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.
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.
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 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 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.
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.
|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.|
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)||
|The functionality of my blogging software||
|The requirements of my course (i.e. Pedagogical considerations)||
|My Audience||My Blogging Community||My Comments||My Presentation of my blog|
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.