Evaluation of the learning process

Web 2.0 has gained momentum since it was first recognised in 2005 (O’Reilly), and many of the original platforms have thrived. Its initial definition remains relevant, and the concepts and practices of maintaining a complicated on-line life continue to evolve because users invest and participate. Library managers noticed users embracing the platforms and quickly saw potential, nominating the term Library 2.0 (Miller, 2005), which stuck. Library 2.0 takes advantage of the participatory nature of Web 2.0, allowing libraries to reach out directly to patrons. However, educators on a quest to build safe, inclusive, and welcoming networks for young people still face many challenges.

Users embrace the social networks that are the most functional and friendly (Mallory & Kleingartner, 2011). The business models of Amazon and Google profit from the immersive online world (Belden, 2008), and while these sites have some use in education, librarians have embraced other social platforms (Bain, 2011; Young and Rossman, 2015). The Arizona State University (ASU) projects an on-line presence through a range of social media channels. Their librarians realised the need for YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram, because different students access material in different ways (Schrier, 2011).  Academic libraries are able to leverage social media more effectively than school libraries (Yi, 2014), because schools must be more assiduous with filtering, distractions, and user behaviour. One of the biggest challenges for schools is balancing the need for safe spaces with the reality that young people are already on these sites (Lenhart, 2015). It’s crucial to consider a site’s concern for users by carefully examining their advertising (Pearson, 2009) and privacy policies (Hudson, 2006) before allowing students to use them. Unfortunately, it is also important to observe the way developers update their sites, or sell them to the highest bidder, because these changes can mean the site is no longer appropriate or useful.

There are other concerning issues for information professionals who serve school-aged children, digital natives who show little regard for privacy (Raynes-Goldie, 2010), piracy, or authentic research (Garfinkel, 2008). Digital citizenship, while encouraged, is not mandated or consistent across schools. Information professionals accepted the challenge to create programs and lesson plans which highlight the importance of a positive digital presence. As in most real-life situations, the majority of students know how to conduct themselves appropriately in virtual environments, but it only takes a few recalcitrants to trigger calls for more censorship, more filters, and more rules.  As for the inquiry process, students left to their own devices, without explicit intervention from an information professional, are unlikely to develop the ability to critically evaluate websites, and are unlikely to understand the importance of citation. With an overwhelming amount of data already at children’s fingertips, skills to manage and process it all are needed more than ever.

While it might seem easy to reject Web 2.0 tools and justify that as child protection, libraries cannot avoid them and still remain relevant. Social media is arguably the most efficient, cost-effective means to prove the value of libraries to patrons (Bain, 2011; Casey & Savastinuk, 2006; Lorenzo, 2007). The digital world is no longer an option, or an add-on—it is immersive. Librarians in such a world recognise its benefits. Studies show over 70% of libraries worldwide (Taylor & Francis, 2014) acknowledge the need to engage patrons in on-line environments. The biggest obstacle to school libraries having effective social media programs is how time consuming maintaining a social media presence can be. Locating and cataloguing resources, and assisting individual staff and students with support and expertise are the most fundamental library tasks. To add tweeting, posting, blogging, and uploading pictures to the load, means something else has to go. Yet, what is the point of purchasing print resources or subscribing to online databases if nobody knows about them or how to access them? A well planned, coordinated approach can only be achieved when a library team collaborates successfully (Burkhardt, 2009). By targeting a small number of social networks, developing a consistent method and tone of delivery (Ramsey & Vecchione, 2014), and sticking to a well-documented social media policy (Burclaff & Johnson, 2014), school libraries can build effective and purposeful relationships with users.

It’s not surprising educators are feeling fatigued and overwhelmed by the responsibilities placed on them for student learning. Trust is a word linked to Library 2.0 (Jenkins, et. al., 2006; Reynes-Goldie, 2010; Young & Rossman, 2015), and teachers could be much more flexible about the way their classrooms are conducted. On-line communities and social networks are built on trust, and for the most part, this trust is validated. Information professionals must take on a mediated role, harness students’ enthusiasm for technology, and help teachers direct that energy in a positive and meaningful way.

References

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