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Queen's University
 

Centre for Teaching and Learning

Social Networking Tools

What is a social networking tool?

The internet is now a central part of the way we communicate with each other. Social networking tools drive this online communication as they create a web-based atmosphere for socializing with each other. Users interact within this online community via email, instant messaging or posts allowing for the sharing of ideas, interests and information.

Social networking Tools @ Queen's

Facebook

Facebook was originally designed by three computer science undergraduate students at Harvard University. Facebook was originally intended to provide college and university students with an online space to meet other students, share interests and social activities with each other. Facebook users can design a personal profile with information about them, join social networks based on school, city, workplace, etc. then add friends to view other profiles. Text-based messages, photos, and videos can be shared between users as individuals build their own profile and interact with the profiles of their friends.

Wikis

A wiki is defined as a collaborative website whose content can be edited by anyone who has access to it.  Wikipedia is a popular example of a wiki – an online encyclopedia that is written by anyone who chooses to edit it. Generally, no qualifications are required to add or change content on a wiki. A central concept of a wiki is that it is a collaborative, socially-defined collection of information continually edited to reflect society and understanding of given constructs. For a great example of a wiki here at Queen's Visit: https://wiki.queensu.ca/display/escb/Home. This wiki, "Engaging Students in the Classroom and Beyond", Provides a space for members of the Queen's Community to create and share thoughts with each other.

MSN Messenger

MSN Messenger is an instant messaging application that allows a user to sign into an account, create a list of contacts then chat with them by sending messages back and forth. Instant messaging means the moment a user sends a message to another online friend, the friend receives the message and can respond instantly. The result it a text-based, continuous online conversation between users. MSN messenger has proven to be useful in the academic setting: students often talk with other students, some professors sign onto MSN to converse with their students, and support personnel, such as library or IT Support, use MSN as a way to provide support over the internet.

Blogs

Blogs are a website or web-page maintained by an individual who makes regular entries similar to journals.  The written content might be a commentary, description of events or report of experiences sometimes supplemented by photos or videos. Academically, blogs may be used to facilitate reflective learning as students post thoughts, share resources, read, reflect and comment on the posts made by others. Through continued use of blogs, knowledge communities are constructed within which students interact and develop a collective understanding of constructs.

Why use social networking tools?

Social networking tools have developed as the internet has become imbedded in our daily lives. While originally not designed for academic purposes, the use of social networking tools in academia has been considered due to its popularity with today's generation of students. The chart below outlines some of the pros and cons being considered in the debate of social networking tools to academics.

Pros Cons
Students engage with these tools every day. An academic application of these programs means they are available to students in a way that makes sense to them These tools provide for social interaction outside of academics. Just like students wouldn’t like their professors to be at the dance club on Saturday night, they would like to keep social networks social
Social Networking Tools allow for interaction with a large population at once. For example, a Facebook post written once might be read by hundreds. Online socializing does not allow for face-to-face interaction and, for the most part, limits communication to text-based messages.
Through the internet, social networking tools allow for discussion outside of formal environments any time anywhere. The quality of discussion is arguably decreased as text-based messages loose important cues that help us interpret information such as vocal intonation and facial expression.

Strategies for using social networking tools

Strategies for blogging

I their 2008 article titled "An empirically grounded framework to guide blogging in higher education", Kerawalla, Minocha & Conole, G., provide a clear guidelines for the use of blogs by both educators and students in their courses. Below are two adapted tables from that article that might be used for consideration of the application of blogs to the over-arching technological and pedagogical context of your course or developing your blogging behavior and skills – either as an educator or a student!

Over-arching Technological and Pedagogical context of my course
The relationship of my blog with other e-learning tools provided by my course (E.g. Moodle, email, podcasts)
  • How do I want to use my blog in relation to other learning tools I use?
  • What can blogging offer that other tools cannot?
  • Do I want a personal blog that I can use to meet my own needs?
  • Do I need other students to motivate me to post?
The functionality of my blogging software
  • Is it easy to embed URLs?
  • Is it compatible with my browser?
  • Is it accessible from anywhere?
  • Is it easy to include audio files?
  • How can I organize and tag my posts?
  • Can I search my tags?
  • How long are my posts stored?
The requirements of my course (i.e. Pedagogical considerations)
  • What have I been asked to do in my blog?
  • Are the posts assessed?
  • Is blogging compulsory?
My Audience My Blogging Community My Comments My Presentation of my blog
  • Who are my audience?
  • How large is my audience?
  • Are my audience important/relevant to me? Why?
  • Am I writing for my audience or myself?
  • What do I want from my audience?
  • To what extent am I worried about what people think of my intellectual abilities?
  • Do I want to belong to a blogging community?
  • Do I want to actively create a community?
  • What do I want to get from or give to a community?
  • What level of emotional engagement with the community would I prefer?
  • What level of intellectual engagement would I prefer?
  • Do I want comments? Why?
  • Do I want to seek or attract comment?
  • What type of comments do I want?
  • Will I read comments I receive?
  • What will I do with my comments?
  • To what extent does presentation matter to me?
  • Do spelling and grammar matter?
  • Do I want to exclude or check over any content before posting into my blog?
  • Do I want to adopt a formal or informal writing style?

Creative use of social networking tools in the academic world

While the appropriate place for social networking tools in academics is still being debated, here is a look at some of the creative ways social networking tools are currently being used.

  • Queen’s libraries currently run a live chat through MSN, AOL Instant messenger (AIM), or Yahoo! Messenger. Students, staff and faculty can connect via synchronous conversation for help and support.
  • Library staff at Costal Carolina University each created their own Facebook profile and joined a common library group in hopes of updating students of new products, services and events, as well as providing as “ask a Librarian: help feature. They found their efforts increase the libraries visibility across campus and enhanced interpersonal relationships between library co-workers. (Graham, J.M., Faix, A., & Hartman, L. (2007). Crashing the Facebook party: One Library’s experience in the students’ domain. Library Review, 58(3), 288-236.)
  • Private wikis, similar to Wikipedia but limited to a class list, have been used to edit shared learning content such as projects, share reflections between colleagues, and facilitate brainstorming sessions. (http://eprint.qut.edu.au/5398/1/5398.pdf)
  • Students often collaborate via MSN messenger when working together on course objectives.

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