An Introduction to Using Social Networking Sites in Education

Social networking header.jpg

Author/Course Designer: Caelynn Prylo

Introduction

You may or may not know about the social networking websites that consume many learners' down time. It may be FaceBook, MySpace, Ning, or even Second Life. All of these sites offer opportunities for people to connect and socialize online. They allow users to present themselves to friends and others by sharing photos, music, videos, and interests. Users can chat, post asynchronous messages to each other, create blogs, and basically customize their corner of the online world in however they choose to. It is many of these same dynamic tools and customizable options that makes bringing learning into the popular world of social networking so attractive to educators.


Online social networking sites offer users the opportunity to interact with others in a friendly and dynamic environment and they can promote this same kind of atmosphere for learning communities. In addition, these sites provide opportunities for both real-time and asynchronous communication and can support more natural interactions among learners and instructors. We will be exploring some of the most popular of these sites and investigating how they can be used in an instructional context. While there are many benefits to bringing an educational experience to these sites, there are also risks and challenges that we will explore over the next two weeks.


In an effort to bring education to the spaces students are already using online and to more effectively use existing technologies to teach 21st century skills, this course seeks to help educators explore the functionality of these sites, to help you better decide if using them in your classes will be beneficial to you and your students.


Some Items to Consider before getting started: Is using a social networking site right for you and your class?

  • Are you willing to learn to use new technologies and learn about them from your students?
  • Is your class distance based or do you meet regularly?
  • Some social networking sites require a financial investment. Do you have a budget to support this?
  • Do you work with young learners or students who are over 18? (Please note: It is advisable that you only consider using these sites for post-secondary learners because of the inherent risks associated with these online environments)


Learning Outcomes

After taking this mini-course, you will be able to....

  • Discriminate and choose which, if any, social networking sites will be effective enhancements to your class.
  • Demonstrate an understanding of the types of learning spaces and tools available on social networking sites.
  • Adopt a strategy for using one or more appropriate features selected from a social networking site in your classes.
  • Demonstrate efficient use of a social networking site by generating a new page or learning space for your class and be able to navigate to help areas if additional assistance is necessary.


Credits

Header image taken from cover of report by: National School Boards Association. (2007) Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking. Alexandria, VA: Vockley & Lang

The Course: An Introduction to Using Social Networking Sites in Education

Unit 1: Exploring social networking sites

Unit 2: Identifying strengths and weaknesses

Unit 3: Create a strategy for using a site in your class

Unit 4: Creating your learning space


Feel free to view the workspace for this course on Caelynn's Portfolio Page