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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

An Exploration of Social Networking

This blog is primarily for the benefit of students who are preparing to participate in the forthcoming short Course - Web 2.0 for teaching and Learning: The basics - blogs, wikis and tagging

I guess that we can say the learning has begun.

First of all i believe it is true to say that web 2.0 technology is generally easy and relatively accessible for non-technical teachers to setup and administer. That said tenaciousness in sorting out problems is a good attribute, as is patience and preparing ahead of time.

Our short course will look at a few web 2.0 technologies. These are Blogs, wikis and tagging with the emphasis on social bookmarking. By enrolling you on the web 2.0 learning network i am attempting to use the web 2.0 technology that fosters and encourages 'social networking'.

Social Networking

The most obvious examples of Social Networking sites are 'facebook' and 'myspace' and both are quite obviously about socializing. In an educational situation and in our situation i want to use a social networking' site to support an online community of learners in what can be more accurately described as a 'learning network'. I can see a good argument for the ease with which a participant can float from social to learning interactions on facebook, and subgroups can be setup on facebook with the intention of acting as a group of learners.

The use of the Ning network on the face of it, (once technical difficulties are resolved) is a much better option. A clear distinct learning network (group) can be formed and then managed by the network creator. It is very easy to organize and administer for non-technical users. In my opinion one of the most important factors to foster and stimulate online community participation is the use of email notifications whenever activity (e.g. discussion board postings, announcements) occurs in the network. Ning networks include the web 2.0 learning network that i have created offer this facility.

Whilst Blackboard automatically offers an online community setup, the clunkiness of development (i.e 4 clicks when only 1 is sufficient), the lack of email notifications and not having a full set of features to cater for a smooth running community leads me to look for an external web 2.0 solution.

Another approach that could be taken is the use of google groups, which i have participated in. For aesthetic reasons i did not enjoy working in this environment. but simple and easy to setup and does notify by email of new postings.

Due to the difficulties encountered with ning, i have looked at a number of other social networking solutions - I looked at 'LinkedIn', which is a social network site for professionals which does not appear to add additional functionality for the purposes of our learning group. I have looked at Basecamp, which does have some potential, but is more of a project based setup, but could be customized for our purposes. I found also a competitor to ning networks called ' goingon', which from a presentation and functionality point of view, does not seem quite as good as a ning network. The final item i looked at was not so much a social networking site, but an individual course organizer. This was nuvvo and it seemed simple and easy to setup and could offer a solution to an online home for a group of learners to work together.

If you have any questions or comments about social networking you can comment here for now. I shall keep you up to date with course start dates and details of your first introductory online synchronous session. If we can persevere with ning for now - i think it will be the best option, keep me informed of how you are getting on.

cheers, Steve

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