What do you think of this statement on Social Networks?

Below is a comment I left on a blog this morning. It includes a quote from the blog itself which I found intriguing but the meaning is not clear. Hopefully the author will respond with some insight. In the meantime what do you think the point is...?

I am interested in the discussion about the students but at the moment another part of the entry caught my attention.
Will you say....
"One of the moments in my presentations that always amazes me is when I point out that upwards of 55% of kids are using social networking sites, and then I ask how many teachers in the room have one. It’s rare to get over 5%. That’s just one sign of the disconnect, one that I think having students in the room could really help to assuage"

So I am wondering what role you see for social networking for educators.

Various blogs have been talking recently about the Ning site Classroom 2.0 which Steve started and some are seeing no point in it...why not just stick with blogs they ask.... Maybe we still just don't get what the students get...which is all the more reason to spend time over there. (here)

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I don't know if this is answering your question or not, I would like to relate to the "why not just stick to blogs" part. So here's my 5cents worth. For the established, seasoned, respected, connected blogger (take your pick) there may indeed be no difference between a social network and a blog. He or she has readers, critics, an audience with whom they have built up a dialogue, a wall to bounce their ball off so to speak. However for a newcomer with few connections that wall is not there, the ball doesn't bounce back, there is no conversation with others. For some a reflective dialogue with themselves may be enough, but others need or desire feedback.
This is where the social network comes in, particularly classroom20, a place where newcomers mix with established names, where you can find others who share the same interests, teach the same fields, where you can be part of the conversation immediately, where you get to choose how you want to join in the conversation, maybe just with a question, maybe to recommend a web site, as Dana Boyd says in a reference to wikipedia, " everyone has something to contribute, if only a spelling correction"
Susan:

You've articulated many of my thoughts precisely. I would only add that blogging, which providing some ability to dialog (comments), does not really provide for engaged discussion for two reasons: 1) You have to keep track of all the blog posts you have commented on, and 2) There aren't opportunities for "threaded" discussions.

Many of the conversations I've seen here in CR20 have blown me away. Especially because some of the most insightful contributors have been newbies.
I teach in a PE dept of 11 staff. 5 regularly check their facebooks, I contribute to Nextgen and Classroom 2.0. the fact that we have a fairly young teaching staff and IT access in our office maybe encouraging that connection.

Blogs or SN? "Why not just stick with blogs they ask" - Well, my initial thought was... does it really matter? Whether a blog or a SN, if dialogue is promoted then the same solution is reached.

I read one or two blog and have gathered some great examples of good practice. Through NING I have also gleened much good practice but I have also developed one or two working partnerships. I would have to agree with Susan, the networks do appear to have a more collectively 'feel.' Ironically I read about NING on Doug Bleshaws blog.
Kristian:

I agree as well. But I like to call blogging "walking on stilts." It's a lot of fun, and the view is great, but not everyone wants to go through the work of learning how to do it. There are 375,000 new MySpace accounts every day, but only 120,000 new blog accounts. I still use both, and find I still prefer my blog for postings that I want to have more universal reach, but I think in some few years we may see blogs as just one part of our social networks, much as Ning has set them up.
After years of evangelizing about technology with my fellow instructors, I've pretty much abandoned the effort. Out of the hundreds of folks (thousands?) I did workshops with, one-on-one sessions, etc., over the past ten years, there are just three or four who actually integrated new kinds of technology (blog, wiki, website, something, anything) into their teaching.

I would guess that 99% of them would say the reason they do not make a change is because they do not have time. Now, of course they make time for all kinds of things INSTEAD of technology - but that is their choice, and I've given up trying to worry about it...

With students, on the other hand, it is a COMPLETELY different story. All my efforts to evangelize about technology with students have paid off a hundredfold. I never regret the time I spend sharing information about technology with my students, because they take it, use it, run with it, and become even more proficient users of technology than I am!

Do students have more time than teachers? I don't think so - if anything, the students at my school are more strapped for time than the teachers, since the students work and go to school and many of them have families as well.

It's also interesting to me to see that it seems like technology adoption is much stronger among elementary and high school teachers than among university faculty - when clearly university faculty have much more discretionary professional time at their disposal than elementary and high school teachers do! But nevertheless I think my university colleagues are being quite sincere when they think/say they have no time for technology innovation.

So this doesn't really answer your question - it's just, I guess, a cynical response to say, it's up to educators to decide what importance they place on web-based technology such as social networks, blogs, etc. The majority of teachers at my school place very little importance on it... and I've decided to not place too much importance on THAT decision on their part, since it is hugely exciting and productive to work with my students in using technology instead, which keeps me plenty busy!

I do think we are approaching a point where teachers who are completely unable to use technology are going to start to lose credibility with their students as a result... that is not quite true yet, but in a few years I'm guessing the majority of my students will already have a website and/or blog by the time they reach my class - and as the students start to make better and better use of the web for their own educations, they are going to start to wonder why their teachers are choosing not to do the same...

:-)
Laura:

If the read/write web is a technology that is similar in scope to the invention of the printing press, and I believe it is, then we're in for some huge cultural changes because of it. And I think formal education will not be immune to those changes.
This appeared in the British Observer in May, "His charity is helping 1,000 children through an initiative called 'Not School'. Teenagers are given a new computer through which they log on to a school system that lets them study the subjects they want in the time scale they choose. They are in constant email contact with 'mentors' and 'experts', some of whom are based in New Zealand to ensure there is somebody that they can contact 24 hours a day." - I wonder, is this the way formal education will or should go eventually? Not neccessarily the 24 hours a day part, but each student being able to find and work with "his own" mentors and experts on subjects that interest him.
A social network is more than a blog. Your profile on a SN can contain a blog. Your profile is the online reflection of yourself. People can view your "friends list". The people, places, and things that you include on the page can tell visitors your favorite music, sports team, and TV shows. This is all done WITHOUT the blog. The blog is merely a further extension of self within a SN profile. With that being said, through friends lists or a forum post you can find and network people. People have done that here on classroom 2.0. The ability to form groups increases this network capability. Susan, also has a great point. If I write a blog, I have to then try to get people to view it and then comment on it. The dynamics via facebook, myspace, and ning are different and beneficial in the ability to inform and bring people with similar interests together.
Barbara:

Great thread. I just replied to three of the comments, and then realized that in doing so I was demonstrating the very power I think social networks have that make them such a powerful tool for dialog--and therefore, for education. I'm not knocking the blogosphere in any way, but I think the medium of social networks is a natural extension of what blogging has been, and will rival blogs very quickly (if not already) in the ability to have engaged discussions.
I think the biggest disconnect with teachers comes when a technological medium requires too much time to understand or maintain. That's probably part of the enthusiasm behind social networking; you have a profile page that says who you are and then you can go about communicating with people who are online in real time. It's simple and requires no technological knowledge or understanding.

Steve, I agree that applications which are in some ways like ning will be best for educators, as long as they save time, money and benefit students. Blackboard and moodle might be examples of how social networks or forums do well with students, but these are all unbelievably complicated programs to implement that require IT infrastructure and training which most schools can't afford. So, I think all the web technology that exists is short on practical application and high on hype. The real reason these technologies aren't being adopted rabidly is because nothing practical exists yet. The last pieces of really practical technology adopted by schools were Scantron (introduced to banks for checks) tests and the TI graphing calculators. Before that it was the copy machine.

Technology has the potential to do good things. It can save money and time, but using preexisting software that isn't designed for the purpose at hand, or doesn't have and established method for producing results in the classroom, isn't going to be adopted. I think that's why you find educators saying that a blog or a wiki is a waste of time. They're probably right. For them it is a waste of time. They either haven't created a method to implement the technology (and how could you expect them to) or the technology doesn't adapt well to the classroom. In the case of wikis and blogs I think it is a case of both being true.

What would web software look like if it were optimized for educators?

To answer this I think you need to understand what the web does on a practical level. The web distributes information at no cost or nearly no cost. OLPC (One laptop per child) is a program where low cost and free technology combine to create a replacement teacher and in doing so lowers the cost of higher quality education dramatically. In the united states the goal isn't to replace teachers, but some of the methods OLPC uses can be implemented here; primarily the distribution of information at low or no cost. Classroom materials, past tests, class notes, references, outside material. all these things can easily be made available online by teachers for their students. The work doesn't have to be done twice, if content is easily manageable then you can control when, how, where and who has access to information. I won't go on because my point is mostly that an ideal solution for teachers needs to be thought about. This is one of the primary reasons I started the International Educator Collaborative. The purpose is focus on practical and simple methods to start using modern technology in the classroom, and to determine these things through an expansive international collaborating network of educators.
"To answer this I think you need to understand what the web does on a practical level. The web distributes information at no cost or nearly no cost."

What's interesting to me about Web 2.0 is that it's about a lot more than distributing material. I would have said that was Web 1.0, whereas Web 2.0 is about the ability for the users/students to create material as well, and to be participate in engaged dialogs. My impression from people using Moodle is that the "distribution" side gets them to start using Moodle, but the "contribution" side ends up being the really transforming aspect.

Which is not to say that there isn't a lot of opportunity in both Web 1.0 / 2.0 to create solutions that really help educators and students.
I don't disagree with your assessment, but to me the difference is semantic. i only see programming distinctions, where you see behavioral distinctions. I'm not an educator so I'm not qualified to say such things exist.

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