What are Social Networks?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social networks was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Honestly I do not see a future for social networks within FORMAL education (so within EU schools) which of course does not prevent kids from using social networks at home. There are experiments and pilots on the use of social networks and some teachers in some EU countries use Social networks to support their kids' learning experience. Still it is not a mainstreamed phienomomenon and I do not think it will be because of the following hindrances: 1) resistance by adults (both parents and teachers) linked partly to the fun connotation of social networks and partly to security issues of kids in such environments 2) available infrastructure: provided that problem 1 is solved, the level of broadband penetration in EU schools is still very uneven and quite low in Southern European countries. Same applies to Wi-FI connection. So the infrastructure is missing to support the use of social networks. Finally ...what about the tools? also the levels of PC penetration are quite uneven in Europe, and the situation as concerns tablets is even worse (and if we move to mobile phones these are often banned from the classroom!). - stefania.aceto stefania.aceto Oct 23, 2013

  • I think the future of education lies in different kinds of networks and all of them have a social dimension (Agree! - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 30, 2013) Networks are already and will be the main instrument for continuous professional development (for teachers as well as other professionals). To learn to find networks that support one's personal and professional development, to act in networks in different roles and to create and moderate networks is a skill that should be taught in basic education. Students (as well as we adults) belong and take part in different networks and that should be acknowledged in basic education. Through networks students can bring knew knowledge and new perspectives to the classroom. Different networks work two-ways: students can find networks that support their individual development and they can bring new ideas and contribute to the knowledge building in their existing (formal) networks - see also connectivism. - tiina.sarisalmi tiina.sarisalmi Oct 26, 2013 I agree- Riina_Vuorikari Riina_Vuorikari Oct 31, 2013, yes, a lot of potential for teacher professional development[- kiira.karkkainen kiira.karkkainen Nov 3, 2013]
  • I like Tiina´s mention of "different kinds of networks", all of them with a social dimension. The term social network as such is easily connected with Facebook, the use of which in teaching is currently being discussed (over and again ) in Germany, as one federal state has just passed a court decision that teachers are not allowed to use Facebok for teaching (i.e. work) purposes. The manifold reservations about Facebook among legislators and parents, and sometimes students themselves (data protection, advertising), prevent the use of Facebook, as there would always be students in a class who can´t or don´t want to join into this particular network and therefore the learning group. So, indeed, we need other/different networks for different purposes.- helga helga Oct 26, 2013
  • I believe that social networks have a vital role to play in connecting educators in this ever changing landscape - in the UK as advisors from Local authorities are being reduced - educators are turning to twitter to example to discuss issues and collaborate on tasks and ideas - use of hashtags has led to this e.g #ukedchat - every thursday at 8 pm, #sltchat for senior leaders in education and also #computinghour every Thursday at 9 discussing ways of implementing the new computing curriculum in the Uk. For me use of social networks has enabled me to connect with educators globally - within class we have also been able to follow journeys form space with Commander hadfield twitting pictures and thoughts as he was in space - an amazing experience for the children to see. Also schools are also using social media both facebook and twitter to connect with their parents within the school community these have been in the form of pages set up so that schools can quickly get information out to parents - dawn.hallybone dawn.hallybone Oct 30, 2013 Great examples, I agree- Riina_Vuorikari Riina_Vuorikari Oct 31, 2013
  • eTwinning is the greatest community for schools in Europe with a very social focus in itself. According to a recent poll 73% of the respondents consider it a social network. It has been one of the most successful initiatives so far where European teachers as well pupils learn from each other a great deal. For me personally, this has been the most efficient way for professional development. I am sure this example clearly illustrates that social networks can have a great educational value if used properly. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 30, 2013 Agree - simon.drazic simon.drazic Oct 31, 2013
  • edmodo.com is also a kind of a social network meant solely for education. We are working on it this year and we find it a very useful tool for sharing links, tasks, information and other material, for assessing and self-evaluation and even for exchanging ideas. One of the most important aspects of social networks (especiailly talking about education) is that you can restrict them only to members but use all the tools of online publishing and sharing as well. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 30, 2013
  • There are many interesting ways of use Social networks in class. We have used Facebook, Twitter, Google+, Pinterest and some others. One of the main issues is safety of students personal data. In primary schools there is a problem with age limit of social networks (usually 13 years). On the other side the benefits of collaborative learning and sharing is very big. - simon.drazic simon.drazic Oct 31, 2013
  • British council has also worldwide school networks;http://schoolsonline.britishcouncil.org/partner-with-a-school and there are some other great international examples too!
  • Social networks are important in order to connect teachers to allow them to foster the development of their professional capital - oysteinjohannessen oysteinjohannessen Nov 2, 2013

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • the security challenge linked to the use of social network. Since we are talking about schools, this is an issue that cannot be neglected! - stefania.aceto stefania.aceto Oct 23, 2013
  • To learn to act and behave safely and correctly in Internet is an important issue. I don't think it should be addressed by restrictions and prohibitions and blocking away elements and ways of working and interacting that already exist, have proved to be effective and support creativity and innovation. Maybe, it should be emphasized that there are many different kinds of social networks related to the different sectors of our lives. The strengthening of social ties by interaction and chatting and sharing feelings and personal information enhances engagement and learning. - tiina.sarisalmi tiina.sarisalmi Oct 26, 2013
  • Setting up rigorous AUP - acceptable use policies for staff and also training so that they are able to use tools confidently and safely - dawn.hallybone dawn.hallybone Oct 30, 2013
  • Benefits of peer learning. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene~
  • What is missing is the proper use of terminology ;) The text above is talking about 2 things that are intertwined: about social networks and social networking software. It's good to keep in mind that they are 2 separate concepts, although in real life, through the use of FB for example, the experience is merged. However, as a research topic, they can be kept separated, as we did in the Tellnet project (www.tellnet.eun.org) where we studied eTwinning as an example of a social network. For social networks I like the wikipedia definition (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network): "A social network is a social structure made up of a set of social actors (such as individuals or organizations) and a set of the dyadic ties between these actors. The social network perspective provides a set of methods for analyzing the structure of whole social entities as well as a variety of theories explaining the patterns observed in these structures.[1[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_network#cite_note-WF94CH1-1|]]] The study of these structures uses social network analysis to identify local and global patterns, locate influential entities, and examine network dynamics." So from the educational point of view, it's important also to understand that social influence is used as a tool to pass on messages through social networks. Social network do not only exist online. People have different roles in the network and some people are more powerful than others. Etc. - Riina_Vuorikari Riina_Vuorikari Oct 31, 2013

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on European schools education?

  • I think learning networks and social networks (and networks overlapping both) will play a big role in learning in the future. With the quick development and growing accuracy of translation engines these networks can work effectively also across countries. - tiina.sarisalmi tiina.sarisalmi Oct 26, 2013
  • Working in safe restricted networks with a clear or latent focus of learning from each other in a non formal way can add a great deal to educational exchanges across borders. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 30, 2013
  • Social networking tools and projects that build networks across schools are a great way to make learning more authentic in Europe, e.g. language learning becomes actually a means of communication about a given topic; it's a good way to learn about life, culture and customs abroad and bring people together to better understand their differences and similarities. In eTwinning, for example, there are tons of such good examples. - Riina_Vuorikari Riina_Vuorikari Oct 31, 2013 - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Nov 3, 2013
  • Great potential especially for teacher professional development and networking. [- kiira.karkkainen kiira.karkkainen Nov 3, 2013]

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?
  • http://www.getlogged.in/ is a business that works with schools in the UK to help them harness social media - dawn.hallybone dawn.hallybone Oct 30, 2013
  • edmodo.com as a kind of social network. - stasele.riskiene stasele.riskiene Oct 30, 2013
  • the Tellnet project (www.tellnet.eun.org) studied eTwinning as an example of teachers social network using SNA - Riina_Vuorikari Riina_Vuorikari Oct 31, 2013

  • The Norwegian network Del og Bruk (Share and Use) have a pretty nice outreach among Norwegian teachers www.delogbruk.no - oysteinjohannessen oysteinjohannessen Nov 2, 2013

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