Category Archives: In the News

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Social Media Outside of the Classroom

As the graduate intern for social media, I’ve been teaching social media workshops for Penn students, faculty, and staff at the Weigle Information Commons for over two years now. When I first started, it still was not clear what the purpose of social media was in the classroom or in academic life for that matter. However, more and more people are now buying into the idea of personal/professional branding and using social media platforms as learning tools.

In the last two years, we have all noted the rise of social media usage and how the lines between personal, professional, and useful are blurring. With the close of election 2016, the beginning of 2017, and the resurgence of using social media to organize in-person gatherings and protests, there is absolutely no doubt that social media will continue to rise in importance for college-age Americans and those who serve them as educators, mentors, colleagues, and support staff.

Here at the Penn Libraries, January has been an exciting time. On Saturday, the 14th, a hundred or so librarians, scientists, coders, hackers, and interested parties gathered to scrape data from NOAA.gov and other websites prior to the new administration potentially removing it from those sites. In addition, we have a series of workshops on identifying and avoiding “Fake News.” Individually, neither of these events is about “social media” in the way that my social media workshops are, but they are inherently linked to how undergraduate, graduate, and professional students use social media in their everyday lives on-and-off campus, in-and-out of the classroom.

Fake news is often perpetuated through news feeds on social sites like Facebook, Twitter, etc. In addition, accessing real news, and learning about real “threats” such as losing valuable information about climate change or other public scientific data, also occurs on social media sites. Most of us access our news digitally and many of us access our news on social media platforms.

For many years, I’ve heard concerns from older generations that millennials and younger generations consume news and “real information” differently and perhaps less intentionally. This quote from the Media Insight Project’s study on how millennials get their news is illuminating:

The worry is that Millennials’ awareness of the world, as a result, is narrow, their discovery of events is incidental and passive, and that news is just one of many random elements in a social feed.

This has been the concern of older generations of educators since I started working professionally with social media in college in 2010 and continues through to today. From my experience, students at both the graduate and undergraduate levels are very concerned that they are accessing and publishing the right information. There is a lot of social anxiety around what our brands look like online and building those brands requires a certain level of familiarity and comfort with using social media. For intellectual spaces like Penn, it also means that there is growing concern among active users of social media that their intellectual growth and learning empowers them to understand what they read and take action on it. Here are some of that 2014 study’s findings about how millennials consume news:

  • While Millennials are highly equipped, it is not true they are constantly connected. More than 90 percent of adults age 18-34 surveyed own smartphones, and half own tablets. But only half (51 percent) say they are online most or all of the day.

  • Email is the most common digital activity, but news is a significant part of the online lives of Millennials, as well. Fully 69 percent report getting news at least once a day — 40 percent several times a day.

  • Millennials acquire news for many reasons, which include a fairly even mix of civic motivations (74 percent), problem-solving needs (63 percent), and social factors (67 percent) such as talking about it with friends.

As we look forward into this new year, I plan to attend as many workshops and teach as many workshops as possible about how to continue to be a responsible consumer of media. Keep the Penn Weigle Information Commons and the Penn Libraries’ programming sites bookmarked as these are themes that we continue to explore as a university and a community.

If you’re interested attending our ongoing workshops relating to media consumption, digital, and social media, here are a few:

(Jan. 30) Shoddy News

(Feb. 8) Creating Meaningful Graphics

(Feb. 15) Creating Video Presentations

laptop computer displaying a news website with the heading "fake news"

Information Literacy Workshops

The phenomenon of fake news has become a hot topic, ironically, of major news outlets in recent months. News stories are being presented as fact without any substantial backing in truth. There are many reasons why fake news happens and is promulgated. They vary from personal monetary gain to accidental, well-intentioned spread of misinformation.

With so many reasons tempting so many people to promulgate fake news, how do you know what sources to trust? How do you know the supposed rise of fake news isn’t merely a fake news story itself, anyway? Penn Libraries can help with that.

During the month of January, Penn Libraries will be offering a three-part Information Literacy Workshop series about evaluating news sources. Each workshop will highlight a different kind of misinformation while preparing participants to recognize and mediate false information in their own news consumption.

A workshop entitled Fake News: Pinpointing Lies, Hoaxes, and Conspiracy Theories will kick off the series and takes place on Wednesday, January 18, 2017 from 3-4:30pm in the Weigle Information Commons Seminar Room. This installation focuses on evaluating false information.

The next two workshops feature strategies for identifying Slippery News and Shoddy News – distinctions that have recently become necessary. In brief, slippery news refers to stories that aren’t meant to maliciously deceive but are hotbeds for misinformation. The shoddy news workshop, on the other hand, will link news reports of research to the research itself in an attempt to decipher which stories are sourced with verifiable research and which utilize papers with unsound methodologies.

Attending any one of these workshops can help you sift through the massive amounts of ambiguous information available on the internet everyday. Attending the workshop as a series will give you nuanced insight into the different types of unreliable information out there and provide you with tools to think critically and avoid consuming that misinformation.

LinkedIn workshop

Why Social Media?

Why social media at Penn? Social media at Penn and in college, graduate school, and in the professional world is not about scrubbing all traces of who you are off the internet. It’s about creating content that you are “sincerely” passionate about engaging with and making connections online that will lead to IRL experiences like your next research project, a career, a new friend, or an amazing conference experience.

I’ve now had this conversation countless times. As the Saturday consultant at the Weigle Information Commons, I’ve taught social media workshops at the Penn Libraries for two years now. Now and then, I publish a blog post on a particular social platform or tool. Every few months, a friend, a patron, a colleague, or a stranger asks about my work with social media and says, “Oh, I should really do more online!”

Continue reading Why Social Media?

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Social Media at the Commons: Facebook

Hi, there! I’m Jaime and I’ve been consulting/interning here at the Commons since 2014. My personal passion is helping students, staff, and faculty learn how to connect their personal and professional brands online by engaging with others on social media. This past Saturday, I worked with two long-time patrons dedicated to getting their social media game on point. Kemuel Benyehudah and Sandra Andino have been coming to the Commons since November 2015 to work on maximizing the effectiveness of their public Facebook accounts.

Continue reading Social Media at the Commons: Facebook

Commons’ Publications: Reviewed

CoverLearnerInteractionsOnlineThe Commons’ staff are no stranger to publishing and have written about technology, learning, collaboration, and teaching tools, all things we love at WIC. Recently, WIC Digital Projects Fellow Vickie Karasic and director Anu Vedantham wrote a chapter for Researching Language Learners Interactions Online: From Social Media to MOOCs (Dixon and Thomas). Their chapter, “Video Creation Tools for Language Learning: Lessons Learned” focuses on digital video creation tools and the benefit of using video assignments for language learning. Their chapter received a brief mention in a book review by Elena Martin-Monje this month:

 

“…video assignments enhance the understanding of other languages and cultures, while at the same time they enable students to be more aware of their own identity through this learning process.”

Vickie has written about this project before, including details of interviewing language faculty members at Penn. She has also showcased her workshop on using Audio and Video in PowerPoint for Beginning Japanese.

Read other reports and publications written about the Commons (the Educause article made 2014’s Top Ten Most Read list) and check out our monthly workshops if you are interested in learning some of the same tech tools referenced in the book!

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Gmail’s Smart Reply for you

Back in 2009, Google teased users with  Gmail Autopilot, a service which would both read and respond to emails automatically. The service would get to know you by reading your emails and being responding using your personal communication style. Of course, people quickly recognized this as an infamous Google hoax.

Example Autopilot Responses
©2011 Google

This may have seemed far-fetched six years ago, but personal, automated email responses are now becoming a reality thanks to Google’s new artificial intelligence technology:

“Google just unveiled technology that’s at least moving in that direction. Using what’s called “deep learning”—a form of artificial intelligence that’s rapidly reinventing a wide range of online services—the company is beefing up its Inbox by Gmail app so that it can analyze the contents of an email and then suggest a few (very brief) responses. The idea is that you can rapidly respond to someone while on the go—without having to manually tap a fresh message into your smartphone keyboard.”

Google’s “deep learning” technology, called ‘Smart Reply,’ now allows Gmail to analyze the content of your email and suggest a few brief responses to it. In this process, composing new mail can be substituted by this new bit of Google’s artificial intelligence.

According to Google’s product Manager Alex Gawley, Smart Reply will tailor both tone and content of the email and suggest three responses. The user can still choose to either use one of them or modify them with one’s own words.

io-highlights-googlee28099s-machine-learning-smartszImage Source: http://www.techroc.com

This particular feature of Gmail is a result of something called ‘Machine Learning.’ Pieces of information from all over the world are constantly fed into a neural network (a network of computers intended to represent and perform functions of neurons in the human brain) called long short-term memory (LSTM system). One half of this neural network on receiving these new pieces of information analyzes them and ‘learns’ the underlying patterns in diverse sets of phrases in the language. The second half works on generating potential responses (typically 3-6 words long), one word at a time.

For example, by feeding enough pictures of a human, the machine eventually ‘learns’ how to identify a human. However, this feature is not new. It can be thought of as an extension of the ‘suggest search’ feature in the Google Search engine, the ‘auto-complete’ feature on our phones’ texting applications, or the personal assistants, Siri or Cortana, on our phones.

Naturally, this feature depends on the amount of data input into a neural network. With only a finite amount of data, the machine’s responses can be rudimentary at best. Nevertheless, this technology is a leap in that direction.

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Image Source: http://www.gmailblog.blogspot.com

Rumors are that this machine can even process jokes and suggest appropriate responses to them!

Welcome to the future! Comment here and let us know what you think. Fascinating use of technology or unnecessary AI intervention?

Google AI
Image Source: http://www.lifehacker.com.au