Social networking – technologies with the most promise for educational application

Social networking technologies are not the panacea for all education methods and do not replace traditional face-to-face teaching/learning, but they do provide an additional format to work together and engage learners who might otherwise not be interested (Johnson & Dyer 2006).

These technologies work on a number of levels, for example Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn promote the notion of connecting people and sharing information whereas YouTube, Flickr and Slideshare are more geared towards offering different ways to express ideas and share information. Then we have blogs and wikis that can mash much of this media together so that it represents a digital storyboard of expression (Chin 2006). Such storyboards allow for multiple authorship viewable privately or publically with the additional ability to comment on entries.

My own experience of using social networking tools in education extends to belonging to a Twitter network of people with an interest in elearning and educational technologies so that we can share and recommend interesting information, in other words act as a filtering service and share with our network what we think is worth reading. With LinkedIn, the medium is less powerful and it consists of a directory of career profiles and who-knows-who. Each profile is self-made requiring no validation – but the fact it is pubic will deter most honest folk from telling porkies. LinkedIn requires no premise to activity engage in any type of dialogue, many entries are dated, as the network is just another space to promote yourself and stay connected.

I have worked on a number of student projects using the Campus Pack collaboration tools, which integrate into Blackboard’s courses well and sync into the cohort’s roster including instructors. These blogs and wikis are extremely simple for people without technical know-how to create, they also empower faculty to tailor learning activities according to intended outcomes. Settings (individual/group, private/open, comments, deletion, history, etc.) can be easily applied and modified. The assessment report (see image below) details the level of engagement from each learner and the overall contribution made in the wiki – as illustrated below. This bespoke set of tools sets it apart from free blogging tools and wikis such as wordpress, blogger, google wikis etc. as they do not have this kind of educational reporting ability.

Campus Pack wiki assessment report from a group activity

Campus Pack wiki assessment report from a group activity

This wiki assessment report shows the activity of 4-second year degree students studying a specific unit on a (face2face) Fashion Promotion course. The unit (worth 30 credits) has an expectation of 300 learning hours, its aims:

  1. To understand the importance of the moving image as a promotional tool.
  2. To develop an understanding of how fashion designer brands are promoted.
  3. To build on existing promotional techniques and research skills by promoting a fashion designer through visual imagery.
  4. To respond intellectually and target a campaign to a specific market.
  5. To be proactive in working in a creative team and taking an increased responsibility in your own learning.
  6. To effectively and clearly communicate ideas within a team and to others.

The wiki allowed learners plan and document their research and organise their planning for the final output. This central space allowed everyone to pitch in with ideas and the format allowed people’s individual strengths to shine through. The task of assessment with such a group project (there were 22 wikis/groups in total) makes the process far more flexible and manageable. Having the online environment as institutionally owned also makes the logistical issues such as IP and privacy a far safer experience for everyone (Cook & Light 2006).

So for me, I think the wiki has the most mileage and promise for education and that makes me think of McLuhan’s mantra The Medium is the Message (or Mass Age) which then opens up another new debate about how the symbiotic relationship between the medium and message, and its influences into how this wiki storyboard is perceived – the product of co-creation is almost more enchanting than the final output (the film in this case).

There are, of course a thousand other reasons to support online co-created activities using wikis (inclusiveness, adaptability, flexibility, ownership, empowerment, accessible) and this is just a few!

References

Johnson, J. and Dyer, J. (2006) ‘User-defined content in a constructivist learning environment’ [online], elearning papers,
http://www.elearningeuropa.info/files/media/media11007.pdf

Marshall McLuhan
http://marshallmcluhan.com

Cook, J. and Light, A. (2006) ‘New patterns of power and participation? Designing ICT for informal and community learning’, E-learning, vol.3, no.1, pp.51–61; also available online at
http://www.wwwords.co.uk/pdf/viewpdf.asp?j=elea&vol=3&issue=1&year=2006&article=6_Cook_Light_ELEA_3_1_web&id=137.108.145.11

Chin, P. (2006) The Value of User-Generated Content, Intranet Journal,
http://www.paulchinonline.com/portfolio/ij/ij20060307.htm (part 1) 

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