Two months ago when I started this technology adventure it seemed like I was trying to hack my way out of the dense jungle of web 2.0 tools with obstacles at every turn. Now because of confidence and knowledge I find myself sailing along. The waters are still a bit rough now and then but researching and discovering social networking sites in Web 2.0 was a pleasant adventure. These included Facebook and Nings.
Reflections on the process of learning about the tool:
The process of learning about Facebook and Nings has gone on for awhile for me. I had heard of Facebook before but never visited the site. I knew people who were on it but never asked them about it. This summer my cousins kept ridiculing me for being the last one to join Facebook. They said I had to get with the program, that I was old and was basically out of the loop. It was just their way of trying to get me to network with them. Why was I so reluctant? I’m not sure. I had thought that everything you put on it was out there for the whole world to see and I didn’t want to do that. I didn’t want any students or parents to come across my profile. So I did not join Facebook.
Then I started this course and saw that one of my first assignments was to join a networking site like Facebook. I was stuck and felt very reluctant to sign up and use Facebook. I had no choice. I logged into the site and it was easy to sign up. The first thing I did was set the privacy settings so that only people I invited could see my profile. I felt a bit better about it. I first added family and got several excited but sarcastic responses about finally signing up. I also added a few close friends. I checked Facebook often, anticipating comments from others. I would post a comment or two of my own, still preferring to read everyone else’s and look at their pictures. I loved looking at the pictures. I spent hours going through them. Then I decided to add a few pictures of my own which was a big step for me. I was starting to let go of my preconceived notions of fear. The comments back to me were my incentive. As time went on I began to feel braver and added more friends and started embedding technology items from this course. First was my avatar, then my Animoto video and then finally my voicethread. I can’t say I check my Facebook account everyday. Not because I don’t want to but because I could lose myself in it and not get other things done. I probably would still be considered by some a passive networker, but that is how I am in real life. I am quieter and enjoy what goes on around me and put my two cents in when warranted. That is my comfort level with Facebook. When I have more free time I can easily see myself checking every day. I will add more pictures and comments. I never dreamed that I would sign up. More importantly that I would actually enjoy it!
I had never heard of a ning before. I found a video that explained the basics of a ning which helped me to understand more about them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJvC7IVIYzM
Just after this course started I was asked to join one. A family from our school had gone on a cross Canada tour for four months. The mom invited her children’s teachers to join as they would be missing school until the end of November. After joining the Ning I thought this would be a perfect opportunity to bond with my new student and work on my Web 2.0 course at the same time. Unfortunately I am not allowed to give the address out to anyone so I will not be able to link it in this blog post. It was easy to set up my profile and add my picture to the ning. The process was very similar to Facebook. I added some personal information to my profile page but not a whole lot because again this is for a student. I could follow their travels and the mom wrote comments from her son. I shared these and their photos with my class and we wrote comments back about what we were learning. I added classroom pictures but none of students. The end of November will bring this ning to a close. I enjoyed the experience.
During the first weeks of this course I also found watching Kolbert (2009), on this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MUE8fSFr9h4
to be useful and as she calls it, I became a “lurker” on the Classroom 2.0 ning http://www.classroom20.com/
created by Steve Hargadon. I have benefited from the articles and comments. Like Facebook I lose myself in the site. I have gone from being unaware of social networking to being a pro social networking user.
Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning:
In opening my mind to understanding and using social networking sites I have opened up several venues to increase my learning. I can become part of a social network of people with similar interests which include scrapbooking, reading, travel and photography. I could interact with people from around the world and broaden my horizons. I could learn new techniques, gain valuable information and follow links they have suggested. I could reciprocate with my own suggestions, links and ideas.
In terms of me as a parent I can help my children set up a ning for themselves and their friends to have a safe place to socialize on the web. We spend most of the summers away from home and this would help my children stay in touch with their friends by posting photos and comments. As a family we could set up a ning for when we go on holidays so that our extended family can keep in touch with us. I will also let me children go on Facebook now if they use the privacy setting for friends only. They will be able to post comments to family and friends. I would not have let them do that before learning about Facebook and the ability to chose who can view your profile. They would also have to make me one of their friends so that I could monitor their usage. I agree with Abram (2008) that, “they need to be aware of their personal identity information and the risks out there without scaring them but providing age and stage sensitive context for success in these emerging and important new electronic environments.” By teaching and allowing my children to use social networking at home and discussing safety with them they will become successful social networking users.
For me as part of a social group I can connect with educators with similar interests as part of a ning. I am not out of the loop with happenings within my extended family because I can connect with them on Facebook. As I have stated before I enjoy the photos and comments and look forward to seeing who has commented on my status. I can also connect with others in the applications section of Facebook and join groups of interest to me. A few weeks after I joined Facebook I connected with a couple of long time friends that I had lost touch with since moving. We have since talked on Facebook and personally contacted each other a few times to have more private conversations and to catch up on the last several years. I have missed them and reconnecting has brought me a sense of peace. Social networking will bring my family and friends closer to me and my family.
Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning:
“One of the main educational uses of social networking is seen to lie in their support for interaction between learners.” (Selwyn, 2009) There are many implications for using social networking for teaching and learning. I could set up a ning for my Kindergarten class instead of a wiki. This would help to aid communication with my parents. I could start a Kindergarten ning for my school division and let it grow from there. We could see how many people would join and collaborate and have discussions on topics of interest. By following and joining other educational nings I would have endless opportunities to learn what other educators are doing. I can become an active member by asking questions and posting my own ideas. I can become involved in educational discussions. I can collaborate with fellow thinkers. I can follow article, blog or video links that interest me that other teachers have found. I would use all these reasons to convince other members of my staff to join a ning of their own interest. When I first started this course no one at school had heard of a ning before. I will be opening up a whole new world of networking for them. I will also show them how to make groups in Facebook that would allow them to network with students using a tool that many students are already familiar with. Some ideas for using social networking sites to share with my fellow teachers as taken from NCTE (2008) include:
• Set up discussion forums based on literature circles, peer writing groups, different class periods, and so forth.
• Create groups based on student interests—book clubs, favorite genres, other content areas.
• Upload alternative book reports created as podcasts, videos, or photos.
• Ask students to write their reading logs or journals online.
• Post information for students and their families in a shared space.
Another way that Facebook could be used is to have students design profile home pages for historical figures. They would have to research and understand what was significant about each person to be creative in their designs and information.
There are pros and cons for using social networking sites. Many of these sites are blocked by schools and students do not have access to them until they go home. If a teacher is using social networking sites for homework or as a requirement for a course all students must have access. Some educators do not understand the value of teaching social networking to their students and therefore do not allow students to go on these sites. Students have to be taught the expectations of how to use public sites so that they use them in an educationally appropriate manner for school assignments. Also in terms of public social game sites ,“children learn valuable Internet social skills, as well as literacy, problem solving, and finance management,” (Bauman & Tatum, 2009). Some social networking sites that children use like Webkinz and Club Penguin have features that only members can obtain. Children can also be lured by the advertising. Students have to be taught what kinds of information to give out and how to secure themselves when using social networking. They also have to be taught not to go meet their networking friends in real life. I agree with Maloney in Selwyn’s (2009) article that “the conversational, collaborative and communal qualities of social networking services are felt to “mirror much of what we know to be good models of learning, in that they are collaborative and encourage active participatory role for users.” Social networking sites do have a place in educating our students. It is another beneficial web 2.0 tool.
Abram, S. (Mar./Apr. 2008). Scaffolding the new Social Literacies. Multimedia and Internet @Schools. Retrieved November 7, 2009 from http://trailfire.com/joannedegroot/marks/219187
Bauman, S., & Tatum, T. (2009). Web Sites for Young Children: Gateway to Online Social Networking? Professional School Counseling, 13(1), 1-10. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.
Selwyn, N. (2009). Faceworking: exploring students' education-related use of Facebook. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 157. Retrieved November 8, 2009, from ProQuest Education Journals.