What’s the big deal with Information Literacy?

We all love the convenience of looking for answers immediately and having “google” in our pockets. My dad, in his eighties, said, “People don’t really need to know anything anymore because they can just google it.” What a wise statement from a pre-Internet veteran. We have digital assistants on our devices to help us remember important things and manage our time. We are free of the burdon of having to remember small things and instead access and share information nonstop on a global scale.

A generation of citizens is emerging who have never known life without a networked mobile device with instant access to information. With that convenience comes the sacrifice of time to reflect and the guarantee of accuracy and quality of the hits we receive.

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An information literacy colleague, Esther Grassian, advocates the need for Information Literacy and explains why it is a big deal. Information literacy is not simply an academic term– it is an understanding of our current culture in networked society.

A friend posted an insightful quote on Facebook which I noticed had been liked and shared by many but without any attribution to a creator. I asked if she knew the source and she replied, “People share these things all the time now and nobody ever really knows where they came from.” I find it perplexing that this smart and tech-savvy young woman would simply shrug off intellectual property with a “Who knows? Who cares?” attitude.

In BEYOND THE BLOGOSPHERE by Aaron Barlow, we are given the image of the Internet as a “book of sand” in which nobody knows the origin of ideas. They are washed out to sea and scattered along the beach.

If we really don’t care about information literacy in the future, there will be a high price to pay. Idiocracy might be a concept too difficult for the citizens of the future to comprehend. The fear of artificial intelligence evolving into consciousness pales in comparison to the glimpse of human beings shrugging off any desire to acquire knowledge simply because easy access and quick apps have made it irrelevant.

Give Immersive Learning a Try! Don’t Just Read about It

Gamification and learning through immersive virtual experiences is the talk of the town in education fields. Virtual reality is expanding with systems like Oculus Rift and Microsoft Hololens. And one of the most popular (if not THE most popular) videogame virtual worlds across the planet is Minecraft. Young children can build with virtual building blocks and learn about math, science and many other subjects through immersion.

But how many teachers have actually experienced immersive learning themselves? Here’s your chance!

Medieval Quest is coming to the Community Virtual Library in Second Life.

Medieval Quest Coming Soon

A beautiful Medieval village, complete with King Arthur’s Court, was built by Brant Knutzen at the University of Hong Kong. Through collaboration with the Community Virtual Library, plans are underway to provide live tours with a role-play quest. All participants can choose parts to role-play and participate at any level desired.

Sound like fun? Here are the initial planning session times (Second Life Time- SLT- Pacific Time zone). More information about the role-play dates will be forthcoming.

Monday Jan 25th 6pm SLT Medieval Quest Planning Meeting (Share roles and overview)
Saturday Jan 30th 7am SLT (Continue sharing roles and training) Prepare Press Release to send for publicity

Meet at the Community Virtual Library Exhibit area

I am tentatively choosing the role of “The Lady of Shalott”. There are numerous places to find free historical clothes for your avatar. The Medieval Quest is based on the concept of bringing literature to life through role-play and simulation.

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This project is a demonstration of how learning has changed and is changing. Don’t just read about it….come give it a try!

Post PostModernism & the Power of the MEME

I am not much of a football fan but because I moved to Seattle, I rooted for the Seahawks in Super Bowl 49 (2015). The Seahawks were very close to winning the game when there was a call which caused tons of controversy and criticism. Those of you who know football could explain it better than me, but apparently a big player who was great at “running the ball in for a touchdown” (Marshawn Lynch) could have scored or could have given them more time. But, the coach decided to let the quarterback try for a throw which was intercepted. Seahawks lost abruptly and left everyone with a “What just happened!!?” moment of disbelief.

Now- Superbowls are known for the high quality commercials which I have always looked forward to more than the game! There was another crazy moment of disbelief during Super Bowl 49 when Nationwide aired an extremely sad (and some say distasteful) commercial about a young boy who died in the bathtub. The commercial was suppose to create awareness of childhood accidents, the number one cause of death for youngsters. I was scrolling through twitter during the game and saw tons of people saying “OMG! Did you see that? What were they thinking?” etc.

At the end of the game, within seconds of the loss, I witnessed something on twitter which exemplifies the power of the meme. The two moments of disbelief- the dead child and the crazy loss of a superbowl- were entwined by a witty tweet by Jared Smith.

seahawksMEME

This merge of two moments, shared by thousands of people, somehow relates to my understanding of post postmodernism. We live in an era where everything is a reference to something else. Modernism is essentially an art term (so too are post and post-post), but for me it is a philosophical concept because I have no formal art training. I have yet to find anyone who can explain this to me but here’s my take:

Our great great grandparents lived each day struggling to plant the crops, harvest them, can them, cook them and survive. There was little time to think about other things beyond survival, yet they were grateful. Modern conveniences (picture the 1950’s Westinghouse ads with Betty Furness) gave our grandparents time to relax and enjoy “leisure time”. Purchasing these shiny contraptions (cookers, grinders, mixers, warmers) gave them the good life.

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photo from https://envisioningtheamericandream.files.wordpress.com/2014/12/xmas-kitchen-westinghouse-betty-furness-swscan08163.jpg

A movement to simplify life and get rid of clutter has risen in my lifetime. I personally have witnessed the move from physical collection of objects to life in the digital and virtual world. I have witnessed the move from physical books, as a librarian, to the digitization of everything. So too, I have felt the shift from a mindset of the physical to a mindset of the virtual. Most of the jobs pursued by young college graduates are connected to the digital tech industry in some way. Every field, from medicine to mechanics, is impacted by computers.

So, how can I explain post postmodernism? The words escape me. But I know that the power of the meme I saw, live on twitter within seconds of that Superbowl 2015, is somehow an example and I knew it the second it appeared.

Wait!! What? Everyone is “Elsewhere” Conversation in the Digital Age (Part Two)

My review of Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation continues with the concept of avoiding boredom or anxiety in our lives by “going elsewhere” on our phones. Those “boring bits of life” and worries that may come into our minds can be escaped by scrolling our news feeds and connecting with our online networks. Turkle suggests we consider the value of contemplation during brief moments of boredom and anxiety because as humans this “thinking through” leads to problem-solving and creativity. A lull in a conversation gives us time to reflect on the people around us. But today– our mobile devices tug at us to go “elsewhere”.

And when we get to this other place on our devices, the activity is nonstop. It’s become acceptable to back channel through conferences, business meetings, events and even mealtime. Interruption is now considered simply another mode of connectivity. Our brains love the stimulation of endless diversion but we never feel we can really keep up. Turkle says, “Only half joking, people in their teens and twenties tell me that the most commonly heard phrase at dinner with their friends is “Wait, what?” Everyone is always missing a beat, the time it takes to find an image or send a text (pg 37)”.

Certainly, the constant companionship we carry in our pockets can be used for good and I remain hopeful that the future can bring positive uses for technology in our daily lives. Stay tuned for more of the warnings we may need to heed as presented in this book and the possible solutions we are urged to embrace before it is too late!

Part of digital citizenship (and information literacy) is giving ourselves a healthy information diet. Just like our bodies will have consequences if we eat only tasty junk food or sweets, so too our minds are at risk in an age of constant digital intake and interruption.
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photo from http://weknowmemes.com/2012/07/whats-the-point-of-being-afraid-of-the-zombie-apocalypse/

Conversation in the Digital Age (Part One)

I just finished reading Sherry Turkle’s Reclaiming Conversation which was chock full of truisms and presents a challenge to all of us to consider how we communicate. She makes a case for setting limits on technology tools, particularly our phones, and taking a good look at the value and importance of real voices and human eye contact in face to face conversation. Turkle believes students today lack empathy for others because our constant connectivity in digital spaces reduces friendship to a “performance” rather than a relationship.

In addition to the preference of texting over talking and the performance of “an edited life” on social media, young people are bombarded by information all around them and have grown up in a state of distraction. Television increasingly brings us BREAKING NEWS with a constant crawl on non-related topics scrolling across the screen and dramatic special effects hyping what is suppose to inform us.

Breaking News

Breaking News

Not only are we now comfortable with constant distraction, we consider nonstop interruption a normal state of affairs as our devices ding and beep in our pockets. Turkle says, “We forget how unusual this has become, that many young people are growing up without ever having experienced unbroken conversations either at the dinner table or when they take a walk with parents or friends. For them, phones have always come along” p. 16.

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Are you concerned about the effects of mobile devices and where global digital participatory culture is heading? Do you feel like you have a handle on balancing your “digital double” (Turkle’s term for our online selves)?

The ideas in Turkle’s latest book are worthy of our attention. Stay tuned for part two and more discussion on this critical topic.

Photos from https://www.flickr.com/photos/rubbercat/208330144/in/photostream/ https://www.flickr.com/photos/clanlife/6369791755

In Awe of the Stacks

(Comparing Twitter to the Library Shelves)

 

Tweet are serendipitous and I am reminded of walking through the library stacks as a young girl.

 

What is all of this?  How amazing!

COLLECTIONS

 

But there is a difference-

 
 

   
 

    

 

The library stalks were part of a carefully selected collection….curated (planted by a trained gardener and carefully weeded).

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Things have changed. The gardener or “the gatekeeper” no longer keeps out the weeds and pests.

There are tons of weeds and pests online. It is increasingly difficult to find the cream of the crop- the authentic, aesthetically pleasing, accurate information that helps individuals learn and grow toward knowledge and wisdom in the 21st century.

 

I am not in awe of these stacks.
 

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But, I know I can still learn and be in awe of the people in my PLN.  Yes, just like the stacks…tweets are serendipitous.  Those I follow will lead toward what I need to learn.

 

I must learn to garden for myself.

 

 
Photos labeled for reuse with creativecommons licensing.

Nudging the 5 year old and the 65 year old

Today I helped a kindergartener and a 65 year old do the same thing: find what they wanted to do on their iPad.

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The five year old kindergartener wanted “Big Cat’s” microphone to record his voice (on a child’s app) and it wasn’t working.
The 65 year old wanted to share a Facebook post to specific friends on his iPad FB account.

Both the 5 year old and the 65 year old sat beside me (one during school hours and one after school) with their ipads on a day which was overwhelmingly spent solving iPad issues. Some of the issues I encountered were update needs, restriction issues, apps not working, wifi settings wrong, locked-out passcodes, and numerous emails about iPads. Tech issues with iPads has overtaken my job as a school librarian. But that is not the point here.

I sat beside two individuals today who are 60 years apart in age. I had the same feeling, as I sat with both of them. I felt a sense of “please help” and I felt a sense of “this is so important to me”.

Who am I to judge their information literacy needs?

Well, actually, I am an information literacy specialist. So, I suppose this is the topic I could write on for hours; however, information literacy is rapidly changing as we move into digital culture- whether at age 5 or 65.

Shall we play a game? Share a youtube video? Shall we critically evaluate our information intake with meaningful purpose using best research practices?

Learning….the quest for life.

Caring for the individual….where they are in life.

I shall remember doing what my colleague, Kristin Fontichiaro, would call “nudging toward inquiry.”

Not a Gadget- Nor a Crystal Ball of Data

People are more important than data.

I just finished Who Owns the Future by Jaron Lanier and although economics is in no way my area of expertise- he makes interesting points about the future of economics and society in the Information Age. His previous book You Are Not a Gadget provided insight into digital culture and this new book is a warning about the increasing risk of losing the backbone of modern civilization- the middle class. The following notes come from Lanier’s perspective and are worth contemplating.

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We have this crazy illusion that data is sort of magic – that “data came from the heavens instead of from people.” Inanimate data holds no promises for the future — only people hold promise. Our fascination with technological gadgetry (also a theme in his prior writing) puts emphasis on the data instead of the people who create it.

A highlight of Who Owns the Future was an excellent analogy about current TOS (terms of service) contracts and how we completely ignore them in the numerous apps and sites we download and take part in daily. Most are written in complex jargon that would take hours to analyze. Lanier presents the terms of service of a lemonade stand (page 80) in a child’s front yard! In the lengthy legalese statements to the parents of the lemonade stand entrepreneurs, he include such items as:

“A percentage of up to 30% of revenues will be kept by StreetBook.

Limited free access to StreetBook’s curb in front of your house is available in exchange for advertising on your body and property. The signage of your lemonade stand, the paper cups, and the clothing worn by your children must include advertising chosen soley by StreetBook.

If you choose to seek limited free access to use of the curb in front of your house, you must make available to StreetBook a current inventory of items in your house, and allow StreetBook to monitor movement and communications of individuals within your house.”

That is a small fraction of the contents of the terms of service for the lemonade stand. His point is that we simply cannot keep up with the fine print on these TOS agreements, so must of us simply click “agree” and get on with it.

Lanier calls Google, Facebook, and other online giant information providers “siren servers”. Lanier believes the biggest threat to our economic future is big data networks (siren servers) getting all online profits rather than individuals who create or program digital content. “One giant siren server (Facebook) should not own an individual’s online identity (p. 250).” He proposes a revolutionary payment system on the Internet, which includes possibly linking monetary payment for creative skills and service into the data transfer.

His digital “golden rule” could be stated– Pay others the way you would like to be paid.

Today, it is easy to access and copy information for use in multiple formats. Why not copy when it is convenient? “If you copy a file, you don’t know where it came from, if it’s been altered, or what other information might be needed for it to make sense (p.221).” Meaning depends on context and the copy/paste/share mentally of digital participatory culture erodes context.

With the vast information landscape we navigate daily, Lanier proposes another idea called “decision reduction services” (p. 270). That reminds me of librarianship! The acquisition of high quality resources that have been evaluated for specific criteria sounds rather familiar. I suppose I am a “decision reduction service provider” for my patron community. (Lanier highly values libraries and librarians. I heard him praise them at the American Library Association convention last summer in Chicago).

For the past decade, I have been hearing the notion that information should be free. Lanier says that the “lure of free” beckons (e.g. MOOCs- massive open online courses) and the future of education could be grim if seduced by siren servers. As I currently research information literacy needs in MOOCs, his perspective illustrates some of the problems higher education is facing. He answered a question at the ALA convention with a humorous exclamation that “MOOCs are moronic!”

Online “creepiness” due to being spied on or having personal data collected is nothing new but Lanier illustrates the idea that we may not share the same “augmented reality” in the near future. Each of us will live in a personalized world and that loss of shared experience might be “creepy” and isolating (p. 315).

His prediction of The Future of the Book. (p. 356) was certainly full of insightful points. I can agree with Lanier’s hypothesis that books will merge with apps, video games, virtual worlds. He says, “Many readers will read what is put in front of their eyes by crowdsourcing algorithms, and often will not be aware of the identity of the author or the boundary between one book and another. This is similar to Barlow and Leston’s warning about the Internet becoming a book of sand.

Lanier points out that “There will be much more information available in some semblance of book form than ever before, but overall a lower quality of standard”. I heard Roy Tennant make that same prediction back in 2008 at the Texas Library Association Conference when he said that today “convenience trumps quality”.

My personal take away from Who Owns the Future is that embedding intellectual property identification and a small monetary token of appreciation into data could solve both information literacy issues and help strengthen a shaky economic future for civilization. Information is actually never free (even though many want it to be)- just as life is never free. Open access to information and projects that promote free information and books benefit society but certainly have costs involved somewhere. Acquisition and organization of high quality resources takes time and effort, which are as valuable as dollars and cents. Respect for people in both the physical and digital world is the bottom line. You really are not a gadget and you are not made of code.

Lanier, J. (2013). Who Owns the Future?. New York: Simon and Schuster.

Privacy Died and Nobody Mourned

We are moving toward a “hypervisable age” where individual privacy is a relic.  Sean Parker (in an argument about the death of privacy) said, “Today’s creepy is tomorrow’s necessity”. Parker, one of the founders of Facebook, is certainly no stranger to the hypervisable trend of social media.

Keen (on page 57 in #digitalvertigo) says, “…the death of privacy is no different, in principle, from the retirement of the horse and cart or the disappearance of gaslights from city streets”.

tombstone
This is my second post about #digitalvertigo (first post is linked here) and I, for one, am mourning the death of privacy.  Is anyone else? Couldn’t we meet and have some sort of memorial? Perhaps we could light candles and reminisce about the days that shall be no more.

Keen, A. (2012). #digitalvertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution is Dividing, Diminishing, and Disorienting Us. New York: St. Martin’s Press.

Think Before You Speak or get #digitalvertigo

My mom used to remind all of her kids (and grandkids) that “everything you think does not need to come out of your mouth”.  You can keep some ideas and words to yourself.  If you don’t think first, you may regret it later.

A new way to phrase this idea might be, “Think before you post”.  As social media sites urge everyone to share life in digital formats, many rush to the opportunity.  The idea, like most ideas, is not new.  Napoleon Hill was one of the first to say “Think twice before you speak” and also one of the first “motivational self-help” proponents of the modern personal success genre.

Here’s another book on the topic that cautions us (think Sherry Turkle and Nicholas Carr) about the pleasures of sharing our lives online.
Title:  #digitalvertigo: How Today’s Online Social Revolution is Dividing, Dimishing, and Disorienting Us 
Author:  Andrew Keen

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I like the clever use of a hashtag in the title.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Notice all the post-it notes sticking out the side of my copy?  On a side note, I really like physical books because I can put those tangible notes inside!  Sure, I can highlight on an ebook, but going back to find my notes is not as “obvious” to me and I end up forgetting I even have an electronic copy.  (More on that another day.)

Many ideas for blog posts can be seen in the numerous post-its.  But I will only share one because I have learned that the chance of anyone reading a long blog post is nil.

Participation in social media has changed the way we live, think,  and interact.  Jonas Lehrer states, “While the Web has enabled new forms of collective action, it has also enabled new kinds of collective stupidity”.  Lehrer is a contributor to Wired magazine.  He cautions that we are moving from “the smart group” to “the dumb herd” and reminds us that real insight means “thinking for oneself” (Keen, page 51).

Following the crowd has always been dangerous but #digitalvertigo gives some real world examples about how the phrase “think before you speak” is taking on new meaning in digital culture.  We all have digital voices now.  We all can speak and can be heard.  The keyword that we mustn’t forget is…..THINK.