Sunday, 10 April 2011

Social networking

Once again this post investigates an aspect of web 2.0. I present a summary of some research and links on the use of social networking in higher education.

Facebook as a Functional Tool and Critical Resource
A course colleague posted a link to this a few days ago, and I just got a chance to read it. In a world where (some) university administrators consider use of Facebook to be subverting the official channels, Mark Lipton is integrating Facebook into his lectures in an innovative an inspirational way. He argues that since the students have Facebook on their laptops while they are in the lecture, he might as well take advantage of this! In his media studies course he is able to teach both about and through digital tools (like Facebook) and demonstrates and models and online identity to help students understand "responsible" Facebook use.

He creates Facebook class groups which are usually open because he insists on an approach to media learning that is open, social, and connected. Use of the Facebook group is not mandatory or graded. During lectures, a teaching assistant monitors the group wall and discussion lists. These are projected on the screen at regular intervals throughout any given lecture. Lipton argues that when students are given free reign without the stress of assessment, he can notice what they find important, where he needs to explicate, and when he should stop to give them voice to articulate their concerns

Lipton shares some of his lessons learned, which include:
  • sharing with students how he manages his Facebook identity - modelling responsible practice
  • in order to use Facebook—and not be used by it—one needs to understand how to operate its settings and options
  • he will not “friend” his students, but is happy to accept a student “friend request”
  • he makes explicit that any student/“friends” are added to a list that is used to block them from some of his more personal Facebook information, such as photo albums
  • he tries to ensure that students do not come up in his news feed and suggests that students block him from their news feed
  • he keeps communication with students as public as possible, asking students to post to the group wall so that everyone can participate, and avoiding the use of private Facebook chat.
Teaching with Social Networks: Establishing a Social Contract (pdf available here)

This paper describes the use of social contracts, collaboratively authored, updated and enforced by students in a blended class which describe permissible and expected behaviour in classroom and online contexts. This paper provides examples of successful student social contracts and describes students’ views on the impact of the social contract on their learning.

Facebook in the Language Classroom: Promises and Possibilities
This paper observes that e-learning tools have yet to be viewed as a mainstream component of foreign language teaching and have yet to become a foundational element used in L2 (second language) classes. It notes that "low level technology uses are generally associated with teacher-centered classrooms, whereas high-level technology usually promotes constructivist practices in which the students have to collaborate", but which require teachers to adapt new ways of communicating with students and to adopt new pedagogies. It argues that computer-mediated-communication can "positively modify teacher-centered models of interaction in the L2 classroom, and encourage students to interact with each other and rely on the L1 less as a consequence".

Facebook groups are identified as providing opportunities for L2 students to observe and participate in discussions from various regions of the world where the target language is spoken natively. It argues that opportunities for "intercultural communication with authentic native speakers of comparable age
language variation is of particular interest for intermediate and advanced language learners as it illustrates the richness of the L2 and introduces them to more authentic and colloquial language".

Despite all the hype, the web is not awash with case studies of integrating social networking into educational practice. While perhaps a little pessimistic (forgiveable, since it's from 3 years ago, but actually I wonder how much has changed...) I'll close with the following quote from George Siemens:
Social networking is still part of the hype cycle of educational technology tools. And for good reason. Involvement in a network can be a surprising waste of time…and a surprisingly effective way to learn. Social Networking in higher education looks at various common tools like Facebook and Twitter, and concludes “We’re incredibly excited about the things we can do in online and distance education with social networking…”As is often the case, the real story is where the action isn’t. It’s where the action will be. And I see that as the methods and approaches that we use to design curriculum, education, and our institutions. How long do we explore new tools and concepts until we are forced to consider the very spaces in which they occur?

1 comment:

  1. Hallo Alice,

    that is a really interesting blog entry. I am still working on mine, scanning through the web to find relevant examples. Well done.