Social Networking in Schools

March 27, 2008 at 6:28 pm (social networking)

How are social network sites being used in schools, in teaching and in learning?  Here are a few of my favorite examples that I came across that I chose to highlight. 

For Libraries, Librarians and Library Users

YALSA has a whole page dedicated to Web 2.0 & Libraries, the first link of which is examples of libraries using social networking technologies to connect with teens including blogs, MySpace, Flickr, podcasts, Del.icio.us and YouTube.  Despite its public libraries focus it does provide ideas and a place to start.

Yale University Science Libraries maintains a page that connects students via Facebook, messaging, Flickr, Twitter and a blog.  I think this one does a good job of exemplifying what is possible.       

Robin the Teen Librarian maintains a MySpaceprofile.  Such authors as Tanya Lee Stone, Sonya Sones, Rachel Cohn, Stephanie Hale and others have dropped in and commented.  What a way to get kids excited about reading, having the authors of the books you are suggesting to them comment on YourSpace.  I know many students who would be very excited if it was my page the authors were popping in on. 

Youth Adult Library Services Association (yalsa) created Teens & Social Networking in School and Public Libraries: A Toolkit for Librarians & Library Workers (pdf), updated and expanded March 2007.  Some of my favorite ideas that it outlines are

  • A student created MySpace account as an author study – to gather information and enter it into the profile (an updated version of a hockey card?).  The blog function could be used to respond to reading or analyze poems.  Others could comment and join in the discussion.
  • When schools and libraries help teens use social networking tools safely and smartly, they are also helping teens to: develop boundaries and expectations, use the tools in a way that demonstrates a commitment to learning, develop social and cultural competence and empower them
  • Have teens collaborate in building a library MySpace – having discussions about how to decide whether or not to accept someone as a friend, who will be responsible for different parts
  • The reading and writing connection; in order to participate you must do both (this was also mentioned at quoteflections, “Before email most people never wrote anything.  Now most do, through email, social networking sites….The written medium has enjoyed exponential growth.”

yalsa also created 30 Positive Uses of Social Networking (pdf).  This includes ideas for social software (blogs, wikis, podcasts) as well as social network sites like MySpace.  One of my favorite lines in it is,

“How effective are libraries going to be to empower teens in making good online choices if the tools to do so can’t be used, accessed, or played with in a library” (p. 4).

Some of the benefits of MySpace for libraries is visual appeal and ease of use because knowledge of HTML is not required.  “Although kids do not look at our website, they DO look at our MySpace.”

These are my top picks from 30 Positive Uses of Social Networking:

  • “Put something on there that is interesting to them, and ask them to help you do it….every six months, they create a new profile (p. 5).”
  • “Have middle or high school students create a MySpace style page for an artist, writer, scientist, etc. 
    • What would Honest Abe’s page look like?
    • Who would be in his friends list? 
    • What kind of music was popular in his era? 
    • What were his interests? 
    • What would his blog of daily life look like? 
    • And, of course, sources for all info would have to be cited, and music and photos and quotes would have to be used in accordance with fair use…
    • Such an assignment would meet our teens where they are and create an opportunity to discuss
      • ‘what does it mean to have someone on your friends list?’
      • ‘how does one obtain permission to add a song or photo?’ (p. 6).” 

I believe these quotes provide an appropriate summation: 

“Social networking software that promotes collaboration has special significance in the school setting.  Students who learn collaboration skills in school are likely to be more valuable contributors to today’s workplace, which generally values collaboration and teamwork” (p. 17).”[S]ocial networking is intrinsically connected to content creation….Social networking breeds ideas and ideas breed innovation” (p. 19).

For Students

Mixxer is a free educational community for language learners to find a language partner for language exchange.  The language partner is someone who speaks the language you study as their native language and is studying your native language.  The partners then meet online to help each other practice and learn a foreign language.  I learned about this one through Educause.  I would worry about using this with younger students but can see the benefits for older students. 

YALSA has created a one page brochure (pdf) geared towards teens that discusses what social networking is, some adult assumptions and how to participate safely.  I thought it gave a good student-friendly general overview of the social software in general and how it relates to social networking.

Julie Lindsay suggests the advertisement free Ning for student collaboration such as the flat classroom Ning.  I can’t believe how collaboration, discussion and reflection are combined using a variety of media (text, video) representing process and product.  Lindsay also pointed out the Horizon Project Ning – “a networking space for teachers and students of the Horizon Project.”  This takes me back to what Richardson said when I first started exploring social networking.  We need to teach the literacies of networking, of collaborating and contributing and ask thought provoking questions.  What better way to do it than to participate in it yourself and be a role model for positive and productive social networking that contributes to life-long learning. 

For Teachers

Classroom 2.0 dubs itself as “the social networking site for those interested in Web 2.0 and collaborative technologies in education.” For example, there is a group dedicated to Educon 2.0.  Up to this point, I’ve seen limited potential for a social network site, such as Facebook, to provide collegial connections.  For me it is used for personal rather than professional networking.  Classroom 2.0 would be a way for a one-person department or someone with out-of-the-box thinking to engage in discussion with like-minded individuals.  This would be an instance where you could be “meeting” individuals whose blogs you follow or meeting educators from across the continent and around the world.  I see this one having lots of potential, particularly if attending a conference.  If an online space such is this is established before the conference, one could meet the participants and presenters, pose questions before hand, post to the social network in real time and continue the conversation after. 

I have see Elgg come up in several places.  It is “an open source social platform based on choices, flexibility and openness: a system that firmly places individuals at the centre of their activities.  Your users have the freedom to incorporate all their favorite tools within one environment and showcase their content with as many or as few people as they choose, all within a social networking site that you control.”  What I really wanted to see was an example in action.  Much to my delight, there was a Canadian example based in Ontario, Communi-IT.  I plan to come back to this one and explore it more.  I like how it combines social software tools such as blogs and wikis into the elgg social network site. 

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4 Comments

  1. Linda said,

    I loved your idea about creating Myspace “accounts” for artists, scientists, etc. – wish I’d thought of that! I can see my third graders creating accounts for Hallowe’en characters or leprechauns or Cupids or….

    Also, I heartily agree that the written medium gets a lot more traffic with social networking being so popular…..now if we could just get the spelling, grammar, etc. cleaned up at the same time…..ah well. Eat the elephant one bite at a time, right?

  2. Val said,

    Great idea ladies, both Arlene and Linda. I love the character accounts. I like the flat classroom ning and see Ning as the way to go for sn in the classroom. It certainly does allow students opportunities to bond both among peers and with their instructors. I see this, and have experienced this with our course. Cheers Val

  3. cindy said,

    Great quote Arlene!

    “Social networking software that promotes collaboration has special significance in the school setting. Students who learn collaboration skills in school are likely to be more valuable contributors to today’s workplace, which generally values collaboration and teamwork”

    As a supporter of SNS in schools the quote says it all! Thanks!

  4. Brogan Keane said,

    This is an interesting article, it really highlights a problem with adult social networks.

    There’s been a lot of growth in adult use of social networks in the past few years, but what’s interesting is that the majority of adults tend to use social networks geared towards teenagers. Look at adoption of Boomj.com versus 35+ users on Myspace or Facebook.

    There needs to be a fundamental shift in what adults look for in social networks, we as a demographic and age group want different things out of social networks.

    Read my post at fuegonation.com/blog to find more details. I broke down the problems associated with current social networks and why they are not fundamentally appealing to social networks.

    Hope this helps Arlene!

    Best,

    Brogan Keane

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