Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Why am I fighting for Social Networking?

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For the past 6 months, or possibly more, I have been fighting and advocating for a Social Network. We looked at all the avenues - open source, internally hosted, externally hosted, etc. etc. We tried them every which way - yet none were perfect. Yet I keep advocating for them. Finally someone asked me - Why? Why do we want to spend effort on this? What does this do that Moodle can't do?

So I had to take a step back. Was I doing this - just to do it? Was I seduced by the "latest and greatest" in technology? I mean The Office even made a jab at having a "social network" for paper buying!

So I looked at our current situation and what a Social Network could add. Currently we use primarily BlackBoard Vista and have a Moodle Server. All of the BB Vista courses are actual courses. They are all locked down by classroom participant and discussions are instructor driven. One of the issues I have always had with online classes is the lack of personal connectedness between classmates. I miss the after class discussions on the wall outside of class. BB Vista & Moodle are so "course" oriented" it is hard to "force" them to be something else - possible, but hard.

So what can a Social Network add or change? I think the main thing is that it is user centered - not course centered. You are a Student who belongs to several different groups, rather than having a Course you happen to be a student in.

The goal of this is to stimulate discussion and sharing OUTSIDE of the classroom. If we are truly going to create an online environment as close to a face-to-face class then we are missing out on the "water cooler" conversations. I think that is what a social network can add over a discussion baord or file sharing in Moodle.

I am even willing to bet my thesis on it - can you say topic change!


Vicki Davis @coolcatteacher said...

Let me give you a tip. Can the word "social" -- call it "educational" networking -- make sure you share that this is completely separate from the "social" setup of social networks and is outside the student's embedded social networks.

Because of the demonization of "social" networks we must use terminology that will not cause parental and administrative heart attack, because honestly, we're not advocating 'social" networking at all, but "educational" networking.

I heard cybersafety expert Nancy Willard this weekend at Princeton also say this as well.

So, fight for "Educational" Networking NOT "Social" Networking.

Great post, BTW, you are on the money about the use of these networks and how they help the educational process.

Burt Crow said...

Bethany as Vicki point out you are right on the money with your description of the type of system you are using and the one you want to use.

You are talking about Web 1.0 broadcast one to many model – the interaction is has evolved little from the teach and test programs developed by NASA back in the late 50s.

What you want is a learning community (knowledge creation network, collaboration venue – anything but social – they don’t get social constructivism - most administrators think Vygotsky is Vodka). A learning community where both staff and student engaging in professional and learning behaviours that create knowledge, solutions, texts, media artefacts, etc.

You want it, you have been pushing through with it because you know to the core of you it is right. I think the ‘technology rich, pedagogic poor’ (Victorian Classroom on Steroids) is often a harder environment to change than the school with poor technology getting a boost!

You need to develop your practice, find others work that inspires and get back in the classroom and show them the difference and why you need the learning (social constructing) network to support it. Hang it on differentiations, student voice, greater transparency for parents, 21st learning competencies – get it in there get some support get some space and let your practice inspire the innate abilities of your students.

My epiphany for the week has been that it isn’t a war it is a revolution one conversation at a time (Thanks Wes Fryer). I have a paper about how an Information systems (Learning Technology System) might look like that can support both content driven and collaborative pedagogies, I can fwd if you think it could help.


Unknown said...

Excellent post and so true to call it educational networking.

Finally my district is using Moodle, but since I have never used it before, I cannot see how I can get the same gains that I did on the Wiki in terms of collaboration and interaction. I will probably need to do both. I am hoping my present students really talk up the great things they have already said in a recent survey they completed and push change in other classrooms.

Anonymous said...

I will be interested to see the progress that you make in this area. Keep us posted.

Bethany Smith said...

I love the idea of calling it "educational" networking. The connotations of social networking and all the baggage it brings with it can stop you before you even get in the door.

I am also half-tempted to just call it Computer Mediated Interaction (CMI) or learning communities. The more I think about it the more I need to push this as an evolution of communication - rather than so much of a "change."
Everyone seems to be so afraid of change :)

Thanks everyone for the comments. I appreciate the input.

Unknown said...

This is fascinating.
I’d been taught that left-aligned labels are preferred, to support the prototypical F-shaped eye-tracking heatmap of web browsing. The idea is that it supports easy vertical scanning.
online learning