Practicing New Skills and New Vocabularies: Reflections on Student Training in Knowledge Mobilization: Part 1 / Nouvelles habiletés et nouveaux vocabulaires en pratique : réflexions sur la formation des étudiants en mobilisation des connaissances (1re partie)

Rachel Salt, Brianne Brady, and Anne Bergen, Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship, University of Guelph,
Knowledge mobilization is an emerging field of practice, and there are currently relatively few explicit knowledge mobilization training opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students. However, this perceived gap is due, in part, to a naming problem – although relatively few students are aware of jargon related to KTT and KMb, students engage in KTT and KMb activities relatively often. At the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship at the University of Guelph, we are trying to overlay the vocabularies associated with KMb and KTT on student work related to curating, sharing, and exchanging information. In some cases, this takes the form of social media accounts, but this can also relate to logistics surrounding intra-organizational KMb – in this case, our in-house updates to graduate student interns. We present here two reflections on both beginning KMb work and labeling that work as KMb. This week we hear from Rachel Salt and next week we will hear from Brianne Brady.
La mobilisation des connaissances (MdC) est un domaine qui émerge à peine dans le champ universitaire, et il existe à l’heure actuelle assez peu de possibilités de formation destinées aux étudiants des universités qui lui soient explicitement consacrées. Cependant, cette perception d’un manque est attribuable en partie à un problème de dénomination : bien que le jargon de la mobilisation, de la transmission ou de l’application des connaissances ne soit familier qu’à un nombre relativement restreint d’étudiants, ceux-ci mènent pourtant assez souvent des activités qui relèvent de ces domaines. À l’Université de Guelph, l’Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship s’efforce donc de recouper le vocabulaire de la mobilisation et de la transmission des connaissances avec celui de travaux d’étudiants qui portent sur l’organisation, la diffusion et l’échange d’information. Dans certains cas, cela prend la forme de comptes rendus dans les médias sociaux. Mais cela peut concerner également la logistique de la MdC au sein d’une même organisation, et prendre la forme, comme c’est le cas ici, des mises à jour que nous préparons à l’interne pour nos stagiaires des cycles supérieurs. Les deux commentaires que nous présentons abordent à la fois les premières étapes d’un travail de MdC et la reconnaissance de ce travail en tant que mobilisation des connaissances. Nous accueillons cette semaine Rachel Salt, et la semaine prochaine, Brianne Brady.

Social Media and Knowledge Mobilization: A Graduate Student’s Perspective – Rachel Salt

When I was offered a position to manage two professional twitter accounts I was very grateful and excited; but I was also intensely fearful and a bit of a skeptic.  Before I jump into my experience as a Social Media Manager, some background on the programs I tweeted for:
University of GuelphAs a graduate student at the University of Guelph (and former undergraduate student) I wanted to find ways to help give back to the city that had given so much to me, so I began interning at the Research Shop.  The Research Shop acts as a portal between community and university research needs, where interns work with community partners to identify and address problems, which range from sustainable food to transforming social systems.  The Research Shop operates under the Institute for Community Engaged Scholarship (ICES).  ICES builds capacity for community-engaged scholarship by strengthening faculty and student engagement with local, national and international communities of interest, addressing faculty reward and development, and training faculty and students in knowledge mobilization.
After a year of interning, I was offered a position to manage the accounts for the Research Shop (@Researchshop) and ICES (@ICESGuelph).  I was so excited by the opportunity, but nervous as well.  I had never sent a tweet in my life!  What was the purpose of hashtags?  What did RT and MT mean?  I was also nervous about the position because I was honestly a bit skeptical about Twitter itself – wasn’t that just a place for celebrities to pick fights with one another, or a place for people to broadcast the restaurant they were eating at?
Before I started to write tweets I did some preliminary research.  I quickly discovered how my constricted assumptions about what Twitter is were way off.  There are social media ethics, strategies, proper tone, how often to tweet, what to tweet, and when to tweet.  Twitter is serious business.
twitter birdMy first few tweets took an embarrassingly long amount of time to construct.   I had so much I wanted to say and so little space to say it.  However, the learning curve was not too steep and I soon began to get the hang of it.  My boss and knowledge mobilization guru, Dr. Anne Bergen, set me up on HootSuite a social media management site.  For me, this made tweeting a lot easier.  I liked being able to schedule when my tweets went out, for example, if I found an interesting article on community engaged scholarship Sunday night I could schedule a tweet to go out at a higher traffic time on Monday morning (I learned that the best times to send academic tweets are between 10-11AM and 2-3PM – which happens to coincide with a lot of people’s coffee break!). Using HootSuite I was able to track the mention of relevant hashtags on twitter, such as #KMb, #CES, or #KTT.  I also liked that I could attach pdf’s and word documents.  I stopped thinking about tweets being only 140 characters of information and started thinking of them as 140 character bylines leading readers to find out more.  Before this experience I was unfamiliar with the terms ‘knowledge mobilization’ and ‘knowledge translation’.  Through this experience I have gained a much better grasp of what this is (via ‘following’ professionals in the field and reading the articles they share), and I’ve also realized what an effective knowledge mobilization tool social media can be.
This experience taught me so many different things.  I became more aware of events and activities going on in my community and started to hear about conferences, people, and organizations from around the world, which in the past I had not known existed.  Twitter is also an excellent format to share grey literature and update people on how a project is progressing.  In my personal life I find myself using twitter as my first source for news updates.  I’ve even started my own semi-professional personal twitter account, which I use to follow people I admire, look for work, and share information about projects I am involved in.  As a recent graduate and on the hunt for full-time work, I’ve been shocked at how many positions require professional experience in social media.  This speaks volumes about how important an effective social media presence is, and how former skeptics like me can no longer ignore this powerful tool.