During the first workshop session, I participated in Copyright education in the age of social media led by Jane Secker. Despite the importance, copyright is not an area people seek out for pleasure and enjoyment, but that’s just what Jane was seeking to provide through the game-based scenario we had the chance to sample.
Many staff (and students?) are fearful or ignorant of their obligations as far as copyright is concerned. In the sessions Jane provides, she aims to flip the perspective from one with the negative associations of restrictive, complicated procedures and practice, to one celebrating the freedoms and opportunities that are available. This is done through the game, the core of which is centred on discussion between the participants, prompted by different scenarios … the typical kinds of situations we might face in our practice. Having library-based staff amongst the participants meant we had quite a range of people with different knowledge bases on which to draw. This made for interesting and lively discussions, especially since many of the cases with which we were presented were far from clear cut.
Jane also provided us with a couple of hard-copy booklets for future reference, together with pointers to online resources like CopyrightUser.org and the UCISA Social Media Toolkit. Oh, and let’s not forget the copyright fortune cookies!
Short Paper 1
In Morality, social media and the educational researcher, Leigh-Anne Perryman and Tony Coughlan, presented details of two research projects they’d undertaken using FaceBook as the source. In one case this had been through a ‘closed’ group and in a second one which was ‘open.’ The challenges arising from each were very different and highlighted the somewhat blurred private-public space distinction, how access was negotiated to each and and how (if!) informed consent could/should be obtained. This is discussed at greater length in their paper.
Although I was already aware of some of the issues, such as how to declare your nature as a researcher when joining a group/community, I was grateful for the prompt that we may need also to consider how we negotiate changes in status during our membership. I’d also never thought of the ethical issues that might arise if we encounter information which might suggest that someone might be at risk; how do we balance our duty to maintain privacy with the potential harm that our choice of action might result in. Though the likelihood of that occurring during my study is slim, it is however possible that people may ‘over’-share personal information. As a researcher, I need to be sensitive to that and watchful of how I process that.
When the time comes to share our findings, we are of course obliged to ensure we take steps to:
- protect the individual, and
- protect the online community of which those individuals are part.
The guidelines from BERA and AERA can help with this, but the former tend to be more conservative, especially in requiring confidentiality and anonymity as the norm. AERA guidelines however, don’t demand confidentiality where the research is conducted in a public space. The researcher has to tread very carefully then, negotiating this complex arena and perhaps erring on the side of caution.
This was an incredibly meaningful session for me. Although I’m unlikely to be using Facebook as a site of research, it was helpful to see the considerations made and the guidance upon which researchers can draw. Whilst the generic approach might be consistently one involving public-private distinctions, informed consent and confidentiality/anonymity, it’s clear that each case has to be analysed on its own merits. I particularly appreciated being introduced to several new terms, some of which may be significant in the context of my own study: dissociative anonymity, the minimization of authority and solipsistic introjection.
Short Paper 2
Lee Dunn presented his paper on Social Media as a Professional Medium: achieving an equilibrium of enthusiasm and protection for new teachers in which he outlined how ITE students at the University of Glasgow are encouraged to collaborate and communicate through social media. Although some students refuse to participate through social media, on ideological grounds, the majority do become involved, sharing and discussing their experiences largely through Twitter. Lee also mentioned how the channels many of us tend to use professionally (emails, Twitter, LinkedIn) do not form part of the networks with which the majority of new students would identify. Corralling them onto a single platform, like Twitter, can therefore prove challenging.
The difficulties encountered when devising a curriculum and assessments were outlined, then a sample of the activities on which students were engaged was provided. One of these involved a discussion around the Professional Guidelines the GTC for Scotland produces for its teachers (PDF) and the implications for practice and professional learning.
I was struck by the resistance students have to learning using social media. Yes, I get that might be another platform to learn and presence to manage. I also appreciate that people will have different views on privacy; some being highly tuned to what personal data they’re offering up to the online platform providers. I know too that many prefer to keep their personal and professional lives apart and young people especially can sometimes resent ‘the man’ intruding on what they perceive to be their personal space … like your mum friending you on Facebook. However I think that teachers in the making have an additional responsibility to the students they’ll ultimately be responsible for supporting. Being able to guide students in their online activities, their digital literacy if you will, is the responsibility of every single teacher I’d argue, in the same way the textual literacy and numeracy is the responsibility of all. Now if, through choice, a teacher has no experience of social media whatsoever, how they ever be expected to provide the guidance needed? I would have thought that an opportunity like that Lee was providing, in a controlled, structured and supportive space, would be one not to pass up.
The morning and afternoon session were linked by a rather excellent buffet lunch; the quality of the food was outstanding. Having filled my plate, I moved to the side and opened a chat with someone. As we exchanged how we had come to the conference and what our backgrounds were, it suddenly became clear that we had had several exchanges on Twitter and were hoping to bump into one another. Given the numbers at the conference, how surprising then that the first person I chat with at lunch was Wasim Ahmed, also conducting research into Twitter, though from a rather different perspective to me.