experiences, and literacies.

Full text at Springer Link

Open Access version (Coming soon!)

Recommended reference: Machin-Mastromatteo, J.D. (2015). Learning with social media: An information literacy driven and technologically mediated experience. Information Literacy: Moving Toward Sustainability; Communications in Computer and Information Science, 552, 328-335. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-28197-1_34

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Slidecasts to be (killed) Discontinued

Slideshare

After the turn of the year, on February 7, Slideshare announced through its blog that slidecasts are going to be discontinued. Slidecasts are presentations uploaded to Slideshare that are synched to a MP3 audio file. While it’s relatively easy to create a slidecast, it may be seen as a niche practice, as some preparation and technical expertise is needed to do it, let alone the fact that Slideshare must be a niche social media site. For example, I used to do the presentation either with Powerpoint or Keynote and then record and edit its corresponding audio with Audacity or Soundforge. Hence, I suppose that only a limited number of Slideshare users have actually created this type of resource.

However, any way I see this decision from Slideshare, I call it a mistake similar to that of Google with its Google Reader (RIP), when they attempted to destroy RSS and the blogosphere to favor a lesser service/technology such as Google+. Of course, this decision is theirs to make, as it’s their service and, like me, most users are likely to use a free account. Even so, I can’t help but think that users of social media sites should have some stake in these types of decisions. I think this particular action from Slideshare is wrong because:

  • Slidecasts have way more views than the presentations without audio: although my presentations have a quite low profile compared to those of other users, my normal  presentations use to have hundreds of views while my slidecasts have thousands of them. I believe that is that shows the impact this advanced function may have. I think while static presentations are decentlly viewed, the amount of views slidecasts get show that they were a powerful type of media, not offered by any other social media site. This takes me to my other argument why this is a mistake.
  • Slidecasts are (were) one of the best and unique Slideshare features, if not the most unique. I understand that by killing it they might be killing the service altogether.

For me the most unsettling part of Slideshare’s announcement is that they state they are going to focus their energy instead “on building new and innovative ways for our users to share presentations”. I don’t want to be skeptic about innovating in social media but I wonder, is that even possible from the point of view of Slideshare, or is this just a sad excuse? You can already share presentations with your other social sites and embed any presentation on any site with an html string.

Since February 28 you’re not able to create new slidecasts. You have until April 30 to download yours and not lose them. What options do we have to cover this absence? By now, I’m thinking of downloading the existing slidecasts I have and uploading them to YouTube and doing future ones using Camtasia or Captivate, although as you may be guessing after reading this post, I’m not very comfortable with the idea of giving more of my content to Google. In any case, I would recommend that you check out Slideshare blog and take a look at the post and the comments. Take a stand, if you liked slidecasts.

Participatory action research in the age of social media: Literacies, affinity spaces and learning

PAR NLW Machin

Past November I published in the journal New Library World my article titled ‘Participatory action research in the age of social media: Literacies, affinity spaces and learning’, today I’m pleased to offer everyone an open access version, courtesy of the publisher of the journal, which allows an author version to be published in a repository, so of course you may find it in E-LIS. You can find the journal article here as well.

This article is very important for me, as it is the first time I present officially the research framework from my PhD research ‘Doing Online Relearning through Information Skills’ (DORIS). This research framework is originally intended to study the roles of information literacy, digital literacy, and new literacies in technology mediated (specifically social media) education environments. The abstract of this article is as follows:

This article summarizes the developments, methodological design, and some of the theories framed within a PhD research about the integration of social media in higher education. Its aims are to determine significant issues, challenges and opportunities that emerge when social media are integrated into learning environments in higher education. ‘Doing Online Relearning through Information Skills’ (DORIS) is proposed as a research framework to address the aims, objectives, and research questions of this study. It was conceived from a Participatory Action Research perspective. This approach is intended to help discover and reflect upon teaching and learning practices in a technologically mediated educational setting. Furthermore, the concept of affinity spaces is discussed, together with its distinction from the concept of communities of practice. The data collection methods planned to conduct the study are: diagnostic questionnaire, blog, social learners’ input and reports, a second questionnaire, and semi-structured interviews. The theory of affinity spaces offers a powerful way of thinking about teaching and learning processes mediated by different technologies. The heuristics that will focus the data collection and analysis are: a) on the function of content, and b) on the function of participants’ interactions with the content and/or with one another. DORIS is proposed as a powerful way to organize learning interventions through the structure of information literacy skills. It is grounded on action research and on constructivist, blended, and problem based learning. Researchers, librarians or educators can adapt this model for teaching, learning and researching about and with social media or for other technologically mediated learning environments, or could be adapted for information literacy programs.

Machin-Mastromatteo, J. D. (2012). Participatory action research in the age of social media: Literacies, affinity spaces and learning. New Library World, 113(11), 571-585. http://dx.doi.org/10.1108/03074801211282939

DORIS at Library 2.012

I will be presenting my doctoral research on the (free) Worldwide Virtual Conference Library 2.012. The presentation name is “Doing Online Relearning through Information Skills (DORIS): Contributions for Information Literacy Programs”. This research in a nutshell is about the integration of social media into higher education and the discovery of the roles that information, digital and new literacies play in such integration. This presentation focuses on the contributions that my research can provide to information literacy programs. You may find information about my session and the schedule of the conference according to your timezone.

I offer you the slides, the link to the recording of my session, as well as the audio file. Cheers!

On a second half of a course in Gothenburg

This post is a sequel to On a first half of a course in Gothenburg

I came back from the second meeting in Gothenburg for the course on participatory media. It was very nice because I could take Doris with me this time, so she could see a piece of Sweden in person.

I’m really thankful to the University of Gothenburg and all academics associated with this particular course (and another one I took in 2010), as it was the fourth time I went to Sweden for academic affairs and swedes have really made me feel at home, enhancing my motivations to go on, sharing interesting ideas, and overall spending a good time as colleagues.

For this meeting I prepared a paper (which was a little messy) about the concepts of engagement and affinity spaces (James Paul Gee) within my own PhD research. An interesting fact is that I got to meet Etienne Wenger in a seminar in Tallinn University just before leaving for Gothenburg, it was nice to present to him an extremely short overview of my research, however, and perhaps most importantly is that I got his blessing to detach my research from the theory of community of practice and use affinity spaces instead. I mainly decided towards this course of action as Gee really makes good points into when it’s good to go for one or another.

The most promising direction to go with for this course paper, is to further develop this paper with the concept of affinity spaces, which I am doing now. I believe when I’m done I will look to publish it, but more on that later…

Next, I will just share some interesting and disorganized ideas I wrote down during this second meeting:

People lack concepts to describe social media practices, this is pretty evident if you do practice oriented or behavioral research with people on social media or other technological topics. I believe that nearly everything you do with technology tends to be under an automatic “pilot function” of our brains. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that we mostly learn by doing in our connected lifestyles. For example, tell me how do you search for further information for some piece of news you just saw on your social sites… there is no straightforward answer to that, and you might run into more obstacles with one topic than with another. Or for example, speak to me about how you decide to share something with one friend or another, and what is the best way you could do it. This statement relates to my research in some way, and there are two ways to do this research at a conceptual level regarding my interactions with the participants, I can either give no concepts at all and have them explain to the best of their knowledge what they are doing and what are their challenges, and then try to figure out of the data, where do every bit of their answers fit into a conceptual framework. The other direction, which is the one I would take, is to initiate participants to concepts, but not in the sense that they have to accept these concepts. Rather, to mediate them and reach a common understanding with them about the concepts. For example, we need to speak on similar terms about information literacy, digital literacy, and new literacies. I have to figure out where on the Cambridge Companion to Vygotsky is the quote: “concepts are tools to reflect and act”, as none can say it better.

Really funny statement: “KGB style VLEs, as they see data about everything” what can I say? It’s funny that I am meeting people who dislike VLEs (Virtual Learning Environments) aka LMSs (Learning Management Systems) just as me. And I finally found out an article which don’t speak highly of them. I love this quote so much in said article: they “attempt to render the online learning space familiar through a conservative dependence on predigital metaphors.” Apart from the fact that they are basically surveillance systems is the fact that their design is top down, usually made by IT guys who have little or a really huge imagination, often disconnected with any criteria of accessibility, usability, and/or information architecture. Too many clicks, clumsy, labels don’t make sense, all operations are overly redundant…

Another cool quote: “technology is there to suck the information out of us”, this is a very interesting statement about social networking technologies, because really, this technology is put into place to get information from you, everything is based on your real life profile (the use of the real life you is encouraged anyway). Interestingly, and within my research, where I have to discuss on one side the content I organized for the study and the interactions among participants, I find that the difference between content and interactions is very fuzzy when it comes to social media (and by extension a research on social media), you could almost say that one is another! Funny how we could see The Matrix metaphor on Facebook, where you are the product.

Web 2.0 is a technical concept/descriptor which refers more to the technological platform and the technical aspects of the net which makes it 2.0, and this term is less and less visible in the literature. Rather, we can use a wide variety of names, like social media and remix culture, participatory culture, which are more social oriented or content terms.

Remnants of the old media/old culture survive/clash with new media, I have said before – though I’m not sure if in the blog- that this is a very interesting time to live in because of these tensions, among other things of course. More than once we can take a look at how television is trying to be a social media or to emulate web-like devices. When, at the beginning, Youtube was somehow modeled after old media. We can see this tension also looking at the relevance of newspapers and newspaper-like old media in front of news blogs, and specially RSS, which can be tailored to suit any taste. Digital devices which, for many reasons, can be more effective/likeable ways to get your news. Also thinking about this, it’s very interesting as Rick Falkvinge points out the fact that young people “take sharing in the connected world so totally for granted, that they discard any signals to the contrary as ‘old-world nonsense'”

The issue that “educational research doesn’t get done because of the issue of informed consent.” This is a big challenge, of course I’m not saying that you should jump over ethical and privacy considerations. This challenge is present in any kind of research with people, and it’s funny how social science, information science or educational research doesn’t involve any blood sampling or anything, but anyway it’s difficult to get volunteers for it. I know it very well, as some differences of opinion and organizational policies proved catastrophical for my research and delayed it for some months. And it’s something that some of the literature on action research on education talks about: the difficulty to do traditional research from education, the design of research, consent from the participants, to do it without compromising your time as a teacher, the difficulty of documenting it, and let’s not talk about how badly some circles view action research. However, it’s a shame if research in education can’t be done easily, as academia needs to be researched on and renewed. An action research perspective is extremely important, as critical practice leads to understand power and oppression. Perhaps (and I have faith in this) by really telling students what and why you are researching, you will get some students to participate in your studies sooner or later.

If there is informal learning, then there is informal teaching! This was an interesting discussion within the course. If you could learn informally, say, reading Wikipedia articles, then, I believe that for example people guiding others in forums or teaching how to play guitar on Youtube are informal teachers. They are not necessarily doing this while attached to their regular duties within an organization, they are mostly doing this for free, because they like to (or just ’cause). The motivations of these kinds of users might be a very interesting topic to research.

Two distinct narratives regarding the nature of social media, one as a real communication media (different than one way media like TV or Radio), really connecting people, with an emancipatory potential, enhancing and encouraging collaboration and sharing; the other a dark one, being a covert instrument of control and surveillance. Funny though, these two narratives are not mutually exclusive. We can see that, either in eastern and the western countries, governments have been enforcing control (or censorship) over the Internet, over different things, and for many different reasons (Falkvinge summarizes this last point wonderfully) BUT, governments tend to be not as tech proficient as people, and their protection from harm can have serious privacy and ethical implications. Which takes me to the next point.

V for Vendetta, I can’t take it off of my mind when dealing with this topics of control and surveillance, this comic book is perhaps as important for these times as 1984 has been for more than 50 years. Even if V is pre-social media, it’s a great textbook for this age of social media, activism, whistleblowing, Pirate Parties, and the awakening of the people in general.

This got a little too long, what do you think?

On a first half of a course in Gothenburg

I’m participating in this course about participatory media which brought me for its first half again to the nice city of Gothenburg (Sweden).

It has been very interesting for me to find out that most of my colleagues have a Library and Information Science background and that so many of them are researching the use of social media for educational purposes. I have myself seen this trend to increase in all the international courses and workshops I have attended in the recent years. I think the most important questions posed on this matter within these days are:

  • Why are you doing it?
  • Why does it matter?
  • Which tools are you going to use and why?
  • Philosophical/Epistemological/Theoretical background is extremely complex
  • Of course, you mustn’t ignore that technology is but a tool and does not shape change by itself.
  • The question of how to assess the learning of students is a big question, no easily answerable. It’s one of my concerns in my study, although is not one of the important ones.

I was curious that one colleague is studying the divide between the social media and the real world within a higher education environment, as myself I found in my research that you could have pretty opposite opinions on it from the students “suffering” with these experiments that we researchers do. On one side I have seen that it has been very positive as in such a way that students have told me that they didn’t think about using social media in education before (young participant), that it’s inspiring in a way to enrich his own practice (senior participant); and on the other side, one student (young participant) getting really pissed off because I sent all participants a message about our activities through Facebook’s private messaging system.

Also of note, was the “scientific dinner”, meaning a dinner where colleagues and senior professors gather and speak about research, and well, of course some miscellanea and jokes. I kind of miss that… In any case, I am very happy and grateful to have the opportunity to meet my international peers and have this kind of exchange. It’s incredibly helpful.

I was very glad that after the short presentation of my research I got some of the few and nice words I have myself received towards my choice of research method: Participatory Action Research. Together with an appreciation of the challenges it poses, the resistance in some academic circles to accept it as a valid path, and its peculiarities in how it’s a study of subjectivities, emancipation and the enhancement of human knowledge, practices and experiences.
As it has happened in recent times, I feel the limitations I can have as a member of a research community because of the financial factor. But it’s part of this whole learning experience that I started when I left my country in pursuit of my professional career. Perhaps the best lessons in humility are learned by going through situations of need.

RSS is dead… long live RSS! How to replace your Google Reader shared feed

If you don’t use or like or know what RSS is, maybe this post is not for you, sorry. I don’t know many people who uses RSS and it’s importance in some situations is not clear, for example in the last sites I designed I feel was tasked with setting an RSS just for the sake of it; and very few of the students I have taught in my “social media” lectures actually use RSS. However, I use RSS very actively as my primary channel of receiving information, instead of having to remember every site I have to visit every day to get news. The way to do this is to subscribe to the RSS feed of a site and then I get all the new in my Google Reader. RSS with Google Reader is also a good option to use if you do content curation or dissemination of information to a determined audience.

The problem is, some weeks ago Google changed radically its RSS reader “Google Reader”, in order to support “better” its Google+. The main consequence in the changes they made is that you cannot keep following what the friends whom you follow share, as users’ “shared” feed was killed. We still have Google Buzz for this kind of sharing of our RSS, but Google will be killing it soon as well. The main problem with this change of Reader for me involves the feed (Cool Stuff) I have right here in the blog (upper/right side). This feed was a Google Reader shared feed, the same my friends could use to input on their RSS readers to follow the items I share.

That’s for the rant, now I will tell you how I fixed it. I use many social networks where I post diverse/personal things depending on how open/close I have their privacy settings. So, I had to seek for an option to get the items I want to share out of Reader and into an RSS feed. Currently, Reader has moved all your shared items into “starred” items. It is possible to send every individual item in your feed to Google+, Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. The problem with Google+ is that it doesn’t have the possibility to express updates as RSS feeds, the same goes to Facebook. Then, the solution comes from Twitter or Tumblr.

The twitter address for your feeds ishttp://twitter.com/statuses/user_timeline/[user].rss The problem is that when you paste this anywhere, every item’s title starts with your username.

So, Tumblr it is, the address for your feed is http://[user].tumblr.com/rss

What you need to do is to go to Google Reader, Options, Reader Settings, then click the “send to” tab and check Tumblr. This activates the option to send an item you read to Tumblr and then it gets into that RSS feed and into wherever you want to paste that, being your blog, site, or back again into your Google Reader. BTW you need a Tumblr account also.

Then, every time you read something in your Google Reader you want to share, click the “send to” option of the post, and select Tumblr, then a new window opens where you can arrange how it is published (for example you can paste an embed code if you want to share a video), then it’s done, it’s published immediately in that feed I just told you how to set up.

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