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Monday, October 01, 2007

Social Networking Tools, Education and Groupwork

What is one to do to harness the power of social networking tools for the benefit of your students and there education. Why bother harnessing social networking tools? Connecting to others in your network will offer unexpected nuggets of knowledge, understanding, avenues to explore and camaraderie. The emotional impact on learning can be enhanced for groups of students participating in a programme of study.

The only requirement of the individual is to contribute to the network. As someone pretty famous once said “Give and you shall receive.” There is a massive reward to be gained even if you did not receive, but personally my brief experience is that you will receive ‘nuggets’ galore. By giving to the learning network your thoughts, feelings and understandings you will crystallize and refine your own thoughts and gain deeper understandings and insights to your chosen field of study. This act of externalization has direct benefits for the individual.

Whilst blogs and wikis can be the focus of particular learning activities, it’s a social networking environment that fosters the emotional well being and incidental learning that can be so useful to the morale and learning of individual students.

Facebook and Ning

How can one go about setting up an appropriate social network? Facebook it seems to me has exploded in the last three months and is in pole position to quickly and easily setup a group and as more and more students are using it, an easy transition from a social to a learning situation can be achieved. And although it feels good to use, my feelings are that it does not offer as good a level of organization of personal resources (photo’s, videos) as a ning based social network. In addition a ning based social network will offer email notification to all members of posts on forums, walls etc. This in my opinion is the glue that keeps the online social network abreast of community developments.

For educators ning networks are very easy to setup and student blogging can be self contained within the group. Access to external wikis is made easy from within the network.

‘Ruby on rails’ and Basecamp

For programmer types and organizations that want to take a good look at the customized services they could offer ‘ruby on rails’ an open framework for web development seems to offer a lot for creative organizations prepared to use it. An example application is basecamp. I need to look into this further.

Google Groups

A quick word on google groups – I have not enjoyed participating in them at the moment – but they do also notify by email notification of all new posts to discussions – so they are good for keeping a community abreast of developments. Easy to setup also.


Bottom line is that Ning offers a very easy way to set up a self contained learning network. Facebook will be central to a lot of students already. The choice is yours.

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