I read 2 articles for my IT 780 class about social networking. The articles were Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in e-Learning Courses by Steve Chi-Yen Yuen and Harrison Hao Yang and Conceptualizing Codes of Conduct in Social Networking Communities by Ann Dutton Ewbank, Adam G. Kay, Teresa S. Foulger and Heather L. Carter. I found these articles to be very interesting and thought provoking. I am using a social network to aid in teaching one of my classes currently so these articles were relevant and timely.
I thought these two articles were very helpful to my understanding of the nature of and issues involved in social networking. The first article did a very good job explaining what social networks are and how they can be used in education to gain benefits such as sense of community and enhanced learning. I thought the comments from the students involved in the study were interesting and insightful. I have taken online classes and usually feel isolated and alone and oftentimes confused as to what the direction should be. I can see where having a place to communicate and share ideas would make the experience so much better. I think it would have been interesting for the authors to combine the two classes and have the students collaborate and communicate on a global level. I am not sure if there were language, time or other barriers but I think this would be a great social experiment.
The second article brought up some very though provoking issues about social networks. Social networks have grown so much and so fast that I think the legal and social systems have yet to catch up. I am not sure society is prepared to face the issues and answer the questions brought up by the cyber world and Web 2.0 tools in general. For instance, Second Life, the popular 3-D virtual world environment social network had some recent court cases emerge which questioned the rights to intellectual property and copyright for things created in the Second Life environment. Courts are at a loss as to how to address these issues because the creations in Second Life don’t actually exist and Second Life is a global platform. Society is not ready to deal with such issues but as Web 2.0 expands and evolves these types of issues are going to become more and more common.
Social networks definitely have a place in education and learning despite the social and moral issues. I started using a social network, Ning, in a new class I am teaching. The class is face-to-face and I am using the social network mainly as a means to have discussions, make announcements and post materials. I was surprised when the students starting going to the network and began posting pictures and comments and friending each other. Some students even voluntarily adopted the social network as a means to communicate about their group project. I think they are used to Facebook and like to interact on a social network and it comes naturally to them. I would like to conduct a survey much like the authors of the first article to gather their feelings about how the social network enhanced their learning and experience in the course. It would be an interesting comparison to the authors’ study.