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Bot Literacy: Teaching Librarians to Make Twitter Bots

Mark Eaton and Robin Camille Davis

Mark Eaton and Robin Camille Davis

Mark Eaton from Kingsborough Community College, CUNY, and Robin Camille Davis, John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY, described a workshop they developed to teach librarians how to make Twitter bots. They began with first principles:

  • A bot is a little program that does the same thing over and over again, with a pre-programmed variation.
  • A Twitter bot usually sends out a thematic tweet on a regular basis. The tweet is created using a script and some data.
  • Manipulative bots don’t identify themselves and retweet a political slogan over and over. 

The workshop emphasized becoming familiar with the Python programming language. It was presented three times at conferences. There are many claims that coding is a new literacy; today the definition has expanded from traditional notions of reading and writing to the ability to learn, comprehend,and interact with technology in a meaningful way. In their workshop, they wanted participants to learn how to build bots, what tools are needed to learn to make bots, how to deploy a bot, and the social implications of bot making.

The Python computer language has a low barrier to entry, so it is good to start with it. Writing code is all about problem solving. Don’t learn to code; code to learn. Consider the social implications of what your bot does. Aim for familiarity, not fluency, at first, and make it easy to begin running code, then make something fun that users can show off to other people. Provide a glossary and write your own plain-language definitions.

Takeaways:

  • Bot literacy helps us to better understand our networked world.
  • Making bots is an effective entry point into programming.
  • A scaffolded approach is a god way to teach programming.
  • Include creative time.

The workshop was successful; participants provided favorable feedback.

 

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