Social Networking

Brave new digital citizen

This is how I would describe myself at this point in my Web 2.0 life.  Most teenagers or “millennial’s”  (13-35 year olds), as I’ve read, would roll their eyes at the idea that venturing out into the web requires any kind of bravery. I tend to disagree – perhaps Joan of Arc would empathize with me.   I have cautiously dipped my toe in the waters of the web and am probably as ready as I’ll ever be to join communities of varying size to learn, share, socialize, laugh and be amazed at the commonalities and diversity of the human experience.  I’ll be doing this through social networks.  Before I begin though, I want to let you know that my experience of Facebook is through others – a 15 year old who wouldn’t be without it and other thinkers whose published ideas I’ve had a chance to reflect upon.  I’m new to nings but can share some thoughts on this, have joined www.goodreads.com and www.librarything.com as well as www.shelfari.com.   I can’t wait to have leisure reading time again to add to my virtual bookshelves and join book club discussions.

 

Having a web presence, a digital footprint, a connection to community is what the web now demands of us.  I keep hearing about the growing number of 2 year olds who have a digital presence – I’ve got to get going here!  No time to waste!  If my students are on the web, sharing, creating and collaborating,  I can’t be a very useful guide if I’m and not on the web exploring and learning the tools that they are using.

Before heading off into the discussion, I need to establish some definitions of what we’re talking about here.  The first is what we mean when talking about the social web.  Will Richardson in Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms says that, “the collaborative construction of knowledge by those willing to contribute is redefining the ways we think about teaching and learning at every level.” (2010,p. 85).   Ellyssa Kroski, in Web 2.0 for Librarians and Information Specialists adds that, “the phenomenon of social networking taps into the passions of Web users, allowing them to express themselves creatively in a social environment.  They offer a portal to information, knowledge, and people, where members can share content and establish relationships with others.” (2008, p.107).   As Will Richardson emphasizes in his discussion of Web 2.0 tools, with more than 1 billion people online, the power of these connections takes on epic proportions (p.85)!  Imagine the possibilities for new ideas and ways of learning!

Edmodo:

Edmodo is a closed social networking site for students and teachers meaning that it is secure, not searchable on Google.  It is a safe way to introduce sharing and collaborating using an online resource and is very easy to sign up for.  The how-to video from the Edmodo home page says it all:

www.edmodo.com

Once a teacher has created an account, they invite their students to join with a generated code that once they are signed up, the teacher can delete.  Once in Edmodo, groups can be created for different purposes – students learning in a particular curricular area or teachers collaborating as a PLC.  Assignments can be posted, polls taken, and links added.  It’s a very versatile tool that is a nice compromise for those hesitant to integrate technology or brave but new to learning in this way.

Students in one grade 6 classroom where I worked with the teacher to set this up were very excited when they saw that the main page looked like Facebook.  This became an opportunity to discuss the difference between social communication and communication for learning in school.  This tool allows differentiation and a voice to those who are reluctant to participate but there can still be a requirement that all students be respectful, considerate and communicate in full sentences – no text talk.

For professional learning, as I mentioned above, groups can be created around curricular areas or topics of interest to the members and only those people who belong to a particular group may access that group.

Facebook:

I am not a member of Facebook but know a 15 year old (my daughter) who is and was willing to answer some questions for me.  Here’s how our conversation went:

AR:  How long have you been on Facebook?

AF:  About two years.

AR:  Why are you on it?

AF:  I like to see what my friends are up to and to tell them what I am up to.

AR:  Has the way you’ve used it changed since the beginning?

AF:  The page layout has changed and they run updates.

AR:  Do you use it for school work?

AF:  No.  Only to find someone who can help me if I don’t understand something.

AR:  Do your teachers recommend using it for school work?

AF:  No.

AR:  Do you use Facebook to set up pages for a specific purpose?

AF:  No.  My privacy is too important to me to have anyone accessing my information.

AR:  Do you know about privacy settings?

AF:  Yes.  Only my friends can view my page, pictures etc.  No FOAF.  It’s easy to confirm or    ignore a request from a potential friend.

AR:  Are your friends on Facebook?

AF:  I would say 9 out of 10 have Facebook.  You feel out of the loop if you don’t have it.

AR:  Is there something you don’t like about Facebook?

AF:  If someone uploads photos that you are in and you don’t like them there’s nothing you can do about it.  You can only delete your own stuff.

AR:  Why do you think that so many people take photos of everything and post them to Facebook?

AF:  They don’t take pictures for memories.  They want to show that they’ve been somewhere, been a part of something.

Isn’t that last comment telling about the teenage experience?  I get it.  I’m not sure however that all of them understand the long term implications of some of things they share, which is why lessons on digital citizenship and cyber bullying need to happen in our schools.   It’s our job as educators to prepare our students for the world beyond the four walls of school and since they are already living in the digital world after the bell rings, we have our work cut out for us.

We also have to keep in mind that students, if not guided by an adult at home when online, need to learn that they are part of the wider world and not just solitary players sharing and divulging details they think the world needs to know.  In their article, “Literate Arts in a Global World:  Reframing Social Networking as Cosmopolitan Practice” Glynda Hull and Amy Stornaiuolo examine the “disconnect between the digital, mobile, and radically interconnected social, economic, and cultural worlds that we increasingly inhabit, and the print-centric, stationary, traditional school day, still organized for the most part by tools, space-time relationships and participant structures that belong to a previous age.” (2010).  They present examples from a site for youth called www.space2cre8.com.

Their discussion of youth seeking to “self-imagine” is fascinating in the context of “seeing ourselves as social actors with obligations toward others.” (2010)  I understand this to mean that kids are exploring ideas of what they are and how they fit in the world of others.

The authors discuss “cosmopolitanism as a strategy for reconciling the tensions inherent in a vastly interconnected yet deeply divided world.” (2010) As youth build communities, they use “transliteracies” or “multimodal symbolizations across multiple spaces to listen and reflect.” (2010)  Young people are comfortable communicating digitally in various environments through photos, video, comments, polls and groups.   Though in our classrooms, we seem to be behind the 8 ball so to speak, and share valid concerns of safety, privacy and access.  Further in the article, the authors continue, “that [social] networks are prime out of school locations for maintaining existing social ties, construction and experimenting with multimodal representations of self, and creating and exchanging social capital.  Studies to explore the educational implications of social networking are few and are between. (2010).  This is a reminder of just how quickly the web and online tools are evolving!  Importantly though, to take a final point from this article is “this notion of openness involves  a focus on our obligations to others, including our obligation to listen and respond respectfully and considerately.” (2010).  The question to ask ourselves then, is how do we do this effectively in our classrooms and libraries?

From a personal point of view, I see the appeal of a site like Facebook but made a choice not to spend the time (since I don’t have a lot of extra at the moment).  Right now my family, close friends, work and studies fill my days and the time I do spend online is for learning.   It’s a significant connection for my daughter but to connect with friends and family, for now I prefer email and Skype.

In my research, I came across an interesting article by Greg Notess talking about the value, use and history of Facebook.  I didn’t know that it was originally used by those in “higher learning” and evolved into a site of mass communication across extensive networks of “friends.” (2008)  He questions the value of searching for the type of information available on Facebook such as contact information, background, and personal and professional interests. (2008)  He reminds us that deleting a profile requires deleting content before deleting the profile otherwise, photos and details remain online.  There are so many factors to be aware of that belonging to a social network may not be for the faint of heart.

I know that there are Facebook pages for organizations and schools, announcing events, scores, and news of interest to a particular community so why not have a Facebook page for a library?  I ask the question, read it in my research and would consider it an option for secondary and public libraries but not likely for an elementary library.  Access would be an issue requiring young students to rely on an adult with a Facebook login to take them to the page.  (Even Queen Elizabeth’s Facebook page isn’t public – you have to be signed in to view it!)

From a professional development point of view, there are more accessible tools with which to collaborate with colleagues so Facebook would not be my first choice.  In our field, the Teacher-librarian ning is one such example of a Web 2.0 tool designed specifically to meet the needs of it’s community.  To understand what a ning is, go to www.ning.com

According to Wikipedia, “a ning is a social network around a specific interest with their own visual design, choice of features and member data.” See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ning The teacher-librarian ning meets these criteria.  It was easy to sign up – once I gave my data, my membership was pending and finally I just had to click on a link sent to my email account.  It is a social network for information sharing, discussion, resources and to connect with others working in this field.  It has a large membership, extensive video library, and forum for joining or initiating discussion on topics of interest.  For my learning, it’s easy to ask a question that somebody will likely be able to answer.  Professionally,  there may be resources or information that enhance your instructional practice or that may support colleagues in your school or district.  In fact, I would encourage all TL’s to explore this network and sign up.  I’ve already found video clips that I will return to and use in my learning and teaching.

Three social networks all built around books are www.shelfari.com,
www.goodreads.com and www.librarything.com.  While we are encouraged to explore goodreads and librarything, I also joined shelfari to learn about it too but will focus mainly on the first two.

Goodreads:

This is a social networking site based on books, finding them, sharing opinions about them, and personalizing your own “book shelf” to share with others who share your taste in books.  It was easy to sign up for a free account and build my virtual bookshelves.  I had fun going through the list of books and selecting them for my “read” shelf, “currently reading” or “to-read” shelf.  Based on my selections, I can chat with others who made similar selections.  I look forward to leisure reading again and joining book discussions.  For the moment, as I mentioned earlier, my time is largely spoken for.  Thank goodness for audio books!  They go with me whenever I’m driving to and from activities with the kids.

Professionally,  I’m interested in booklists on the site for children’s books as well as young adults.

I have a young adult who, in addition to keeping in touch with her friends, is a voracious reader.  I was telling her that she should sign up for an account and share her experiences of reading current titles – for instance, she just finished the Hunger Games series.  The great thing about YA book shelves is that she may find titles that are similar and others have enjoyed.  That is a feature of this site that I look forward to using often in the future.

From the point of view of my PLC at work, this would be a site that I would recommend to my colleagues if they aren’t already on it.  While it’s not a substitute for professional reviews of materials that would be used for resource selection, it certainly provides a options and ideas and combinations of titles that we perhaps hadn’t thought of.  If there is another way to promote books and reading in our libraries inspired by a group or booklist, then it’s worth some thought.  We want to foster a love of reading and learning in our little people.

Librarything:

This site is similar to goodreads in the sense that it was easy to sign up for a free account and get started editing my profile.  While it seems that goodreads has a broader appeal, librarything is a better fit for teacher-librarians, library media specialists and literacy instructors.  It is a searchable social network site with extensive titles, groups and listings of local events which I found interesting.    I like the “zeitgeist” tab with lists, among many other things,   “authors who LT”, “25 the most reviewed books”, and “the top 75 tags”.

These are definitely resources that I can use in my practice and professional learning and would recommend to colleagues in my PLC.  It is community member built content with recommendations, lists, connections to “watch lists and interesting libraries”.  With members having diverse taste, you’re likely to find a review or endorsement of something you might never have considered reading and end up loving.

From a teaching point of view, I like that you can have conversations, seek advice and share ideas on library instruction.  Sometimes, if you have something that you’d like to teach in a different way but aren’t sure what will work, chatting with colleagues will lead you to that strategy that gets you going.

I like the fact that there is a school media specialist group which I would recommend to my colleagues.  How great especially if you are the only library media specialist for miles around and no one to collaborate with!  A network like librarything connects you to your professional community and supports you as a teacher and a reader!  No one likes to feel isolated and the teaching profession is such that we can easily become solitary leaders in our classrooms but thanks to social networking tools, we can share our ideas, joys, tribulations and learning, get support and meet other great teachers along the way.

Where other library folks are

Just some parting thoughts:

Along the path to learning about the social networking sites, Facebook, TL ning, goodreads and libarything, I took a few side roads and discovered just how extensive social networking tools are.  They are in just about every area of interest, news, music, photo sharing, and social bookmarking.  Wherever there is a community that share common interests and desire to build that community based on the contributions of its members, the potential for visits and growth of the membership increases.  The self-policing capacity of many social networking sites and structures in place such as email notification prior to a comment going public, ensures that the quality of the content is uncompromised and is respectful to members.

Social networking sites have put the power in the hands of ordinary people to comment on what they see, do, or are interested in and make it easy to share that information with a computer and an internet connection.  That sharing can be in the form of text, photo, video or sound bite, in the case of twitter (more on that in an upcoming posting).  The learning and sharing potential is huge altering strongly held perceptions of how students learn, where and when they learn and with whom they collaborate.  Ourselves as examples, we are building our course content together, with ideas unique to each of us, resources from all over the world and diverse personal experiences which enrich the conversation.  And all in an online environment!  How lucky are we!

References:

Kroski, E. (2008). Web 2.0 for librarians and information professionals. New York, NY: Neal-Schuman Publishers Inc.

Notess, G.(2008). An about-face on facebook? Outline 32(1), 43-45.

Richardson, W. (2010). Blogs, wikis, podcasts, and other powerful web tools for classrooms. Thousand Oaks, CA:  Corwin.

Stornaiuolo, A, and Hull, G. (2010). Literate arts in a global world: Reframing social networking as cosmopoital practice.  Journal of Adolescent and Adult Literacy 54(2), 85-97. doi:10.1598/JAAL.54.2.1

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5 Responses to Social Networking

  1. Erin says:

    Hi Anne! Interesting blog post, there really is so much to think about when it comes to social noetworking in our world. One of your quotes really struck me:

    “Studies to explore the educational implications of social networking are few and are between.”

    I’ve been thinking all week about the fact that these sites are popping up like crazy and the usage stats are astronomical, yet there seems to be very little research available on their impact and use (especially in education). It seems that we are just not keeping up with it! I guess this is the first step though, this exploration.

    • acrogers says:

      Hi Erin,

      Thanks for your reply. You’re right – the exploration that we’re doing is so important and keeping up with all the changes is an unbelievable challenge. Last night, I was sharing some bits from Will Richardson’s book with my son and he couldn’t believe how recent so many things, that he takes for granted, really are! He can’t image not having email, games etc.! It’s really fun to chat with him about this stuff. He has such a different perspective – just go with the flow.

      Anne

  2. shelljob says:

    Your daughter’s last comment is pretty profound, and really sums it all up. Martin Brokenleg talks about how “nothing happens until belonging happens”, and we can certainly see why kids are so drawn to Facebook. Everyone wants to connect.

  3. Debbie Trees says:

    “They don’t take pictures for memories. They want to show that they’ve been somewhere, been a part of something.” I think this is the same statement shelljob is referring to. It’s a great insight into the teenage experience – but I think, even beyond. I could totally make up experiences/pictures/photos to include into my profile to make my life look ultra-cool and exciting… but does that really make it true? perhaps it works for some, but i think this is part of the fallacy of social networking… web2.0… that we all are ‘superstars’, posting our status updates as critical information. Does it really matter to everyone when someone is ‘washing dishes’ or ‘heading to yoga’. (no offence intended here) Herein lies my own personal irritation re: Facebook – I am interested in people and want to share in their lives… just don’t think we have to share these trivialities. What are we going to share next, dare I ask? I’ll stop ranting now…

    Really good ideas and discussion in your blog Anne. Well done! …and if you ever venture dipping that toe in a little further into the 2.0 pond and join Facebook I’d be honoured to be your ‘Friend’. 🙂

    • acrogers says:

      Hi Deb,

      Don’t know where my head has been – I’m sorry not to have replied promptly! Thank you for your thoughts. The more I read and explore social media, RSS etc., the more I see the value in the connections. I’ve even thought…uhmm…about joining Facebook. Time to swallow my words 🙂 well, we’ll see. I just set up Tweetdeck – didn’t think I had enough to warrant a management tool but do I ever like it!!! New tweets with new links to explore….this could be a turning point for me : ) Anne

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