Information Literacy in the Age of Twitter


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Presentation for the Plano/Richardson Library Expo October 18th, 2013

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Information Literacy in the Age of Twitter

  1. 1. Presented by Neil Krasnoff @txlibraryguy Plano ISD and Richardson ISD Library Expo October 18th, 2013
  2. 2. What this presentation is NOT! An Introduction to the wonderful world of Twitter A feel-good talk about engaging students with Social Media A presentation with definite answers
  3. 3. What this presentation IS!  A speculative, hopefully thought provoking discussion of the future of information gathering and research in a social media universe  A series of provocative questions to ask yourselves as well as students.  Stories from my personal experience  A few concrete useful ideas that you can develop and refine in your practice
  4. 4. My Biography (going backwards) 40-something dad of a 1-year old On Twitter (@txlibraryguy) since 2010 On Facebook since 2008 A High School Librarian since 2001 Began education career as science teacher 1994 Lifelong introvert, learner and amateur researcher
  5. 5. Driving Question for today In the complex Internet universe wrought by social media, how can librarians effectively promote information literacy and better online behavior?
  6. 6. Problems and Questions about using Social Media in Education  Cyberbullying, Predators and other Dangers cause schools and educators to emphasize the threats and negative aspects or attempt to limit Social Media  Generation Gap between how Teens perceive and use Social Media vs. How adults use it and how they want teens to use it.  Cliques, Information Bubbles, Conspiracy Communities and Confirmation Bias online make promoting rationality about information even more difficult. This is the human condition and applies to teens, young adults and older adults.
  7. 7. Twitter is ambiguous and complicated, full of duplicity, cruelty and deception, but also wonder, discovery and friendship Kind of like….Life! Photo adapted from Social Sidekick:
  8. 8. My actual experiences of students Twitter and Google+ Good  Student driven Twitter  Gossip and bullying leading to campaign to encourage kid not to transfer to another school  Better knowledge of students that I don’t see in person  A venue to promote reading of non-fiction Web sources  Students find ways of meeting urgent social needs two actual fights at school  Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll  Lots of distraction and wasted class time  Student created fake Twitter account of a teacher making highly inappropriate comments
  9. 9. Social Media Generation Gap Adult World Teens #YOLO! #ImAfraidtoLoseMyJob Gap of goals, expectation and norms
  10. 10. Social Media Generation Gap Teens Adult/Business World  Fled Facebook and joined  Joined LinkedIn when it Twitter to avoid parents  Flaunt high-risk behavior when only friends are watching  Concerned with social rewards  Social pressure is often to avoid productive work and serious study became best venue for job seekers  hide any high risk behavior from bosses and co-workers  Concerned with financial, career rewards  Must give impression of focus and productivity
  11. 11. We can not bridge the Generation Gap…  By telling students only what not to do.  By telling them they should immediately start acting like adult professionals  By judging instead of listening But librarians can teach the next generation …  By listening to students in person and on social media  By patiently modeling and teaching better ways of thinking and better online habits  By creating compelling learning experiences  By demonstrating enthusiasm for role as Information Professionals!
  12. 12. Information Literacy Instruction before Twitter • Focus on library as more credible than internet • Lesson highlighting internet hoaxes and library databases as antidote to being fooled • Wikipedia = DEVIL Fake, Static Internet Sites Save the Pacific Northwest Tree Octopus
  13. 13. Changes Wrought by Twitter Before Twitter In Twitter era In print world, ‘current’ could mean last year or last month or last week Information from yesterday or minutes ago is often no longer current Selling point of library databases was credibility, superior content and ease of citation, determining authorship, etc. Library databases are free of noise and distraction. Better environment for deeper learning in addition to predictability and reliability. Credibility synonymous with wellestablished authors and publishers and respected journals Twitter users earn credibility through self-promotion and users must use their own methods to decide who is credible Information search and social networking separate Information and social networking interlinked, often related to marketing and political persuasion
  14. 14. Corresponding Info Lit Strategies Twitter-Era Characteristics Immediacy and instant reaction • Teach triangulation of sources and ‘crap detection’ • Teach habits such as focus and skepticism that may prevent embarrassing reactions and increase productivity Individual ascendant over the Institutions Blending of social identity and information • Compare/Contrast credibility and popularity • Teach identifying propaganda & PR on social media • Teach value of traditional media, respected institutions other gate keepers • Teach about information bubbles, conspiracy thinking and confirmation bias • Conduct Role Playing activities
  15. 15. Example of Twitter hoax and costly immediate reaction 1. AP Twitter Hacked 2. Fake Tweet Sent 3. Retweeted by over 1000 people 4. AI Stock Trading Programs React If only people would Triangulate before retweeting! April 23, 2013 Stock Market Blip
  16. 16. Train students to evaluate before acting!  “Think before retweeting” Just as important for malicious, untrue gossip as for news and financial information  Triangulate before accepting as true This means finding 3 unconnected sources. If a source refers to another source, that doesn’t count.  ‘Crap Detection’ is a virtue worth promoting! Play games where the object is to identify crap using training and carefully honed instincts
  17. 17. Example of Crap Detection Activity: How do you know … which is real…. and which is Photoshop?
  18. 18. The Individual vs. the Institution Barack Obama Over 38 Million Followers Democratic Party Only 260,497 Followers
  19. 19. Comparing two ‘individuals’ “Barack Obama” 38 million followers “Taylor Swift” 35 million followers • Twitter account run by highly paid PR • Twitter account run or vetted by professionals highly paid PR professional • A communication channel for engaging • A commercial channels to sell music audience in order to gain political clout and products • Followers deluded into thinking they • Transparent disclosure of nature of account are connected to singer and she may be romantically available to them
  20. 20. Medical Information Dr. Oz 3.1 Million Followers Highly-regarded cardiac surgeon with a penchant for selfpromotion and sensationalism Mayo Clinic 640,000 Followers The most highly regarded comprehensive hospital in the world
  21. 21. Let’s not neglect popular Media Outlets! CNN (Breaking News) 12.2 Million Followers New York Times 8.7 Million followers Time Magazine 4.7 Million followers The Economist 3.4 Million followers Wired Magazine 2 Million followers These organizations depend on advertising, but would lose credibility and readers without dependable fact-checked reporting
  22. 22. Apple Screw Hoax A lesson on the importance of professional FactCheckers and traditional media on Twitter
  23. 23. Apple Screw Hoax Timeline August, 2012  Hoax masters in Sweden post fake internal email from Apple with pictures and schematics of ‘asymmetric’ screw to Reddit. Coincides with morning in Silicon Valley  Spreads virally via Reddit to blogs and then Twitter. DIY Jailbreakers and Tech insiders are main audience.  Mainstream news Websites including Yahoo and Wired pick up story by evening  Rumor thrives and Twitter and millions believe story for days.
  24. 24. So does popularity = credibility?  Research (Edwards, C. et al) suggests that Klout score (largely a function of following) has a large effect on perceived credibility  Dr. Oz is likely perceived as more credible than a Mayo Clinic and far more influential than National Library of Medicine (Only 25,000 followers)  Asking students questions about connection between credibility and popularity is a potentially powerful instructional technique!  Influence and Credibility closely linked on Twitter, and this is something for librarians to work on!
  25. 25. Let’s discuss Ishtar! Dangerous Business (lyrics and music by Paul Williams. . Telling the truth can be dangerous business. Honest and popular don't go hand in hand. If you admit that you can play the accordion, No one'll hire you in a rock 'n' roll band.
  26. 26. The Takeaways about Twitter  Promotion and propaganda dominate Twitter  Twitter PR initiatives are most successful when fronted by     a charismatic and famous individual There is a complex interplay between popularity, influence and credibility Institutions are vested in maintaining credibility while individuals are more prone to self-promotion There is nothing smarter than checking-facts and reading deeply into issues All of these points provide material for lesson plans!
  27. 27. Conspiracy Theories, Information Bubbles and Confirmation Bias  Because Twitter gives every user an uncensored platform, they are perfect venue for conspiracy-minded people to publicize their version of truth and congregate with like-minded individuals  Because political beliefs are closely linked to social identity, people often live in “Information Bubbles” on the internet. For example, we may live in a “Libraries will never be obsolete” bubble.  There is an innate human tendency toward confirmation bias, where affirming information is savored and consumed and nonaffirming information is disregarded.
  28. 28. Impenetrable Conspiracy Bubbles Confirmation Bias Information Bubble Conspiracy Theories
  29. 29. A Look at Anti-Vacc Conspiracy  Many individuals, often those born with autism or their parents, posit that toxic substances in vaccines cause their troubles. They believe in a conspiracy involving the Government, pharmaceutical companies and doctors  Anti-Vacc communities form all over Internet where information about vaccine dangers are spread. This is an information bubble. Its very easy to enter this bubble on YouTube and Social Media  Anti-Vacc activists continually publish information reflecting their confirmation bias ignoring the preponderance of scientific evidence that disproves their core claims. Some of this “evidence” is even from the National Institute of Health!
  30. 30. Vaccination Information Breakdown Search Entity Anti-Vacc results “Vaccines” (top 10) 0/10 7/10 9/10 (discounting results for band called “Vaccines”) (discounting results for band called “Vaccines”) 1st 8th Ranking of top Pro-Vaccine Result 1st Top Anti-Vaccine result activity NA 42 Tweets 4,277 followers 62,726 Views Top Pro-Vaccine Result activity NA 92 Retweets 6,146 followers 33,949 Views
  31. 31. Pro-Vaccine vs. Anti-Vaccine Influencers on Twitter Pro-Vaccine influencers Anti-Vaccine influencers Gates Foundation Over 1 million followers Jenny McCarthy Over 1 Million followers UN World Health Organization 950,000 followers Info Wars-Alex Jones 240,000 followers
  32. 32. What do Hoaxes and Conspiracies tell us about Twitter as an info source? While perpetuators of bogus information are active on Twitter, the majority of users’ concern for their reputation is a powerful preventer of the spread of false rumors. Anonymity is not as prevalent as on YouTube where conspiracies and hoaxes thrive. For more information about the Anti-Vaccine issue on Twitter see:
  33. 33. How should librarians address conspiracy theories? Option 1 Teach students to only use Library Databases where conspiracy theorists are almost completely absent. OR Option 2 Teach students to recognize conspiracy theories prevalent on the Internet make them aware of confirmation bias and information bubbles.
  34. 34. Social Identity & Information on Twitter If Twitter is full of propaganda, hoaxes, PR & conspiracy theories… And if Twitter is full of real people doing real things… And if Twitter is a where people try out new identities… And if Twitter is a place where people also spread useful information about almost every topic…. Is it Fiction or Non-Fiction?
  35. 35. Twitter, Fiction and Character  My upcoming lesson on Character Study on Twitter in     Theater class Lesson could be adapted to English and literary fiction Students reflect on question if its easier to be a fictional character on Twitter vs. being themselves Students can make delve into motivation and moods behind Tweets of characters as well as classmates Let student’s draw their own conclusions about Twitter as Fiction or Non-Fiction
  36. 36. Corresponding Info Lit Strategies Twitter-Era Characteristics Immediacy and instant reaction • Teach triangulation of sources and ‘crap detection’ • Teach habits such as focus and skepticism that may prevent embarrassing reactions and increase productivity Individual ascendant over the Institutions Blending of social identity and information • Compare/Contrast credibility and popularity • Teach identifying propaganda & PR on social media • Teach value of traditional media, respected institutions other gate keepers • Teach about information bubbles, conspiracy thinking and confirmation bias • Conduct Role Playing activities
  37. 37. Questions to ask students continually  Are people online real or     are they actors? Is popularity the same as credibility? Are you living in a bubble of information? Are you fighting your confirmation bias? Is this true?
  38. 38. 1. Johnson, Clay A. The Information Diet. Sebastopol: O'REILLY MEDIA, INC, USA, 2012. Print. Information Bubbles and online habits 2. Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012. Print. ‘Crap Detection’ and metacognitive strategies
  39. 39. Instead of focusing on the abundant pathological online behaviors among teens and young adults, stay focused on the fact that young people are developing social and intellectual skills. You have the capability of influencing their futures, but be sure to always listen to your audience and learn from them! For more of my thoughts see my Easy Bib Webinar, “Twitter in the Classroom on You Tube: