A “from the field” practical follow up to Ami’s theoretical presentation. Most of the presentation is based on my personal experience as an educator who uses social networks in his professional life. Emphasis will be placed on two types of social networks, one very feature rich and relatively structured known as Ning. The other, a rough and tumble, wide open, bare – bones, online communication tool known as Twitter
Social Network activity of adults is becoming widespread around the world. A third of adults online are now using the Web for “quick conversations,” posting updates on sites like Facebook and Twitter at least once a week according to a recent Forrester research survey. They’re mostly women, and they aren’t only young people — 70% of them are 30 years of age and older. 70% of adults online are at least “spectators” in social media, reading blogs, tweets and online forums, although they might not participate. That number has leveled off over the past year amid a shift towards more active online activity . http://blogs.forrester.com/groundswell/2010/01/conversationalists-get-onto-the-ladder.html Social Networking Sites, at their core, are basically aggregations of Web 2.0 building blocks allowing the members to utilize a rich set of online tools for communicating, sharing, friending and creating information and knowledge. The network members can easily utilize these tools to carry out the three C’s of the new social web. Connecting - Collaborating - Creating Steve Hargadon, one of the leading players in the field, has coined the term “educational networking” to denote the usage of social networks for attaining educational value.
The Ning platform established by Mark Andreesen (developer of the Netscape web browser) and Gina Bianchini in early 2007, is an online platform for people to create their own social networks in under a minute. It enables anyone to develop their own social networks around specific interests with their own visual design, choice of features and member data with numerous templates and modules to allow for rich communication, collaboration and creation by all the members of the network. Basic networks are free, costs being covered by advertisements appearing on the site. Presently (January, 2010) Ning hosts over 2,000,000 different social networks with over 41,000,000 members in countless areas of interest. Ning means “peace” in Chinese, but the name was chosen to make it easy and unobtrusive for network members and easy for domain name acquiring.
In 2007, Steve Hargadon started Classroom 2.0 as a social network for educators interested in the use of Web 2.0 social media in education. The goal of Classroom 2.0 was to provide educators themselves with an ability to quickly see how personally transformative it could be to build or be part of a personal online learning network. Classroom 2.0 blossomed quickly and engendered real excitement in the global education community until reaching over 36,000 members in January, 2010. Ning began a proactive program to encourage the usage of Ning for educational purposes, reaching hundreds upon hundreds of vibrant educational networks on Ning. The creativity, the willingness to reach out for help, the desire to share that exist in Classroom 2.0 and other educational networks are awe inspiring, leading Hargadon to believe that educational networking is the face of the future, particularly in the realm of professional development of educators.
Educators may have a 24/7 online asynchronous network experience – just in time networking ! Geography is no longer a consideration! Educators can participate in learning activity far more cheaply and whenever convenient. Small interest groups (middle school Latin teachers, for example) can meet, collaborate, share ideas and resources with each other on a regular basis with minimal expense. Social Networks can provide excellent learning opportunities for educators at the very end of the long tail (esoteric subjects, geographically distant) with minimal expense!
Educational networks enable positive peer support & provide much needed encouragement. They keep teacher practices up to date and promote teacher satisfaction. “ In a profession that can be profoundly isolating and lonely even though teachers are in the midst of interacting with students all day, educational networking holds a significant key to improving opportunities to find both emotional support and support for exploring new ideas. “ Steve Hargadon
Educational networking contributes to teacher retention especially for new teachers, who can particularly benefit from continuous connection with its professional and social support. Members of an educational social network “can be there” when they are most needed by those who need them most! See this post about the English Companion Ning for English language teachers around the world. (Read Yellow Quote!) - In reading a post by a new teacher, I was struck by the supportive tone of Rachel Trosino as she responded to the query. She wrote, “Stay strong! Come back to the Ning as many times as you want, always ask for advice, and know that this network is here for you, no matter how far apart we might all be. This ning saved my sanity, and it can do the same for you. Trust me - you’re not alone in your stress!!! Keep your chin up!” THIS IS SOCIAL NETWORKING AT IT’S BEST
Among the advantages of the Ning Social Network Platform is that it provides a robust package of tools and applications under one roof, allowing for the development of a rich social network for all registered members. Anyone can create a multi – featured social network for free in a matter of minutes and then customize it to meet the needs of the network. (I will now demonstrate some of these empowering features.)
Profile Page: In educational networking, the profile page is a purposeful representation of who you are that enables professional connecting. Not only does the profile page fulfill some of the tasks that a resume’ would with basic personal and professional contact information, but also provides a portal view to the content you’ve created or participated in on the network, becoming in effect a dynamic electronic portfolio.
Friending - Locate your professional online colleagues, who may be likely to share your direct interests and understand your specific challenges. Share lesson plans, pedagogical approaches, technological innovations and professional and career interests. The combination of member listings with the ability to search for members based on their profile information serves the purpose of helping members find each other and create a “colleague” relationship.
Member Blogs – Publish and share your musings and reflections on your class projects, use of technology, reactions to educational research or to blog posts of other educators. Create and contribute to the network’s community of practice and knowledge. For those who don’t have an independent blog, the Network blog is a great place to post and share with all the members of the network. New blog posts are featured on the main page of the Ning for all to see on entering the Ning.
Groups (smaller versions of networks) not only provide a way for existing affiliations or associations to expand, they also allow for new connections to be created, grown, and sustained around more specialized interest areas, timely events ,topical issues, ad-hoc projects, and much more. There are about 450 sub-groups in the Classroom 2.0 Network from teachers in a local school or locality, to technology or curricular interest groups, subject area planning, thesis writing support, professional development leaders, early career teachers and many, many more. Birds of a feather within the Network come together here to share their interests.
The tools for uploading “resources” like photos, videos, and documents take on new meaning in educational networking, enabling the kind of sharing that is so powerfully ingrained into the teaching profession. Uploading a lesson plan and tagging it so it can be easily found by others provides a platform for great collaboration.
One of the great features that Ning networks strengthen is the discussion forum, through which discussions can take place over time (asynchronously) and are threaded (making them easy to read and follow). Having conversations gathered in one place where they’re easy to read and search takes discussion forums to a new level and often makes them the heart of an educational network, accessible to all over time.
Event Calendars: highlighting professional development events or valuable online synchronous broadcasts (webinars)—makes an events module of significant value to an educational network, adding real – time contact with other educators and experts without investing in expensive – time consuming travel.
Last week, I asked the members of Classroom 2.0 what they would like to share with you at this presentation. I got about ten replies. Here are two that I chose for you! Greg, from Kansas, tells how effective Classroom 2.0 is for finding what you are interested in when you want it. Grace, from Peru, tells how after 40 years of teaching, Classroom 2.0 has opened up a new world for her and her students . (READ posts if time allows!)
There are hundreds educational social networks housed on Ning. Here are some of the more popular Nings. English Companion Ning - Where English teachers go to help each other – Prize Winning – 11,000 English Language teachers, supervisors, student teachers – all aspects of English Language instruction. EduBloggerWorld an international network for educational bloggers and friends. – 1200 members The Future of Education - It's a place for thoughtful discussion on an incredibly important topic. – 3000 members The Global Education Collaborative - a community for teachers and students interested in global education. 3000 members – here teachers from around the world discuss global issues and locate educators and classes for collaborative learning projects.
Nings can be created in numerous languages, even in Hebrew or Arabic which are written right to left. Our friend, Susan Tsairi, an energetic English teaching geek, created the Edureshet Israeli teachers network for teachers interested in using social media in their educational endeavors. Since 2007, over 500 educators have joined the network to discuss the implementation of technology in the Israeli education system. As you can see the Ning Universe can provide teachers from around the world with a rich network platform for almost any area of education. But if you don’t find what you are looking for, START YOUR OWN!
From the world of Nings, we now move over to the Twitter Universe! Twitter is a free social networking and microblogging service launched in summer of 2006. It enables its users to send and read messages known as tweets . Tweets are text-based posts of up to 140 characters displayed on the author's profile page and delivered to the author's subscribers who are known as followers . Senders can restrict delivery to those in their circle of friends or, by default, allow open access to them. Users can send and receive tweets via the Twitter website, Short Message Service (SMS) or numerous external applications of all sizes and shapes. While the service itself costs nothing to use, accessing it through SMS may incur phone service provider fees. At first, Twitter was a service, enabling users to update their followers on the trivia of their lives in 140 characters. What they ate for breakfast, what they were reading, where they were going comprised the major content of Tweets broadcast to one’s followers. Although, at first glance, this appeared trivial, lacking any real meaning, hordes of internet users adopted the use of Twitter in order to experience what NY Times writer Clive Thompson called “ambient awareness” the feeling of close contact and association with ones extended social network which made people comfortable and secure.
Twitter’s inventors created a simple status updating microblogging system. Twitter’s myriad users quickly transformed it to a service supporting social discourse and networking in a much deeper sense by creating new symbols and conventions. The @ symbol allowed tweeters to reply to other tweeters and refer to them in their tweets. The # hashtags allowed tweets to be indexed by topics which could be followed and searched allowing for tweeters to follow events, conferences and discussions in real-time and also creating a lasting public record which could be accessed and referenced over time. The Twitter discussions could be deepened by the use of web links to refer to blog posts, videos, images and full text articles. The advanced search function developed by a third party firm and purchased by Twitter, allows high quality access to Twitter posts on any topic imaginable, transforming Twitter into an invaluable source of “super – fresh” information. NOW! Information! As a result of these innovations, Twitter now can be used to follow global political activity, spread of contagious diseases, changes in weather, fund raising activities to react to global tragedies and of course, creating and sustaining social networks around any interests, businesses, hobbies and professions.
How can twitter serve the development of educational social networks? Here Ira Wise, Director of Education at Congregation B'nai Israel in Bridgeport, CT writes in his blog about an educational discussion between a network of Jewish educators from across North America. Ira discussed an article about private tutoring versus attending Hebrew school which appeared in the NY Jewish Week. Ira and his friends related to the article and his posting about it in a series of Twitter Tweets, all tagged with the #JED21 hashtag, standing for Jewish Education in the 21 st century. Here is a wonderful example of how reply tags, hashtags and embedded links to articles and blog posts make Twitter into a very successful interface for educational social networks! accessible from anywhere from laptop, desktop, blackberry or iphone!
In order to follow one’s flow of Tweets, he must cultivate some true multitasking skills in order to follow a number of interchanges going on simultaneously. Let me illustrate by inviting you to glimpse my PLN = online Personal Learning Network. In this view of half a page of messages I received this week, I carry on a discussion about the pros and cons of people using online technology to create their own prayerbooks, announce the marketing of a new overhead projector that converts an old fashioned whiteboard into an interactive digital whiteboard, get details of a Twitter conference to be held in Tel Aviv this March, discuss implementing Google Apps in our school with the technology director of the Israel ORT school chain and get a list of recommended educational tweeters from a colleague in Los Angeles!
How Do You Go About Building a Twitter Network? This blog post by Richard Byrne is a good place to start to find teachers to join up with on Twitter on the way to forming your Personal Learning Network. Of course you should start with colleagues you know or know about. But you can grow your network quickly by consulting these online directories. Recently Twitter has enabled users to create online userlists for their own convenience, in order to make it easy to follow Tweeters by pre-defined criteria. You can also view other peoples userlists and follow them or add them to your own userlists, making it easy to find and add interesting Tweeters to your own network.
I would like to conclude this presentation by recounting an anecdote involving my Twitter network that took place almost exactly two years ago. I was at home with my wife in our small kibbutz apartment when my cell phone gave a loud ring. On the other side was a recorded voice: &quot;A terrorist incident is taking place on the kibbutz. There is shooting and wounded! All residents are to lock their doors, close lights and stay close to the walls or floor! Further instructions will be provided later&quot;. We locked our doors & windows and sat in the dark, awaiting the outcome of the encounter with the infiltrators. As time went by, I twitted about our situation: &quot;REAL TERRORIST ATTACK ON KFAR ETZION NOW!! Shooting and wounded!!&quot; In a few minutes I got a few replies expressing empathy and concern. After a few more minutes we received another batch of twit replies sharing prayers and hopes for our well being. It made things better for me knowing that there are people out there with whom I collaborate and communicate who really care about our welfare. Our prayers to the Lord were joined by others around the world. After a few hours went by we learned that two school counselors had been knifed by the attackers who were later subdued. The “ambient awareness” of my social network provided real support in time of crisis. My virtual tweets were there for me when I needed them, letting me know that the relationships we had cultivated virtually were really meaningful and warm, not just casual and passing. Social networks can be experiential and affective, not just professional.
I hope that our presentation has given you some insight into the possibilities of using Social Networks in Education both from theoretical and practical viewpoints. Hopefully you will extend your borders by joining up with the many educators around the world, who learn, teach, share, create, communicate and collaborate using the many versatile tools that the world of social media places at their disposal!
This is a listing of some of the resources that were used in preparing this presentation. The last resource is a page on my professional wiki, which contains a more complete listing of sources for both parts of the presentation.
Social Networks in Education From Ning to Twitter
Social Networks in Education From Ning to Twitter Reuven Werber [email_address] @reuw
Educational Networking for Professional Development Marketing NIrvana http://mariosundar.wordpress.com
Educational Networks The Long Tail Scoroncolo Tech Pages http://www.scoroncocolo.com
<ul><li>“ In a profession that can be profoundly isolating and lonely even though teachers are in the midst of interacting with students all day, educational networking holds a significant key to improving opportunities to find both emotional support and support for exploring new ideas. “ </li></ul><ul><li>Steve Hargadon </li></ul>
Presentation Links <ul><li>Educational Networking – Steve Hargadon </li></ul><ul><li>How Twitter Will Change the Way We Live –Steven Johnson - TIME </li></ul><ul><li>I’m So Totally, Digitally Close to You - "Ambient Awareness" - Clive Thompson - NYTimes.com </li></ul><ul><li>Classroom 2.0 </li></ul><ul><li>Ning Educational Networks </li></ul><ul><li>Twitter </li></ul><ul><li>Social Networks in Education Presentation Links </li></ul><ul><li>http://reuw.wikispaces.com/Social+Networks+in+Education </li></ul>