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Contact instructor

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Dean Giustini, SLAIS Adjunct faculty | UBC reference librarian
Blog: The Search Principle blog


If you have questions about this course, any of its content or assignments, or the navigational aspects of content management systems (CMS), post the question to the appropriate "discussion" forum in Vista. Conversely, you can send me an e-mail. To send messages, use my UBC account <>.

Virtual Office Hours

I use Wimba Classroom for my digital office hours. My virtual office hours will be from 6-9pm PST on Monday evenings.

Introduction to LIBR559M

"In the electric age we wear all mankind as our skin." - Marshall McLuhan

LIBR 559M - Social Media for Information Professionals is a new asynchronous, online course offered in September 2009 (and again in Summer 2010) through the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at the University of British Columbia and the Web-based Information Science Education (WISE) program. While this may not be your first online course in library or archival studies, I think it is important to consider some differences between face-to-face learning (in physical classes) and online -- and how these spaces have an impact on learning.

Online learning (also e-learning) refers to a course delivered on a learning platform such as Blackboard, Vista or Moodle using a combination of required readings, discussion and class activities. While it may be true that a course meeting regularly in a physical classroom benefits from face-to-face (F2F) interaction, in my estimation, an e-learning space can be created that rivals or surpasses 'bricks-and-mortar' learning spaces. In any case, I argue that the most important component of any course is discussion, debate and group work - and we will certainly be doing lots of that in LIBR559M.

Increasingly, information professionals are developing new skills, learning new information practices and meeting online. While this class meets via the Vista Learning platform, course delivery should not preclude arranging meetings or events with your peers. In fact, I encourage meetings with your peers should you happen to live in the same city or nearby. Some of the best conversation happens over coffee or other informal meetings. If you ever want to meet for coffee, please e-mail me; I enjoy conversation, coffee and talking about the web.

In any case, you will be using software outside of Vista including a class wiki (more about that later) and any other social software you may want to try out. Would anyone like to try Twitter out? First, you will need to decide whether you plan to publish your blog on the open web (everyone will have a UBC WordPress account) and whether you will work out your group assignments on the class wiki, or using a closed system like GoogleDocs. Navigating closed and open environments is a background theme in LIBR559M, and a topic we explore to some extent within the theme of openness in web 2.0.

Six modules in course

Many of the existing LIS courses on social media focus on categories of social software, the tools that are available and how they are popularly used. Sometimes the discourse in social media turns to some of the extreme examples of its (ab)use (Facebook taunts, Twitter addiction, Craiglist murder, etc.). However, for information professionals, I believe that the much more interesting story is how a larger information ecosystem has developed as a consequence of using these tools.

The six modules in this course are designed to provide you with a broad exposure to these issues. As much as possible, I plan to share my experience as a blogger and wiki user and to point you towards interesting literature and ideas concerning the social, political and economic impact of social media. Increasingly, the competencies that underlie intelligent use of social media come from a burgeoning literature about the shifting notions of identity, society and power as a result of social networks.

Although I do plenty of experimentation with social media, I try to model efficient, effective use of tools and point to other librarians whose work and practices I admire. This course should, even in a small way, attempt to help you formulate your own competencies framework for using social media.

To understand the use of social media in the information professions, it is important to speak with librarians who use innovation approaches to using tools and to ask those who don't why they don't. We will have a number of chances to do this during term.

The best way to learn about social media is to experience it as a user - then, to reflect on that experience. Using social media and critiquing it on a blog is a form of reflective practice. To understand different tools, there are few substitutes for diving in and trying different things. You will have some opportunities to try out new tools in this course but bear in mind that use of tools per se is not our focus.

Finally, learning how to learn from our peers is key to lifelong learning, and to using social media. My hope is that over the next thirteen weeks we can build a community of social software users as a future network for sharing and support. More about that as we move forward in the coming days and weeks ahead.

Learning curve in LIBR559M

There is a steep learning curve and a growing bibliography regarding the affordances of social media. Many of you will have used social software in your personal lives or in your academic programmes. As a group, we bring to this class a wealth of knowledge and a diversity of views about social media. I encourage you to share your views as much as possible.

One of the real strengths of interdisciplinary programs (including library and information science (LIS) programs) is the diversity of backgrounds among students. Your peers come from all walks of life and academic backgrounds that speak to the diversity of Canadian (and perhaps American) society - so I hope you can share your questions and opinions as much as possible.

There is a steep learning curve in understanding social media and its impact on information organizations. The learning curve may be similarly steep to what many working information professionals experience as they try to remain ahead of the curve. As such, the course will to try simulate the breadth of adoption (or lack thereof) seen in libraries, archives and museums. In any case, we can use this exploration as an opportunity to build a collegial network of advice and support for each other both during and after the course has ended.

In the first weeks, we will focus on different types of social media and trends such as web 2.0 and library 2.0 - especially the principles of peer-production and collaboration. My hope is that we can collectively examine and share innovative examples of how social media is used in archives, libraries and museums not just in our own backyards but across the globe.

Time management

I realize that time for graduate students is at a premium and interest in social media will vary considerably among the students registered in this course. A recurring discussion I have with colleagues right across Canada is that they do not have sufficient time to stay up-to-date with developments in social media. Time management is thus a recurring theme in LIBR559M as we seek to find balance between using new technologies and resisting the wholesale adoption of tools for their own sake.

Each week there will be at least two required readings, and an activity. In addition, I have provided a lists of readings and resources so that you can delve into various topics and issues at your leisure. I encourage you to share any interesting blogs, wikis or scholarly work (adding articles to the wiki) that you happen to come across with your colleagues. The modules require that you read required articles generally considered seminal or foundational; other articles are by recommended authors that you may wish to read after you have completed the course. You do not have to read everything on the reading lists. If there is something that you would like to share with your colleagues by all means feel free to do so in the social cafe or other appropriate forum.

A word about your time commitment. Your level of engagement will undoubtedly be demonstrated by your participation in weekly discussions, and in completing and posting your assignments as directed. My commitment is to follow your discussions, guide as needed, provide feedback and responding promptly (within one working day) to questions.

Trust and respect

Due to the asynchronous nature of learning online, high levels of trust are essential as we provide feedback and interact with each other on a virtual learning platform. Trust is essential in building any learning community, let alone a virtual one, but challenging ideas within that milieu is a source of the richness of online learning. In the forums provided, share your thoughts and ideas with your peers. Think of the discussion boards as our "classroom" and the conversation threads as part of our attempts to understand concepts. Consider what is and is not appropriate for sharing in this digital space, and how best to provide constructive feedback and encouragement to your colleagues.

I encourage you to use the discussion forums for general questions, or any technical issues that may arise with Vista. That way your peers can also benefit. To access Help!, click on the discussions link in the top right corner of the page. If you have questions that you feel may not be appropriate for a discussion board, you have two options. You can use Vista's mail tool to send messages to me (the mail tool link is in course tools menu on the left), or you can contact me by telephone.

I look forward to sharing this experience with all of you. I appreciate that you have decided to take this journey with me.

Let's enjoy the journey together! ~Dean, go to: Introductions
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