Thing 14: Social Networking - Time for a PLaN! ||
What do you get out of your PLN?
What do you get out of your PLN?
|| || What do you get out of your PLN? ||

Introduction


NOTE:
Although we will touch on using social networks with our students, Thing 16 and Thing 17 are going to focus on YOU and how these types of networks can be beneficial to you professionally.

A social network is an online environment in which people connect around relationships, content, shared interests and ideas. During this course, we have already encountered a number of sites and tools that incorporate social features such as tagging, commenting, user profiles and online groups, to add value. Human beings have always been social learners, and, increasingly, we learn in digital networks as well as "real-life" networks.

Networked learning is based on the belief that when one of us gets smarter, we all do. When used effectively, online social networking can play a powerful role in both classroom and lifelong learning. A PLN (Professional/Personal Learning Network) is a prime example of this.

As Steve Hargadon describes, "'Social Networks' are really just collections of Web 2.0 technologies combined in a way that help to build online communities."

You have probably heard of mainstream, massive, youth-oriented sites such as MySpace and Facebook. You may even use these sites (or similar ones) personally or professionally, or, like many "skeptics," you may view them as, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a sign of the decline of civilization. Whatever your view, your students (especially in grades 5-up) are definitely connecting via social networking sites and, increasingly, so are professionals, parents, hobbyists, educators, social activists, and all manner of people and groups looking to share, build and organize around content, conversation and ideas.

A recent study by the National School Board Association, entitled "Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social -- and Educational -- Networking" found that that 96% of kids ages 9-17 with Internet access have used social networking technologies, and that 50% have used those technologies to talk specifically about schoolwork. The final report (only nine pages with lots of graphics -- not required, but definitely worth a read), in addition to presenting some really interesting findings, offers guidelines and recommendations for school boards regarding the uses of social networking in schools.

It's worth considering -- if we don't model productive, responsible uses of social networking tools for our students, how will they learn to be productive, responsible users of these tools?

As usual, a word from our friends at CommonCraft - "Social Networking in Plain English" (1:47)


DISCLAIMER:

This may be my least favorite of the "Plain English" movies, but it does provide a friendly overview of the concept. It may be helpful as you watch to think of a social networking site as a community where we can LEARN, GROW and CREATE together. Try substituting "find jobs, meet new friends and find partners" with "explore ideas, build understandings, and share resources."



Discovery Exercise

Yes, prior to this point, sites like Facebook and MySpace have both been mentioned. When it came to Social Networking, I used to be completely against it, but I've since seen the proverbial light and understand that if you take advantage of the tools to suit your purpose, Social Networking can indeed be a wondrous thing in the right form. And what would that form be, you're surely wondering? A PLN!!

A PLN (Professional or Personal Learning Network) IS a network of social networks, but one that is built by an individual for the express purpose of learning and having a means of professional support. Sites like Facebook and MySpace are not what I consider to be facets of my PLN. When I need support, a question answered, or I want to see what the latest and greatest Web 2.0 tool to hit education is, I turn to my PLN for those answers. To better understand what a PLN is and WHY you might need one, let me tell you a story of how I came to build one of my own. As you watch, I'd like for you to ask yourself the following questions:
  1. How many people can I easily address a curriculum related question to?
  2. How quickly can I receive an answer?
  3. How many sources of information do I have to support my instruction and to further my own learning?

Note
: The presentation is a WMV file and it is over 50mb in size, which is why I couldn't embed it on the wiki directly (cursed file size limits)! There IS audio to this presentation! It is approximately 24 minutes in length.

You can either watch the video embedded below or you can go directly to the Drop.io site linked here and download the file.
Discover Simple, Private Sharing at Drop.io



As you went through the video, you may have recognized a few facets of PLNs as activities in which you are already an active participant? Reading and commenting on blogs, participating in social bookmarking and groups, building a common list of resources within a wiki - all of these can be potential pieces that encompass a PLN. But we've yet to explore two other (in my opinion) important cogs in the PLN wheel : Nings and Microblogging! Please, don't pull your hair out just yet. We're going to save those for Thing 17!! Before I leave you to complete your tasks for Thing 16, I'd like for you to hear from some member of my PLN about what their PLN network means to them.

Conversations!
Remember the discovery about blogging? Conversations! Who would have thought that by participating in blogging you could easily engage in a highly enriching, not to mention highly educational conversation? Great conversations can also take place in other online communities as well, such as microblogs like Plurk.

The screenshot of the conversation below occured in my PLN (click here or on the image for the live page on Plurk) Notice the graphic at the top of this page? It was created thanks to the aid of my wonderful PLN!! How? By simply asking a question. We love to talk about what our PLN means to us, which is exactly what they did. I took the words and phrases they gave and then used Wordle to form a word cloud. If you've never seen a Wordle creation, the larger the words, the more they were mentioned.
Wordle.png
Wordle.png


Here's another interesting Plurk conversation started by Teach42 regarding the which Web2.0 tools to present to "newbies". He went on to include many of these in a conference presentation. You can also click on the image below to go to the live page.
web2.0newbie.png
web2.0newbie.png




Task

Blog Post 16

Write a blog post (at least ONE SOLID PARAGRAPH) in which you reflect on the use of social networking as a resource for educators. Be sure to title your post Thing 16.

In your post, I would like for you to address the following:
  • What were your feelings on social networking before you took this course? Were you active in any form of social networking before you took this course? If so, was it personal or professional?
  • If you've never gotten involved in social networking for professional purposes, had you ever considered using web-based tools as means of networking with other educators before?
  • Regarding PLNs (Personal/Professional Learning Networks), what are your initial thoughts about them?
  • Looking at your own professional practices, do you think building your own PLN could benefit you? Why or why not?



From Shelly

Introduction

cartoon-gapingvoid-network-ms2126.jpg
image by Hugh MacLeod @ Gaping Void

image by Hugh MacLeod @ Gaping Void

A social network is an online environment in which people connect around relationships, content, shared interests and ideas. During this course, we have already encountered a number of sites and tools that incorporate social features such as tagging, commenting, user profiles and online groups, to add value. Human beings have always been social learners, and, increasingly, we learn in digital networks as well as "real-life" networks.

Networked learning is based on the belief that when one of us gets smarter, we all do. When used effectively, online social networking can play a powerful role in both classroom and lifelong learning. As Steve Hargadon describes, "'Social Networks' are really just collections of Web 2.0 technologies combined in a way that help to build online communities."

You have probably heard of mainstream, massive, youth-oriented sites such as MySpace and Facebook. You may even use these sites (or similar ones) personally or professionally, or, like many "skeptics," you may view them as, at best, a waste of time and, at worst, a sign of the decline of civilization. Whatever your view, your students (especially in grades 5-up) are definitely connecting via social networking sites and, increasingly, so are professionals, parents, hobbyists, educators, social activists, and all manner of people and groups looking to share, build and organize around content, conversation and ideas.

A recent study by the National School Board Association, entitled "Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social -- and Educational -- Networking" found that that 96% of kids ages 9-17 with Internet access have used social networking technologies, and that 50% have used those technologies to talk specifically about schoolwork. The final report (only nine pages with lots of graphics -- not required, but definitely worth a read), in addition to presenting some really interesting findings, offers guidelines and recommendations for school boards regarding the uses of social networking in schools. It's worth considering -- if we don't model productive, responsible uses of social networking tools for our students, how will they learn to be productive, responsible users of these tools?

Want another intro? Here's a brief article: What is Social Networking?



Discovery Exercise

Explore uses of Social Networking in Education.

¤ NOTE: You are NOT required to join the Classroom 2.0 network to explore its resources, but I hope most of you will. It's an amazing resource.

Increasingly, educators are beginning to leverage the positive aspects of social networking to improve both professional and student learning. Ning is a service that allows anyone to easily create and manage a social network for any purpose. Ning sites may be private (viewable only to members) or public, and the site creator/administrator has lots of control over how users join and how they can participate/contribute. Recently, Ning announced that it will no longer offer free (ad-supported) social networks, but the company has promised to keep affordable options for Education.

In early 2007, Steve Hargadon created Classroom 2.0, a Ning social networking site for educators "interested Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in the classroom." The site currently has over 45,000 members sharing ideas and resources, asking questions and discussing ideas and concerns about using these new technologies to support teaching and learning. Exploring this site is a good way to learn more about Web 2.0, and to get a feel for how a social networking site can be used in education.

If you begin to feel overwhelmed by the amount of content, remember that you are not supposed to keep up with everything on a site like this, but rather to skim, explore and focus on those areas which are of real interest to you. In networked learning, the important ideas always come back around.

As you complete the exploration exercises, consider how you might incorporate social networking to benefit:
  • Your own professional development / lifelong learning
  • Classroom teaching and learning
  • Personal interests, hobbies, community, family, social causes, etc...

PART 1 (~60 min): Visit Classroom 2.0. Have a quality look around (see tips immediately following). If you don't spend some time exploring, you won't really get a feel for the site or the potential for this type of tool in education. For examples of more specialized educational Ning sites, you might also want to explore ISENet (Independent School Educators), English Companion (English Teachers), Global Education Collaborative, UDL4ALL (Universal Design).

‡ HELP: Tips for finding your way around Classroom 2.0
  • Welcome - read the welcome note on the left sidebar.
  • Forum - (click Forum tab at the top of the page). Here you will find discussion categories with threaded discussions under each. Find a couple of discussions that interest you and read some of the posts and replies.
  • Groups - (click Groups tab at the top of the page). Here you will find special-interest discussions and resource sharing. Members interested in the topic can join the group and participate in the discussion. Find a group that interests you and explore the discussions and other content for the group.
  • Tags - (right sidebar on lower half of Main page) Click a link to find all discussions tagged by tool, subject or area. Or click a tag anywhere within the site (e.g. at the bottom of a discussion post) to view all resources tagged as such.
  • Latest Activity - (left sidebar of Main page) See the most recent activity by all members of the site.
  • Videos - (click Media tab, then Videos at the top of the page). View videos uploaded and shared by site members.

PART 2: (~45 min) Check out possibilities for using Twitter in education. This very simple "micro-blogging tool" has become a key component of many educators' online learning networks, including my own. Because I "follow" educators who share my interests in teaching and learning with digital technologies, and who share their thinking and discoveries on Twitter, I learn many things from Twitter every day. It's like a steady stream of useful, thought-provoking information and resources from great minds. If you are brand-new to Twitter, start with this this brief video overview: How to Harness Twitter for an Extraordinary PLN, then explore these blog posts: Twitter - What is it and Why Would I Use It?, and Advice for Teachers New to Twitter. You can also use Twitter in your classroom. Check out The Twitter Experiment, Thirty Interesting Ways to Use Twitter in the Classsroom and Teachers Take to Twitter.(I am not requiring you to join Twitter, just to THINK about it).




Task
Write a blog post reflecting on your exploration of Classroom 2.0 and Twitter in Education. What were your overall impressions? Did you find any discussions or resources of value? Do you have any ideas for using social networking (including Twitter) in your own professional or personal learning, or in classroom learning? Please include "Thing 22" in your post title.