In December 2014 I was invited by Professor Albert Sangrà to speak at the Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain. Whilst there I also ran a workshop for the Edul@b research team to look at how social media could be used to share their research outputs. I gave an open lecture on social media and the importance of becoming a digital scholar. Below is a summary of the key points made during the lecture.
Social Media empowers us as individuals to become digital communicators, collaborators, conversationalists, critics, curators and creators using a variety of different mediums including text, audio, video and images. These open up dialogues online that may then continue face to face.
For many years we have continued to use established sharing mechanisms to share scholarly activity. For example journals, books, presentations, reports and case studies. To complement these social media as digital forums can also be used to introduce and disseminate such work. This could be in the form of a blog post, a LinkedIn update or via Twitter. It is important to realise that these social spaces are being used more and more frequently by increasing numbers of people. With this in mind we need to reconsider where our audiences are when consuming information online. Short nuggets can be an ideal way to introduce a paper you have written or seek feedback on a project by writing these as blog posts. Readers can raise questions using the comments.
With nearly 3 billion people now online and social media featuring in the top visited sites world wide, individuals are increasingly using the spaces for informal learning.
“Digital Technologies are not only changing our communication habits and the patterns of our social interactions, they also create access to knowledge at any time and anywhere” Vodophone Institute for Society of Communications
People often fear the thought of ‘information overload’ when considering how much there is now available online. Clay Shirky however would argue that this is an issue of filter failure. We need to learn smarter ways to filter the relevant information we need. One approach is through the people that you follow or indeed follow you. You can help others by tagging related related information in posts and by sharing useful content they will also be interested in.
Providing bite sized links to your scholarly work can be helpful to others, highlighting topics of mutual interest. This can be done by:
- writing a LinkedIn post and updates which include links to useful content
- adding presentations to SlideShare and sharing also on your LinkedIn profile
- adding your publications to your LinkedIn profile: articles, press releases, papers, books and chapters
- adding projects you are involved in and add the names of those you are collaborating with
- writing guest posts for other peoples’ blogs, websites and digital magazines
- writing your own blog
Citations of sources of scholarly activity are also changing and educators are now taking note of blog posts and shorter articles and using these as references to quote aspects of the written work within their own work.
Something to consider when writing in these newer social spaces is to ensure there is connectedness between them. Make good use of the bio space and include hyperlinks to your blog or LinkedIn from Twitter, and vice versa. If you create a SlideShare presentation, share via Twitter and pin this tweet to the top of your profile for as long as you feel it is current.
Curation, collaboration and co-learning
Another useful way to share information is by curating. Web 2.0 tools such as Scoop.it, Mendeley, Diigo, ResearchGate and Pinterest are all worth exploring. These spaces provide valuable spaces to share and discuss a whole range of different topics by clustering information into curated groups.
Web 2.0 tools facilitate more constructivist approaches to learning, with greater emphasis on discussion and the creation of learning materials and knowledge construction by the learners. – Bates and Sangra
Collaborative informal learning include short courses and tweetchats. For example:
- Bring Your Own Devices for Learning
12-16 January 2015
- Learning and Teaching in Higher Education weekly chat
Wednesday 8-9pm GMT
Both provide great examples of communities of scholars co-learning through open sharing of resources and information. They provide a space to raise questions and for others to answer these as well as share their expertise in their given area. Helping others find information of interest is a reciprocal activity that benefits many. Signposting others scholarly activity as well as your own work.
There is a distinction between reach and engagement. Whilst it may be considered good to have many followers in the social spaces we use, it doesn’t mean that people are engaging with what you are sharing. Engagement can be measured by the ways people respond you the information you share. For example retweet, shares, mentions, replies, comments, likes, favourites and +1s. These will of course differ depending on the social space used. Those interactions and often conversations can provide rich feedback on your scholarly outputs and indeed lead to new opportunities for collaborative research or help to develop seeds of ideas into realistic projects.
A word of warning
It is important that we all consider our own digital footprint and the information we share online. Being aware of the blurring boundaries between social and professional can help to make us mindful of updating security settings where needed. Realising that just like ourselves, others will ‘Google’ a name to find information about an individual and their work. Making sure others find the professional work we wish to be associated with or at the very least a professional up to date profile on LinkedIn or a website is our own responsibility. Social media will rise to the top of a search so by populating professional information on LinkedIn, your blog or Twitter for example, has to be to your advantage.
No time like the present
The exponential growth of social media and the ubiquitous use of mobile technology has changed the way we communicate both socially and for many professionally. It is therefore timely to consider how social media can be used to develop personal learning networks and through open sharing find opportunities to extend the reach and engagement of our scholarly practice.