Tag Archives: Technology

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

Technology and Language Change: How Memes and Emojis Are The Language of The 21st Century and That’s OK

Prescriptivism is dead. That should be read as a warning of bias. This article is written from the perspective that overly regimenting language is a harmful practice. (Counterarguments and thoughts about this topic are more than welcome in the comments section below!) In a linguistic sense, prescriptivism stunts natural language change and prevents linguistic growth. Without language change, Latin would never have become the Romance languages. That’s right – no Italian, French, or Spanish, to give examples from just one language family.

Technology is a huge (and still growing!) part of the modern world and as such it impacts nearly all aspects of our lives – language included. Therefore, letting technology run its course on language brings our communication more fully into the 21st century.

Brief intermission:

My name is Julianna Pakstis. Hello and welcome to my first WIC blog post! As you can tell from the topic of this post, I have a fascination with language and how it has changed over time. I studied Classics and Linguistics at Penn as an undergrad but have recently switched gears a bit to become a Library Science Master’s student at Rutgers University. And that, ironically, led me back to Penn. I am now an intern at WIC and am excited to explore how WIC connects technology to various academic areas… like the internet and Linguistics.

Now, back to the post.

The study of language change has a long history. Therefore, criticism for language change has a long history as well. The impact of technology on

phaedrus
Plato’s Phaedrus is an ancient document which contains a criticism of the technology of writing.

language is no exception to this criticism. From writing itself, to chatspeak, and emojis, there is and seemingly always has been an outcry against the supposed degradation of language these forms of communication cause. There are voices in favor, too, however. There are authors, linguists and journalists alike, who do not condemn the new forms but embrace them, analyze them, and use them, whether professionally or simply personally.

Linguist Gretchen McCulloch is one of those authors. Back in 2014, she did a fairly neutral post on meta-analysis of the language of doge meme for the internet on website, The Toast. In this article she considered whether visual elements, like the Shiba Inu with a piercing expression or the bright comic-sans font made the meme. What she ultimately discovered, however, was that the peculiar grammar of doge meme was its defining feature.

For those readers who might not be familiar with doge meme, the viral image consists of a picture of a Shiba Inu dog with short, punchy phrases written in bright comic-sans layered over top. Typically the words read like this: “such dog,” much cute,” and perhaps most frequently “wow.”

doge-meme-and-tech
It’s very easy to create your own exemplary meme.

McCulloch concluded that “doge phrases,” short one or two word adjectival phrases, are most characteristic of the meme. You can now hear someone IRL (“in real life”) say “such wow” and envision the meme as the two of you recall a common mental image. While doge speak may not be the most popular internet borrowing for vocalized speech (OMG or LOL may be a better example there), it is a unique way of speaking that can definitively be traced back to this particular meme. When a way of speaking integral to a meme integrates into real life speech, language has changed by technological cause.

The end result is that people have nuanced ways to connect ideas and words. They still know the standard form of the language but can now manipulate it in line with new information.

The doge meme example leads to interesting questions about how fast, mass, and written communication, like the internet, affect language and orthography itself. The orthography issue is a hot topic lately as emojis “threaten” to destroy language as we have always known it.

First, we must tackle the debate of whether or not emojis are or can become a language inemojis and of themselves. There are compelling arguments on both sides, but the consensus right now seems to be that emojis enhance communication but do not have a clear grammar of their own. This lack of clarity (or presence of ambiguity) prevents them from really
overthrowing verbal and written communication. To be fair, one could say that even our established vocabulary and grammar has large amounts of ambiguity and therefore does not count as a language, though that would go against the common definition that what we speak and write is our language. This is a complicated issue so, again, your thoughts are welcome in the comments sections.

In the end, emojis, chatspeak, and memes are rapidly changing forms of expressions. The rapidity and universality are products of their technological context. Because they enhance communication, these symbols are part of our writing system and can be considered language. Rather than destroying language, however, these computer mediated forms of communication participate in a linguistic feature as old as language itself – change.

Life with Technology at Penn: Student Research Exhibit

SWRK781-Fall2015-exhibit
Dr. Rosemary Frasso, Allison Golinkoff (TA)  and graduate student research team– Qualitative Research Methods for Social Work and Public Health Professionals (SW 781) Fall 2015

As everyone trickles back in to the library this semester, take some time to walk towards the Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom (right before the WIC entrance, to the right) to see Dr. Rosemary Frasso’s graduate students’ research exhibit Life with Technology Among University of Pennsylvania Students. Dr. Frasso’s previous research exhibits include Pressure Release and Fear and Safety at Penn. I took some time this week to make my way through the exhibit and found it interesting to see how Penn students are understanding technology’s role in their lives. Here at WIC we post about tech frequently, and this past year alone we’ve discussed new ways of using social media tools, using apps for productivity and travel, and our experiences with 3d printingLife with Technology takes a more in-depth look into the complicated ways students’ lives intersect with technology that can be both useful and intrusive. The exhibit  is organized into thematic categories: Changing Times, Dependence, Disconnected, Efficiency, Health, Multitasking. Privacy, Social Connections, Ubiquitous, Unplugged, and Work and Education.

In order to decide on a topic, students used Nominal Group Technique (NGT) in order to come to a consensus representative of the group’s preferences. Interviews were then conducted using photo elicitation (first named by photographer and researcher John Collier in 1957) in which a qualitative interview is guided by photographs taken by study participants. Each student recruited one participant, an undergraduate or graduate student from Penn, and explained the study to them. The topic of the project was explained and participants were asked to “define and explore the meaning of ‘life with technology’ over the course of one week using their phones to document their exploration.” Ultimately, the research team decided together on which images and quotes to use in the exhibit and how these pieces fit into categories. Some memorable images include dried cranberries, Penn classrooms, a kitchen stove, and selfies.

From here, students will use NVivo 10 software for thematic analysis, and members of the research team will then identify salient themes, summarize findings, prepare an abstract for presentation, and a manuscript for publication. The exhibit is beautiful and engaging, so please come by and check it out at the  Van Pelt Collaborative Classroom. 

If you are interested in using NVivo software, consider joining our NVivo User Group which meets monthly with a guest presenter for each session.

Announcing our iPad Program Report

We’re glad to announce our program report on the iPads in the Classroom pilot and welcome your comments. Please do share the report widely. We began our pilot at Gadget Day in August 2011and over the past year, we have explored the use of iPads in a variety of classroom, meeting and travel contexts  – from pair-share video interviews on identity to capturing conference moments in New York City to collaborative critique of multimedia content. We have learned how to manage the iPads and also begun to understand how to help faculty and students become comfortable with them in an instructional context.

We welcome faculty to reserve the iPads for class projects this fall. Please stop by or email us. Students can take photos, capture videos, share articles, comment on PDFs, explore web resources and use specialized apps. We can add apps by request in case our current list does not meet your needs. We can load the iPads with readings, bookmarks, videos and other relevant content. You can look for apps tailored for your discipline at the app store or ask us for suggestions. The Apps on Tap blog provides a great resource for exploring apps for iPad, as well as other mobile platforms.

Steelcase Demo Table – Testers Wanted

We invite you to come and take a test drive of a demo table from Steelcase. It is here for the next week just outside the entrance to the Vitale Digital Media Lab, 1st floor west of Van Pelt-Dietrich Library Center. We are considering purchase of this unit for one of our group study rooms. It is designed for small-group collaboration. Read the vendor description.

The system has pucks to connect your laptop to control one or both screens. We have some laptops and an iPad2 available in the Vitale Digital Media Lab next door if you would like to borrow them to try at the Steelcase table.

The system autodetects connected computers through a VGA cable and also has an audio cable. So far, we have had success with Mac and PC (Dell) laptops, an iPad2 and an iPhone – we would like to test connectivity to other mobile devices and laptop models.

We would love to hear your comments on its functionality and possible uses.

Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium, 2010 (10/21/10)

Prof. Decherney, Cinema Studies and English
Prof. Decherney, Cinema Studies and English

At the Engaging Students Through Technology Symposium 2010, Peter Decherney, Associate Professor of Cinema Studies and English, facilitated a panel discussion with four Penn undergraduates – Rivka Fogel, Thomas Jansen, Pranav Merchant and Tatiana Peisach – about the ways in which new technologies enhance and reduce learning both in and out of class. Students spoke frankly and passionately about their interest in robust and flexible online collaboration tools for note-taking and study. Watch the video of the student panel.

Engaging Students Through Technology 2009 (9/1/2009)

Six faculty presented to a packed lecture hall about specific technologies they use with their students. The symposium included a lively lunch in the WIC Data Diner Booths and a series of hands-on Tech Tasting sessions in the afternoon.

Symposium 2009

The symposium explored student engagement through technology and included faculty insights, hands-on exploration of technologies and small-group discussions. It was open to Penn faculty, instructors and graduate students. About 100 people from ten schools at Penn participated. Video clips of morning presentations and the event flyer are available online.