Thursday, 30 April 2009

Social Networking in Education

By Terry Anderson. A draft chapter by Terry Anderson for the forthcoming STRIDE handbook for The Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU).

A good read with some great follow up references. Also a nice reminder that ‘Social Networking’, as a term, has been in use only since 2003.

The chapter splits the learning application of social networking into three areas: socializing, sharing and sojourning.

Socializing – Quite rightly points that many forms of distance education (and their e-learning derivatives) focus far too much on provision of content with limited contact between student and teacher and no opportunity for student-student interaction. Meaning, in particular for distance based learners, no opportunity for students to connect with each other for mutual support and engage in cooperative or collaborative work. I mentioned this before but I and my colleagues see the need for MLE’s to change and to accommodate networking elements which allow users to find others who share not only the same interests but have the same career aspirations. Currently the trend is to view the former is always seen as a trivial element and whilst ignoring the potential of the latter.

Sharing: Essentially sharing content such as favorite web sites, photographs, videos, music, travel recommendations, references, books in such a way that they can be shared, embedded, re-edited, annotated, rated and commented on by others. As Terry states these resources can be combined with other people’s resources to create aggregated collections allowing students to discover what others have found. And again the content need not be trivial – it may also include teaching resources, wikis, blog entries, references, essays and reports. And the article points out the obvious, (yet it needs to be stated), in that the collections need not be bound to particular course or cohort.

Sojourning: not convinced this is entirely different to ‘socialise’ since it relates again to the opportunities social networking offers in association with meeting others with similar interests and intent. Chiefly this relates to the increased opportunities and varieties of, collaboration.

What seems to be missing or needs emphasising in my opinion is the value of socialising. The value of those connections you make with others. Again I’m moving fro the trivial, and what is rapidly becoming a stereotypical, view of students getting together through favourite film interests and the like, but rather considering learners making contact with field practitioners , i.e. industry experts who have also forged a link with the institution either as student or tutor. Such practitioners can offer real life anecdotal (basically evidence based research) content and insight which can augment the current learning experience.

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