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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

How to Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning

Why teachers should embrace networking, and how they can use it to improve education.
By Fran Smith

This how-to article is accompanied by the feature "Social Networking at Science Leadership Academy."

Social-networking tools aren't just for flirting. The evolving world of Internet communication -- blogs, podcasts, tags, file swapping -- offers students radically new ways to research, create, and learn. But, too often, schools use computers as little more than glorified workbooks, and that's criminal, says Chris Lehmann, principal of Philadelphia's Science Leadership Academy. He explains why teachers should embrace networking and how they can use it to improve education.

What exactly is social networking?

It's software that allows people to come together around an idea or topic of interest. A school could use blog software to bring together anyone who's writing about politics or computing or Greek literature.

Credit: Klaus Schoenwiese

Why should schools encourage all this sharing and meeting?

Schools should reflect the world we live in today. And we live in a social world. We need to teach students how to be effective collaborators in that world, how to interact with people around them, how to be engaged, informed twenty-first-century citizens. We need to teach kids the powerful ways networking can change the way they look at education, not just their social lives. We don't talk enough about the incredible power of social-networking technology to be used for academic benefit. Let's change the terms. Let's not call it social networking. Let's call it academic networking.

What's a good way to get started?

A teacher can set up kids with accounts at the Web site Delicious, which lets you store, organize, and share links -- for example, an annotated resource list you use on a project. You can also see links other people have saved, or browse to see what everyone has bookmarked on a subject. It's simple. You don't need your own server. Any teacher with a computer and an Internet connection can use it.

How do you keep students from wasting time chatting or sneaking to inappropriate sites?

You teach! You have frank discussions. You show them examples and ask them to make ethical decisions. You ask: What does it mean that fifteen-year-old kids are calling themselves nineteen and posting racy pictures online? What does it mean that college kids are posting raunchy spring break pictures that a prospective employer can find? The idea that we are the stories we tell has never been more important. Schools have always taught kids how to present themselves -- that's why we did oral presentations in the classroom. Now we need to teach them to present themselves electronically. That's why it's so scary to lock these technologies out.

The school day is already jam packed. How do you find time for networking?

Administrators have to facilitate change. A lone teacher can do it, but it's hard to sustain. Administrators have to decide this is valued for the whole school community, and they have to give teachers time and freedom to learn, experiment, and play. Lots of teachers are doing it on their own, but it can be exhausting. That's classroom 2.0, not school 2.0.

Fran Smith is a contributing editor for Edutopia.
Kim Girard contributed to this report.

Comments (26)Sign in or register to postSubscribe to comments via RSS

new blogger's picture

i think that social networking shouldnt be banned from school,
but it should have its boundries,
i think that you should get permision to go on it, and use it sensable,
and you cant go on it during school work hours,
i think that it should be used sensably and no cyber bullying involved
and only use it during recess and lunch,

AlexPitson's picture

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AlexPitson's picture

I have read your article on "How to Use Social-Networking Technology for Learning".It's quiet informative.Specially for students.Now a days social networking is the biggest platform for advertising and internet marketers.Social Networks were created by those who wanted to form an online community that shared interests and/or activities and were looking for a way to share that interest with others at large.It will definitely help students in many ways to learn new things.mlm lead system pro review

Mayette A. Saculinggan's picture

Yes I agree although most social networking sites were blocked specially in school. The administrators was not yet able to see its use specially in terms of communication for teachers and students. These sites will also be a good venue to share ideas and at the same time post questions so that students who do not have the guts to participate during discussions inside the classroom will be able to share his/her ideas without facing their classmates. In that way it will give them more freedom to express their ideas on the lessons discussed.

One social networking site is on the rise these days, although it is still on its infant stage but the functionalities and features that it offers surpass to the existing known social networking sites. It does not only promote connections to old friends but also facilitates sharing important information in the form of videos, blogging, forums and also groups. If you want to experience this new area of social networking please visit this site: www.buzzmoi.com

Mayette A. Saculinggan's picture

Yes I agree although most social networking sites were blocked specially in school. The administrators was not yet able to see its use specially in terms of communication for teachers and students. These sites will also be a good venue to share ideas and at the same time post questions so that students who do not have the guts to participate during discussions inside the classroom will be able to share his/her ideas without facing their classmates. In that way it will give them more freedom to express their ideas on the lessons discussed.

One social networking site is on the rise these days, although it is still on its infant stage but the functionalities and features that it offers surpass to the existing known social networking sites. It does not only promote connections to old friends but also facilitates sharing important information in the form of videos, blogging, forums and also groups. If you want to experience this new area of social networking please visit this site: www.buzzmoi.com

joel's picture

Social networking sites bring not only old friends but also serve as a venue for sharing knowledge and updates specially in the field of electronics. Sharing new information is easier since you can locate easily your old buddies that you know who are good in those topics. What is needed in these type of sites is its ability not only to connect to old friends but being able to share important information in your current work or in your field. One recommended site is www.buzzmoi.com

hu's picture

bloging is not a good thind to do because you are in school leraning and your texting when the teacher is trying to learn you something so remeber all socil net working in class rooms are not good that gose to kids teens and also adlus so be ware of bloging people and do not blog at school..................

Mack's picture

Love how you mentioned the use of Delicious to engage students with social media. I think schools and students often dismiss social media as counterproductive and a source of distractions. While this in essence is true, we need to be more creative in how we can use social media to increase educational productivity. I am investigating ways students can walk the line and be both social while studying. I would love to hear your views http://bit.ly/lalbOg

Mark Lessing's picture

There is a social networking site (that is supposed to have Facebook functionality) that is exclusively for teachers. It would be a great way for teachers to connect with other teachers for support. Sounds like it would be a better forum than other general social networking sites. It's called EducatorsCONNECT. (Visit it at: http://educatorsconnect.com)

Andrew Rose's picture
Andrew Rose
Have a 6yr old daughter in Grade 1 - Johannesburg, South Africa

We're preaching to the converted here. Referring to my personal experience (my Grade 1 daughter attending a private school in Johannesburg, South Africa) - my opinion is that there would be resistance from teachers that are already overloaded with the admin related to teaching and reporting demands. Also, administrators and school managers that don't really need to engage with anything new while parents are paying school fees will not "feel the need" for innovation and "something else".
Any form of change management requires the belief of a disciple, a solid program that integrates with the accepted curriculum, as well as proof that new ideas are financially sustainable.
A tough mix this side of my world. But haven't given up on it yet.

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