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Information Literacy In An Age Of Networked Knowledge

Net Smart: How to Thrive Online

From SXSW Ogilvy notes

I love this visual note from a Howard Rheingold presentation at SXSW. He was launching his new book called Net Smart: How To Thrive Online. From just looking at the note, these seem like things librarians can or should be teaching and discussing (curation, crap detection, triangulation, consumption v. creation).

I also just finished reading David Weinberger’s new book Too Big To Know. It’s about how “knowledge and expertise are becoming networks, and are taking on the properties of networks” in this age of abundant and hyperlinked information. In the book he touches on things like echo chambers, the changing nature of authority, the unsettled nature of knowledge, and information overload. I know that this book is definitely going to change the way that I discuss research and information literacy concepts with students.

In his final chapter he makes several recommendations about how we can best move forward now that knowledge is changing and becoming networked. Among them is teaching young people and students “how to use the Net, how to evaluate knowledge claims, and how to love difference (pg. 192).”

These types of literacies that Rheingold and Weinberger mention are important, but I don’t know if they get discussed many places. Librarians address some of them such as evaluating information and crap detection, but we don’t teach a lot about consumption vs. creation, loving and seeking out difference, curating/filtering information, or attention/distraction.

I agree with Rheingold and Weinberger that these are skills that our students as citizens of the web should have, but I’m not sure where they should be discussed. We often get trapped into thinking that we’re simply helping students with their research. But we’re not just trying to teach students to become successful academic researchers. We are trying to help them become sophisticated consumers and creators of information. This is a much bigger view that encompasses student’s critical thinking skills, lifelong learning and the future of the web.

Are there lessons or ways that you address some of these skills in your information literacy instruction? How do you talk about curation, loving difference, or distraction? Are there places or instances in which you see these conversations taking place? Are these topics we should be talking about with students?

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Library Technology Conference Presentation and Roundup

I attended the Library Technology Conference this past week in St. Paul, MN. I’ve heard it’s an answer to Computers in Libraries and Internet Librarian being on the coasts and the need for a library tech conference in the Midwest. It did not disappoint. Not only did I get to travel back to the state where I grew up and was able to play golf the weather was so nice, it was also one of the better organized and useful conferences I’ve attended.

I presented on using Mobile Phone Polling to increase student engagement in the classroom. The session was a lot of fun and I always get new ideas from talking to audience members.

In addition to presenting I attended a lot of awesome sessions. Some of my highlight’s of the conference include:

I would recommend this conference to anyone interested in library tech. The keynotes were really inspiring, especially the one from Larry Johnson, CEO of the New Media Consortium. I will definitely keep this on my radar for future conferences.

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Constant Critic or Creative Colleague?

woman with thumbs down

image via gordontarpley on Flickr

Whether in meetings or on committees or a colleague, I’m sure most people know a person who almost always criticizes every idea put forward. They ask questions like “why do we need this?” or “what if…?” This person can often be frustrating or looked at as someone who is opposed to change. They can also be your biggest ally in making meaningful change.

Berkeley professor Charlan Nemeth says that “dissent stimulates new ideas because it encourages us to engage more fully with the work of others and to reassess our viewpoints.” In a study, he divided people into groups who did brainstorming and groups who debated each other. The debaters came up with significantly more solutions. Through conflict and repeated examination their brains were activated in different ways, and they had to work harder. People who simply agree all the time aren’t going to come up with the best solutions.

Another example that David Weinberger gives in his book Too Big To Know (pg. 70), is that of JFK’s extremely bright and educated White House advisors. They all were Ivy League educated, but they were also all white, male, early middle aged and from the East Coast. This fairly homogeneous group were a big factor leading to the US getting into the Vietnam War. Weinberger goes on to say that diversity of opinions  is important or else we can easily move into a groupthink mentality.

For our own libraries are there ways that we can foster constructive criticism? Are there ways that we can bring a greater diversity of opinions into our discussion and our decision making? Maybe at some staff meetings we could invite student workers to participate or bring in faculty members to share their thoughts. One important  lesson though is that a colleague who regularly criticizes may not be a bad thing. They could be that creative spark that stimulates deeper examination.

How do you try to get more diversity and dissenting opinions into your discussions?