Emerging Technologies – Social media

by Holly Boyer, Head Editor, INALJ Virginia

Emerging Technologies – Social media

holly.boyerAs a recent MLIS graduate, job seeker, and INALJ Virginia head editor, I have been reading a lot of job ads. I’ll be honest, occasionally I don’t understand what all of the required/preferred qualifications mean, which usually leads me straight to Google. Early on in my studies I remember coming across the term “emerging technology.” I thought that meant something cutting edge, like some Star Trek device that I’d never heard of. In some cases that’s relatively true (Google glass, anyone?) but for the most part, emerging technologies are things most of us have heard of or used before. While I am by no means an expert (neophyte might be a better term), I am very much interested in researching their use and potential in academic libraries. This will be the first in a series of articles for INALJ on several different technologies that are on the horizon.

Technologies are forever shifting, dying out, surging forth into the world. There is always something new about to explode onto the scene, an emerging technology waiting to be embraced. There are several definitions of emerging technologies, but for the purpose of these posts, it means “promising new and developing technologies that are likely to have a large impact on teaching, learning, research, or creative expression within the university environment” (Johnston, 2012, p. 68.) Schools, colleges, universities, and especially libraries are often responsible for teaching these new technologies to students of all ages. Understanding what emerging technologies are and how to use them is crucial to ensuring that instructors and/or librarians are equipped to teach students the literacy skills they need to succeed.

The first of these emerging technologies is social media. You probably don’t think of social media as something new or on the horizon, right? You’ve been on Facebook since 2004, you use Twitter fanatically, you even have a blog on WordPress. How is any of this emerging? You might be as surprised as I was to know that not everyone is on all the social networking sites (like I am.) According to a recent Pew report, 73% of online adults use a social networking site, with 42% using multiple sites (Duggan & Smith, 2013.) Pearson Learning Solutions found that faculty use of social media continues to grow with 70% using it personally and 55% professionally at least monthly and 41% use it within their classes (Seaman & Tinti-Kane, 2013.) As social media use proliferates, learning how to incorporate it into education mix will become increasingly important.

Effectively harnessing social media for educational purposes is still evolving. Chad Gesser has a great article in ASA Footnotes on how he is using social media in teaching. Google Drive, Sites, and Blogger are all integral components of his classes. He uses YouTube playlists to group sociology videos, which he uses in class. Twitter and Facebook are also part of the mix (Gesser, 2013.) UCLA’s Powell Library has an active and effective Instagram account they use to interact with their student population. Not only do they use it to share photos of the library, they also use it to showcase their collections and exhibits (Salomon, 2013.)

This use of social media in the classroom and library can create rich learning communities, where students and their professors can share information, experiences, and understanding. It will only become more prevalent, especially with the rise in MOOCs and similar learning environments (more on that in a later post.) The danger with educational use of social media is the same as personal use: privacy. By creating public spaces where students and professors can go to share, there is the risk (and even expectation) of a lack of privacy. Could this hinder interaction by taking a “safe” learning environment and making it public? Possibly. Students may feel less comfortable sharing if they know anyone could see it.

I do have some personal experience here, as my graduate program was entirely online. Several of my classes required creating social media objects. In one class my group created a Ning network (think your own Facebook site.) I created several blogs, one even on social media use in libraries where I wrote about Pinterest, a site that I really didn’t know much about at the time. Nearly all of my classes had a group project component, and although it wasn’t a requirement, we usually used Google Drive to collaborate and Hangouts for live discussions. Of course, in an online program, social media use becomes even more important, because we usually don’t have the in person option.

If you want to see some of the things librarians and universities are doing on social media, here are just a very few options: Tumblarians, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram, INALJ on LinkedIn. And you can always find me on my blog, Twitter and INALJVA Twitter, LinkedIn, Google+, Pinterest…ok, I’ll stop now.


Duggan, M., & Smith, A. (2013, December 30). Social media update. Retrieved from Pew Internet & American Life Project website: http://www.pewinternet.org/Reports/2013/Social-Media-Update/Main-Findings.aspx

Gesser, C. M. (2013, January). Using social media in the classroom: A community college perspective. Retrieved from http://www.asanet.org/footnotes/jan13/social_media_0113.html

Johnston, L. (2012). Tech Expo: A Model for Emerging Technology Education for Library Staff. Journal of Library Innovation, 3(1), 66-85.

Salomon, D. (2013). Moving on from Facebook. College & Research Libraries News, 74(8), 408-412.

Seaman, J., & Tinti-Kane, H. (2013, October). Social media for teaching and learning. Retrieved from Pearson Learning Solutions website: http://www.pearsonlearningsolutions.com/assets/downloads/reports/social-media-