Social Networking & Learning

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Social networking is the latest “fad” to hit the net.  If you have not heard of Facebook then you have obviously been living under a rock!

Let’s discuss the basic concept of social networking and then talk about how it is being used in a learning environment.

Wikipedia tells us that a social network “uses software to build an online social network for communities of people who share interests and activities or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others.”

The most famous/popular social networking sites are: Facebook  Myspace  Bebo

The basic concept behind a social network is that it allows users to connect with people “they know” and also with the people their friends/contacts know.  Perhaps this Fortune CNN article sums it up well. “Facebook is the most convenient and respectable way to feel connected to friends, get updated on existing friends, find new people, build relationships and express identities”

How can all this be used in learning?

There are many articles about the benefits of using a platform like Facebook for learning.    

Firstly, we must discuss the recent media articles that claim websites like Facebook are losing businesses in Australia up to $5m per year.

To get value from using Facebook or other social networks as a learning tool, you need to look past a lot of the hype and understand that people always fear what they don’t understand.

Here are just a couple of the negative articles I’m talking about. 

Times online article
Sydney Morning Herald article

Now let’s move past the negative and look at what a tool like Facebook could and is being used for. To discuss the use of social networking sites you must also understand that the next topic (LMS) relates to this as well.

From a recent blog article “Roll your own LMS with Facebook“. The lecturer states that rather than using a traditional LMS (Learner Management System) that students don’t use as often as they perhaps should, you can use Facebook as a “near perfect course management system,” with chat, file sharing etc”

Another interesting article (Faculty uses Facebook as Learning Tool) states “Bay City senior Amy Stilwell said Facebook works better in the classrooms than other websites.
“We use it as an alternative to Blackboard, it’s a lot easier.”

The article goes on to discuss how students and teachers are using Facebook to keep in contact and lecturers often offer critiques to the students using the Facebook system.

One lecturer uses Facebook to critique his students photos (he is a photography teacher) but the article stresses that the teacher choses to stay away from the social aspects of Facebook.

Another teacher quoted in the article discusses how her students that are learning French often fill her Facebook wall with comments in French. The teacher was pleasantly surprised when students started using Facebook to put their French skills to work.

The main reason that I have chosen to give you examples of social networking used for learning from articles on the Internet is because…there are no examples I could give you from my workplace.  I wish I could tell you that we are utilising and developing learning based on some of the great social networks…but we are not.  Perhaps in the future, this will change.