What is Social Networking? A Web 2.0 tool - Inventor of the World Wide Web Tim Berners-Lee has said that some of the defining characteristics of Web 2.0, are collaboration and user involvement Wikipedia defines a social network service as a service which “focuses on the building and verifying of online social networks for communities of people who share interests and activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others, and which necessitates the use of software.”
How can we use Social Networking? If anything research shows that using Facebook in learning constitutes a case of ‘business as usual’ with students simply being students – albeit in a more visible and noisy manner than is apparent in the formal settings of their university education. So why bother?
Currently, 95% of 16-18 year olds intending to go to university are using social networking sites like Facebook
Academic and social integration into university life are key factors influencing individual students’ experiences and the likelihood of their withdrawing from their student courses.
Facebook 'cuts student drop-outs' Gloucestershire College says social networking is used to keep students informed and in touch with staff. "There has been a significant improvement in retention," says media curriculum manager, Perry Perrott. Using such teenager-friendly communication tools has a "positive effect on motivation", says the government's technology agency, Becta. "We're embracing it rather than fighting it," says MrPerrott. He says Facebook pages for individual courses help the students to bond with each other, work together as a team and maintain their connection with staff.
How can we use Social Networking? Use closed group pages, with designated times when lecturers can check for questions or messages and when students can have discussions about their courses. With social networking also available through mobile phones, it means that students can keep in touch with each other and be given support outside of class
What do students think? Students love it, because they get a chance to go to FB ‘officially’ They are on FB anyway; and there is nothing new from them to learn (in terms of technology) They like to comment, because they can do so without fearing an interlocutor/teacher And lurkers can still be involved They get ‘recognized’ by the ‘community’ because the ‘community’ can say “I agree with you” – so, they lose their shyness to express Everything is done within a group. So, only those who are authorized by the teacher can take part. They have discussions boards to express their ideas and comments
What are the potential problems? It is recognised that some of the qualities of social networking may clash with current pedagogical paradigms. some critics think they may distract learners from their studies (Cassidy 2006). A minority of discussions have involved starkly negative appraisals of teaching staff - ‘critical reflection’? Many of the pitfalls are avoided by only allowing students to be part of a group rather than a ‘friend’
However ... It has been suggested that it promotes ‘critical thinking in learners’ about their learning, which is one of ‘the traditional objectives’ of education’ Some commentators contend that SNSs offer ‘the capacity to radically change the educational system… to better motivate students as engaged learners rather than learners who are primarily passive observers of the educational process’ (Ziegler 2007, 69).
Recounting and reflecting on the university experience – research shows … When their attention did turn towards university-related matters, students would often use the Facebook walls to describe and sometimes deliberate on their most recent instances of the university experience – be it lectures, seminars or, on occasion, library visits and individual encounters with teaching staff. For example, students would use Facebook to ‘go over’ their experiences of recently finished lectures.
Exchange of academic information - research shows ... students would exchange information about academic and intellectual requirements of their courses, usually concerning the nature of required reading for seminars, the speculated content of examinations or the required content of essays and other assessment tasks … peer guidance???
Displays of supplication and/or disengagement – research shows ... Exchanges centred around supplication and the seeking of moral (rather than intellectual) support with regards to the demands of the students’ studies. In these postings students would often present themselves as rendered helpless in the face of their university work in the expectation that their peers would then offer support and comfort.
Education-related interaction Facebookis used primarily for maintaining strong links between people already in relatively tight-knit, emotionally close offline relationships, rather than creating new points of contact In this sense, data can show how Facebook has become an important site for the informal, cultural learning of ‘being’ a student, with online interactions and experiences allowing roles to be learnt, values understood and identities shaped.
References Bugeja, M. 2006. Facing the Facebook. Chronicle of Higher Education 52, no. 21: C1–C4. Cassidy, J. 2006. Me media. New Yorker 82, no. 13: 50–9. Selwyn, N. 2009 Faceworking: exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook Learning, Media and Technology Vol. 34, No. 2, 157–174 Ziegler, S. 2007. The (mis)education of Generation M. Learning, Media and Technology 32, no. 1: 69–81.
Live examples How to Create a Course Group How to use Facebook to teach The Learning Space An Open Letter to Educators Facebook Apps