Social networking refers to the aspect of Web 2.0 that allows users to create deeper connections and networks with others thus reaching out to a far wider audience if desired. Social networking sites use websites that help people communicate in a variety of ways mainly thorugh discussion text chat, video and other forms of digital media like photos and audio. Social gathering is a core element of social networks as people with common interests can share and extend their communities online. Defining characteristics of social networking sites include the abilities to create a user profile within the site; share and upload information to other users such as your friends of your choosing or you can make your ‘space’ public viewing; these ‘online settings’ therefore allow people to publish, converse and share content. Some of these sites allow you to created blog entries but may not be as feature rich as blog host provider like eBlogger or WordPress. See: Wikipedia Social Network Definition.
CommonCraft video on Social Networking.
So why are we talking about these ‘spaces’, well increasingly these public sites or communties are being used by students for their personal and social network, its popularity comes through its ease of use and accessibilty and the ownership it gives the user in the read/write web. It is being recognised that we can potentially create communties for learning in these networks however its true effectiveness really does come down to relating this to your learning objectives in the educational context, important factors like the likelihood of the life span of the activity and clearly deliberating this to your learners will help to ensure that you maintain momentum in engagement. Many have found that such spaces have simply evolved themselves whereas as others have to ‘push’ to get all learners on board. If you intend to use such sites which can be public or private you should refer to our non-dmu web 2.0 tools checklist so that you have considered all the issues. I would like to share this blog post by Jose Picardo who discusses the case of social networking in education and this wiki ‘Social Networking in Education’ which discusses the opportunities and challenges that we face.
According to the Nielson report the top social networks include:
The following slides give an insight in how such forms of online communication can impact social learning.