Wikipedia (2009) defines social networking as building online communities of people who share interests and/or activities, or who are interested in exploring the interests and activities of others. The power of this social interaction is discussed by Will Richardson (2009) in his book Blogs, Wikis and Podcasts as the collaborative construction of knowledge. For me the question is, are teachers promoting the use of Social Networking just to use the sites or is there a better way to reach the intended objective? I want to further the education of my students but in a way that is productive and meaningful to both the students and myself. Which brings me to the title of this blog post, Am I an Ostrich or Just a Chicken? I am not sure of my own feelings about SNS and I am hopefully going to sort them out as I write this post.
REFLECTIONS ON SOCIAL NETWORKING SITES
The research on social networks is fraught with mixed messages and conclusions. Is using social networks good or bad for a person? Cecilie Murray (2009) talks about how social networking increases communication amongst people. Nancy Baym , an associate professor of communication studies at the University of Kansas in Lawrence says that the fears about using social networks are not supported. "There's no compelling evidence that spending time on social networking sites and expanding our social circles damages the close relationships we have." "People think if you're hanging out on Facebook, you're not having quality face-to-face time. That is not supported" (Jayson, 2009). Research found in Scientific American (Jayson, 2009) suggests that being part of a social network is good for you. It offers additional resilience, greater life satisfaction and reduces the risk of health problems. Keith Hampton, an assistant professor of communication at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia says, "we're not replacing everyday personal social networks with everyday online social networks. We're not substituting online for offline. We're augmenting" (Jayson, 2009).
However, in the same article Sharon Jayson (2009) says social networking sites can cause obesity, musculoskeletal problems, loss of privacy, being negatively influenced by a FOAF, overwhelming commercialism and addiction. (Did you know there is actually a residential treatment center in Washington for Internet addiction?)
I don’t know what to think. Am I afraid of the complications of using social networking sites or do I just want to keep my head in the sand so that I do not have to deal with the issues?
I began this journey knowing that social networking sites existed, knowing that my own children (now young adults) were on Facebook and that many of my friends and relatives were joining the Facebook revolution. I, however, preferred to talk to people on the phone or face to face. (I do not know if this is really a reason or just a justification for my resistance). I knew that I was missing out on things: information about people (OK gossip), photos of events, inside jokes, invitations to things, etc. This of course forced me to get with the 21st century and join Facebook. The first week of class I set up an account with a very strict privacy structure and then found out that there were FOAF who were being suggested as people I could add. My policy is I do not add people who I would not pick up the phone and call. I feel that these people do not need to know what is going on in my life and I certainly do not need to know what is going on in theirs. I stuck with my strict privacy settings. I check my Facebook every couple of days and my children are thrilled to have their mother “creeping” around their Facebook sites. I have not added any gadgets to my site although I know I can add photos, videos, word clouds, etc. I honestly have not taken the time but know when I am finished this class I will add photos and videos but probably not other gadgets as my friends will hassle me about showing off.
Next, I watched the trailfire, listened to Mack Male’s elluminate session and did some research on Social Networking sites. Then, I asked friends and colleaugues which sites they used and why. This was interesting as most are on Facebook because of its popularity and therefore a greater likelihood of someone you want to connect with being on this site. However, there were others on MySpace, LinkedIn, Ning, etc.
Ning is another social networking site I joined the first week of class and I love it. I am a part of the Classroom 2.0 group. It has helped on several occasions to get information for this course through an online chat or reviewing former posts. I am a follower on the Classroom 2.0 site and hope to make more use of Ning in the future
In both cases I am connected to people who have similar interests, my friends or relatives and my educational colleagues. I have morphed from a chicken into a ……?
PERSONAL USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING
I am not a chicken anymore. I think I have morphed into a bluebird. I am now a member of Facebook and Ning. I am sold on their value and I will continue to use social networking sites as a method for maintaining connections with people of similar interests. I will use them to share information as well as create knowledge through a collaborative process.
I will use Facebook to maintain connections with family and friends. I can post media to share with others and view my friends or relatives posts to acquire the news in their lives. I have found that I do not need to update my status as frequently as my kids do but the odd post allows me to connect with friends and family that I would not see very often and reconnect with high school friends who live far away. I can share photos, videos or podcasts of my grand-daughter or our latest vacation, add links to other sites for a Voicethread, Animoto, word cloud, etc. One of my next projects is to plan my 50th birthday vacation with friends. We can share information through Facebook and make the decisions together.
Being on Facebook also allows, the mother in me, to snoop around my kids sites and use this information to begin conversations that we may not have had otherwise. I know they know where I got the information, as I am always very upfront about this, but it is sometimes a conversation starter that goes deep.
In the future, I want to use Ning for personal reasons. I would like to join an online book club and scrapbooking group, if one exists. If one does not already exist then maybe it can be a new Ning group that I create.
Social networking sites can also be used for disseminating information about social causes. This information can be about the cause’s goals or objectives, updated news, rallies, etc. It would be a quick method for getting news into the hands of the people who want it most.
Once again so many ideas and so little time!!!!!!!!!!!
PROFESSIONAL USE OF SOCIAL NETWORKING
The big question for many school districts is: should we allow the use of social networking sites in schools? Some Districts see the potential issues of using social networking sites as far as security, privacy, authoring, potential viruses, etc. Other districts feel that we need to use these tools and teach students the proper use and etiquette of these social networking sites (Davies and Merchant, 2009). Researchers like Cecilie Murray feel that “what better way to learn the skills of communication, collaboration and protective online behaviour “ (Murray, 2009) than through SNS.
This is where I get bogged down. I keep telling myself that I should allow students to use Social Networking because we need to teach them about Internet safety etc. but selfishly I do not want to get involved in the issues of their personal Facebook sites. Am I being an ostrich? Maybe I just think that if I do not see it I will not have to deal with it? I know that I can set up Facebook pages with strict privacy settings for class use only but that is when I keep asking myself what is the purpose of using SNS and is there another way to achieve the same goal without the inherent problems of using something as popular and notorious as Facebook. After all, if I set up Facebook sites for class use only, then the privacy settings do not allow for input from others. Such parameters do not allow for social networking and collaborating with people other than your classmates. A class Facebook site may get members of the class, who would not normally address each other in class, talking but is there another format that would allow this to happen? Danah Boyd (2008) maintains that social networking has not caused people to build new relationships but been about socializing inside pre-existing networks. Which leads me back to, what is the point of using social networking sites? If I can use another tool which allows for the same collaboration and has fewer potential issues then I am going to take the path of least resistance and use the other tool. I agree that as educators we need to use tools to increase collaboration and knowledge creation. My question is; are social networking sites the best medium to use? (If you do choose to use social networking Cecilie Murray has some great advice.) Can the purposes of authoring content and collaboration for creating knowledge be achieved in other ways which are not as contentious with Tech Departments and parents. I do think that we need to “develop policies that strike a balance between safety and freedom while still allowing teachers to use the tools that are a part of everyday life for today’s students” (Murra, 2008) but my preference would be to use a blog or a wiki set up through an agrator so that I can censor the contents. A blog can be used to do all of the things that social networking sites like Facebook do and even more. Blogs have more gadgets and therefore stimulate even more creative methods to create knowledge.
Ning, on the other hand, is a great tool for use in the classroom as well as for Professional Development. In the classroom it allows you to create a social “networking forum to
share a wide variety of media in a completely private environment.” ” Students can discuss issues, disseminate information, collaborate on projects, embed media, personalize pages, embed blogging groups and online chat” (Classroom 2.0, 2009).
Lynne writes on the Ning Classroom 2.0 site that she sees “social networking as a revelation for an educator” (Classroom 2.0, 2009). She feels that social networking sites have decreased the isolation that teachers feel, taken education out of the hands of experts and put it into the hands of lay teachers to create their own knowledge about what works and what does not (Classroom 2.0, 2009).
I have used Ning to gather ideas for using Web 2.0 tools in my and my colleagues’ classrooms. With Ning you can join an already established group of like minded people seeking answers to similar questions or you can create a new group to facilitate a discussion in an area not yet developed. I am modeling the use of the tools that I find out about through my contacts on the Ning site and also finding ways to entice my colleagues into using a Web 2.0 tool. Hopefully the positive experiences of some of my colleagues will motivate others to pursue this technology.
I think my post this week has explored my change from a chicken to an ostrich and then to a blue bird. I guess the end of the morph is yet to come. Maybe I will end up a dove.
Boyd, Danah. (2008). Social Networking is here to stay, Now What. As retrieved Nov. 12, 2009 from http://trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/295595
Davies, Julia. Merchant, Guy. (2009). Web 2.0 for Schools: Learning and Social Participation. New York, NY: Peter Lang
Jayson, Sharon. (2009) Asretrieved Nov. 11, 2009 from http://www.usatoday.com/life/lifestyle/2009-09-27-social-networking_N.htm
Murray, Cecile. (2009) As retrieved Nov. 11, 2009 from
Richardson, W. (2009). Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. (2nd ed.) Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press
Wikipedia As retrieved on Nov. 13, 2009 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_networking