Cultivating professional communities of teachers and practitioners through Social Networking Sites

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  • 1. Cultivating professional communities of teachers and practitioners through Social Networking Sites Maria Ranieri*, Stefania Manca**, Antonio Fini* *University of Florence , Florence ** Institute of Educational Technology - CNR, Genoa Italy
  • 2. Background
    • The overall background of this study is provided by the SoMobNet Framework:
    • informal mediated context of learning
    • changing practices developed by practitioners in the field of education through SNS
    • where mobile learning meets SNS
  • 3. Research questions
    • The research is part of a larger study aiming at exploring the professional uses of Social Networking Sites to cultivate communities of teachers and practitioners. In particular, it intends to investigate the following general issues:
    • What are the mechanisms characterizing people participation in SN professional groups? [Stellar Issue: Connecting ]
    • What is the interplay between real and virtual experiences in these groups, and the impact of social mobile practices ? [Stellar Issue: Contextualization ]
    • How people’s profiles are evaluated to be admitted into the groups? How credibility is established? [Stellar Issue: Orchestration ]
  • 4. Research design
    • Study 1 : Exploratory study based on quantitative and qualitative data
      • Participants: 10 managers of SN professional groups (5 F & 5 M)
    • Study 2 : A wider survey based on quantitative data and semi-structured interviews
      • Participants: more than 500 members of SN professional groups
    • In this presentation the focus is on Study 1
  • 5. Method
    • The online survey was based on a three-part questionnaire:
      • 2 closed-ended sections:
        • participants’ socio-demographic data (age, gender, jobs, etc.)
        • characteristics of SN groups, such as: 1) purposes; 2) members’ profiles; 3) participation; 4) measures to manage the conflict, etc.
      • 1 open-ended section
        • participants’ motivations and behaviours related to group management
    • Time
    • September-October 2011
  • 6. Findings
    • SN manager profile: quantitative data
    • Average age: more than 40 years
    • Educational background: 7/10 have a university degree
    • Job: 5 teachers, 3 freelancers, other
    • ICTs use: 9/10 have used PC and the Internet since more than 10 years
    • SN sites: 10/10 have a Facebook profile and 6/10 since more than 3 years. They use also other social media tools and social networks , as shown in Figure 1.
  • 7. Findings SN manager profile: quantitative data Fig. 1 – Social media uses
  • 8. Findings
    • SN manager profile: quantitative data
    • Frequence of use of SNS: 8/10 access SNS many times during the day
    • Mobile access: 6/10 access SNS through their mobile phone (there is a correlation with the age)
    • Groups: almost all founded more than one group
    • History: 6/10 had founded virtual communities before SNS
  • 9.  
  • 10. Findings
    • SN groups profile: quantitative data
    • group foundation: 2007 (1), 2008 (2), 2009 (4), 2010 (2) e 2011 (1)
    • groups members: 5/10 have more than 1000 members, 2/10 have between 500 and 1000 members, only 2 groups have less than 300 members
    • members profile: mainly teachers, but also experts, professionals and “curious” members
  • 11. Findings SN groups profile: quantitative data Fig. 2 – Number of SN groups’ members Fig. 3 – SN groups’ members profile
  • 12. Findings SN groups profile: quantitative data Fig. 4 – SN groups’ aims and purposes
  • 13. Findings
    • SN groups profile: quantitative data
    • Membership mechanisms:
    • 6/10 completely free
    • 3/10 invitation or cooptation
    • 1/10 filtered by the founder
    • Invitation criteria: the main criteria is the sharing of interests
    • Rules: almost all groups don’t have any explicit rules
    • Removal of people or contents: this is not a common practice, but it happens in case of spamming, advertising or opportunistic behaviours
  • 14. Findings SN groups profile: quantitative data Fig. 5 – Participation levels
  • 15. Findings
    • SN groups and manager profiles: qualitative data
    • Reasons for founding the groups :
    • “ it’s the future of free and active citizenship”; “they increase sharing and participation”; “to provide professional support…”; “to share comments on a specific topic”; “personal curiosity”
    • Reasons for using SNS :
    • “ visibility”; “speedness”; “networking with a high number of people”; “to share my interests with others”; “they provide more opportunities for sharing ”; “uniqueness” (anobii); “they have specific functionalities”
  • 16. Findings
    • SN groups and manager profiles: qualitative data
    • Management :
    • All groups are mainly managed by the founder with some exeptions. In these cases, the founder is helped by colleagues in promoting discussions and checking posts/comments.
    • Actions done to cultivate the group’s life :
    • “ posting news”; “posting links”; “commenting news”; “posting comments”; “sharing links”; “sharing resources”; “checking contents”; “answering questions”; “moderating conflicts”; “promoting pertinent initiatives”; “favouring discussion”
  • 17. Findings
    • SN groups and manager profiles: qualitative data
    • Negative events :
    • most of the SN groups’ managers declared that there were no negative events with some exceptions … such as people leaving the group because of flaming or removing advertisement
    • Positive events :
    • “ sharing emotions”; “impact on real initiatives at local level”; “generating new projects”; “widening participation”; “widening sharing”; “creation of a network of blogs”; “storing of posts” (memory of the groups)
  • 18. Findings SN groups and manager profiles: qualitative data We celebrated some significant moments for the group or for single participants:  subscriber #1000, a dyslexic child passing to next class, a colleague's project winning a contest. We shared also the frustration for losing a job, the sadness of newly retired, and lots of laughter in telling jokes and gags. Sharing emotions…
  • 19. Findings
    • SN groups and manager profiles: qualitative data
    • I like… :
    • the easy way of expressing “approval” ( I like ); the possibility to write individual messages; alert messages; sharing
    • I dislike :
    • the SNS’ “short memory”: the low visibility of posts on the long run; the lack of internal search engines
  • 20. Discussion and conclusions
    • Connecting : to be connected for sharing comments, link, resources and information is the most appreciated affordance of SNSs.
    • Contextualizing : interactions are immersed in contexts with intense interplay between real and virtual presence. From online networks to new projects, local initiatives and new connections.
    • Orchestrating : credibility seems to be linked only to professional credits, while excluding personal knowledge, but… there should be some intermediate levels of mediation…
  • 21. Future developments
    • Elements that deserve further investigation and that will be the object of the 2nd study:
    • Practices of mobile social networking: Which affordances and constraints? Issues of geolocalization and privacy, «real-time» participation, etc.
    • The tacit mechanisms of participation: What kind of implicit rules? Spontaneous or «directed» self-management groups?
    • The need of a social memory: How to cultivate and storage it?
    • Types and mechanisms of personal credibility: Who credits whom? Which tools?
  • 22. Thanks!  Maria Ranieri*, Stefania Manca**, Antonio Fini* *University of Florence , Florence ** Institute of Educational Technology, Genoa Italy