Thursday, January 31, 2008

Being 'time poor': managing social networking tools and information on the Internet


I have been talking about encouraging students to use social networking tools to find information on the network, and not just rely on journals and books they find in the library. I advise students to take at least a couple of hours a month to browse around the library, just catching up with the latest journals. I find it really frustrating that students seem to only concentrate on finding information for their assignments, as opposed for general interest and development.

But as Rae pointed out in her answer to my post about the academic credibility of blogs, midwifery students (both undergraduate and postgraduate) have considerable time constraints which can be a considerable barrier to 'surfing'. Not only do they have an academic load but they also have clinical placements, which usually means being 'on-call'. Many students are mature students with significant family obligations. So, time management is crucial. And expecting students to surf blogs, wikis, YouTube and so on on top of the traditional journals and books may be... a blog too far!

But that is where tools such a Google Reader, Google Alerts and Google Blog Alerts are so handy. I use these tools in iGoogle to monitor topics and blogs that are of interest to me. For example, I have my iGoogle home page alert me when topics are posted on blogs about "midwifery", "midwife" and "e-mentoring". I use Google Reader to keep an eye on any midwifery websites and blogs that interest me. And on the whole, I haven't found this to be too time consuming and keeps my knowledge-seeking focused. It certainly is easier than carrying out general searches every few days to see what is new.

The other thing I find to be very useful as a time saving measure is to sign up for email alerts from my favorite journals. So that every time there is a new edition of a journal, I get an email alert that tells me what is in the journal. I can then decide what articles to follow up in the library.

These time and information management tools need to be included into orientation packages for students alongside introductions to databases and search engines.

PS: Image is from my first attempt to use Jing which is a screen-capture program.

9 comments:

Graeme said...

Like the idea of email alerts which are a good idea and a useful inroad into topics although they tend to be very narrowly focussed.

Would be wary of recommending social networking sites or even Google to students as they can be of dubious breeding. I find that students overuse Wikipedia and Google to the extent that they develop an uncritical reliance on this information. I tend to give an overview of how to evaluate websites and Internet information and when work is handed in for assessment I always questions these sources.

Ms. Mize said...

I have to say that I haven't started the challenge. I have been under the weather and my schedule has gotten very busy all of the sudden.

Kate said...

Sarah -

this is one of the reasons I've been hesitant in shouting from the rooftops about all my new findings to my colleagues. Lord knows they have enough on their plates, and since I haven't mastered how to effectively keep track of all the data I'm collecting, how can I expect them to? You're correct that if we're going to have students use these tools, we need to share how to effectively manage them. Time is such a crucial factor - it seems as if taking a day off leaves you so woefully behind it's not worth starting up again!

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Graeme, yes, I agree that you have to watch the material that students get from Google etc. I guess what I was trying to get across in this post and that in my post about credibility of blogs, http://tinyurl.com/2wx9ma , was that they are portals to information.

I absolutely agree that students must be guided to the use of Internet information and its credibility. We run a workshop about evaluating Internet information. But even then I do not find that they use very credible sources of information, even those we tell students about eg. the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (www.nice.org.uk), which is an extremely reputable source of clinical information about things like induction of labour.

Using this blog to disseminate information about these sites and encouraging discussion about them may be one way to go.

Sarah Stewart said...

Sorry to hear you're not well, ms.mize-hope you feel better soon.

Sarah Stewart said...

Kate - I certainly wouldn't argue with you about the time issues involved with keeping track of information. I have had all summer to play with things like twitter, but now I am back to work/study, I know I am going to have to be a lot more ruthless with what blogs I monitor etc.

Nevertheless, I think it is vital that we make our midwifery students aware of all the ways of keeping up to date, as that is the core of evidence-based practice and the basis of their professional lives once they have qualified, especially as a lot of them will not have access to the resources they now are able to access through the Polytechnic.

Anonymous said...

hmm I think getting evidence based info out there is less of an issue than shifting evidence and knowledge into actual practice....however...
Undoubtedly on line facilities are opening up multiple exits for evidence - into the world. I don't really think that is their main strength though- isn't the real strength or value of spaces such as this - the place for dialogue and conversation following information/evidence - that the whole cyber (pardon the language - i still haven't learned the expressions for this type of communication)space allows? We have long had access to the evidence through both on line and more usual hard copy means - but now we have an avenue to exchange the ideas that arise from that.

Anonymous said...

well we have an avenue to bounce ideas around more publicly that doesn't involve approval from a peer reviewed journal committee which most thinking practitioners will never do realistically - so I see a benefit in building up an alternative space for nformed conversations to unfold.

Sarah Stewart said...

Love the idea of a 'space' for informed conversation. cheers Sarah