“We know we can publish information. What we need to focus on now is how we connect to each other; how we build contexts that help us learn.” Just as Pablo Mancini mentioned in RBD, social networks were the highlight of 2007 and the trend seems to be growing stronger.
I am aware of the importance of social networking features in Web 2.0 tools, such as blogs, as a way of linking to each other’s thoughts and engaging in conversations. In fact , they are essential to build learning communities. However, I think some of the “popular” social networking sites are just about making contacts, and I wonder if they may have any significant impact on the way we communicate i.e. if they can help us build learning contexts.
By the end of December, I started to explore two different kinds of social networking sites:
I’m always reluctant to engage in the latest fashions (be them on or offline) without knowing exactly what they are about. I think that the second worst thing to resisting technology integration in education is just integrating it superficially without being aware of its underlying assumptions.
This time the invitation came from outside the “blogosphere”. An Argentinian friend who is living in London decided to use Facebook to post and share her photos when another application ceased its service. I received the invitation in September but could only join the site in December after the end of the hectic school year.
After filling out the ever-present profile, I was surprised to see the site suggested two people I might want to add as friends based on my existent contact. I appreciate the ease with which you can find people. In fact, on the very first day I was able to get in touch with a member of the Raguseo family in New Jersey! I searched and found colleagues I added to my friends list. And I kept on searching and finding… movie stars, fan groups… even the President of Argentina has her own Facebook profile!?! However, once my curiosity was satisfied, my enthusiasm somehow faded away. Connections are somewhat loosely joined. It’s a nice interactive directory, but a network of contacts is not a community. So, how do we move from a social network to a learning community?
At a merely social level, this also brings a whole lot of reflections about the “friends feature”. Although the connecting concepts can be varied, including your personal interests, your “friends” constitute the main connection. Now, this is weird. I don’t have so many friends strictly speaking – the kind of people you would share your deepest feelings or your problems with – so what does the word “friend” mean in this context? How can some people have 126 friends in their network? Are they seeking social power? Is it just for fun? The topic is by no means simple, and I’ve found there’s a lot to read and reflect about: Gladwell and Social networks
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A couple of days later, I came across an emerging community of Argentinian edubloggers on NING: Edublogger Argento. I had already heard about other communities such as Classroom 2.0, but I didn’t know they had been developed there.
According to Wikipedia “The unique feature of Ning is that anyone can create their own custom social network for a particular topic or need, catering to specific audiences.” Since my interest on the Web 2.0 is mainly related to education, I find this kind of networks much more relevant to my interests, not only because members have a common interest, but because they support shared discussions and learning spaces.
Each user has his/her own page he/she can customize and develop. The updates on each page are shown on the main area (home) which also features the latest discussions on the forum. It’s amazing to see how this newly-born community defines and shapes itself through group discussions, shared videos, images and other collaborative spaces such as the group’s wiki.
A New Learning Space
Through Edublogger Argento I’ve found a place to start my first blog in Spanish and to connect to a wider group of educators with different professional backgrounds connected by a geographic (national) context. It’s quite a different perspective from my current communities which are multicultural and connected by a common professional field and a shared second/foreign language. How do members of these different communities relate to each other and build up their spaces and collective knowledge? What are the subtle differences in communication? Style, tone, topics, degree of involvement? I look forward to discovering new learning paths and a new way of connecting to others to enhance my intercultural awareness and build new learning networks. Just another step in an ever-enriching, life-long educational experience.
It is about Educational Networking NOT Social Networking