Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Week 11 - Social Networking Platforms

This week at least I had some prior knowledge of the topic (for a change!)

Social Networking platforms are incredibly popular. I think they are great for those of us who move away from our home countries and as a result are apt to lose touch quickly with those we grew up with! Another excellent site I use frequently is Friends Reunited which is a UK based site where I have found many old friends and classmates.

Description of my experience in Facebook

I have been a member of Facebook for several months now. It was recommended to me by an old work colleague. Since then I have loved finding old friends and colleagues; for some old school friends its been over 20 years since we've been in touch. I've joined groups such as NZ parents and Ex pats from Northern Ireland and have even found other old friends through these groups. I like the fact I can see who's online when I am and have a quick "chat" with them, or post a message to their wall. I would log on each morning in anticipation of who had answered or contacted me overnight.

So it was not a surprise when I found that many of my students are addicted to sites such as Facebook - until that is the tertiary institute I work at banned the site in July of this year as it was "not conducive to effective learning"! I have to say that many times I have had to tell students to get off the site to continue with an assignment instead of looking at the photos of last weekend's party, so in a way I could understand the reasoning behind the decision to make it unavailable! I was told it was one rule for all and that staff would be banned from the site as well as students - unfortunately. I had to plead for the site to be re-instated to use again for this FOC study but I believe it will be taken off again at the end of the semester :-(

Ideas on how facilitation would work in Facebook

I could not find an "educational" group in Facebook which looked like a group involved in learning requiring the need for a facilitator. However I don't see why it couldn't be used for such a reason, but I would think that one drawback is that students as I mentioned earlier get hooked on the social side and may find it hard to motivate themselves to stick to the eduational side!

In the article Schools' Web 2.0 ban contributes to social exclusion it was stated that:

"participating in online networks provided the research participants with a
way to develop and sustain their personal social networks"

and that

"Online networks provided these students with ways to participate in society
that were social, cultural, civic, economic and educative

What a difference from my days at school where the only social networks were built in the playground or after school walking to the bus stop!

In the article Networks, Connections and Community: Learning with Social Software it was stated that social software could:

"offer learning opportunities to learner groups previously unable to
participate, eg some disabled, disengaged and remote learners not previously
learning in traditional classroom environments".

I wholeheartedly agree with this statement but I don't think a site like Facebook is the correct forum to do it in. With my students I found that they valued the social networking side although I would question the educational value of them! Certainly in an educational environment such as where I work where such sites are blocked, being able to use them would be impossible until the educational value could be proven to those who make such decisions.

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