In the recent years we have been witnesses to the socialization of many web applications. For instance, applications for running like Endomondo or Sport Tracker not only register my workouts and gives me all kind of reports, but they also let me create a profile, share my sessions, my comments, send photos taken, etc. They offer me to interact with other users and connect with friends.
Another example is related to book reviews: we interchange opinions, comments, etc. The same happens with websites specialized in music, photos or videos. They not only offer to upload or access content -like it was Google Video before they bought Youtube. They have become a place were anyone can share content as well as discuss points of view.
For some weeks we have talked about learning in a new way: in community instead of isolated. I have discussed about how to become team-learners, in a sense analogous to workers who become team-workers. So, we try to use Web 2.0 like blogs and wikis as scaffolding for collaborative learning constructions. However, after reading Online social networks (SNs) as formal learning environments (Veletsianos & Navarette, 2012) and The relationship between frequency of Facebook use… (Junco, 2011) it looks like if those Web 2.0 tools we have been discussing before -blogs and wikis- were not social, or not social enough. Thus, SNs are recommended. Is it so?
As I see it, the key point is the need of peer interaction, particularly in distance learning, where isolation is always a risk. Do not provide blogs and wikis peer interaction? I would rather say yes, they do. In fact, they fit quite well in a conception of learning community according to connectivism. Then, why SNs? Can they add anything? In my opinion, they add a different kind of interaction.
With publishing tools like blogs and wikis learners are encouraged to write an acceptable entry in terms of quality. There is a work of individual construction prior to peer interaction. On the contrary, SNs give support to a spontaneous and informal peer interaction, with bits of content instead of elaborated entries. This make possible a peer interaction in the stage of individual construction, or even before, when there is content to be studied, when learner has to make sense. Thus, with a SN, peer support is present from the very first moment of the learning process.
On the other hand, I find interesting the list of potential issues in higher education made by Schroeder et al. (2010): “workload concerns for faculty and students, lack of trust in peer feedback, ownership issues with regards to public and collaborative spaces, difficulty in adapting publicly available tools, and difficulty in protecting the anonymity of students.” Personally, this lead me to the following dilemma: would it be better using a SN closed to individuals not enrolled in the course, or an open one like Facebook?
According to the given list, I find that a closed network might be better. Additionally, I would only use an open SN if students are both mature and responsible. Actually, I cannot imagine a High School class using Facebook or MySpace. Not to talk about the problems of cyber-bullying… Anyway, I also think that using a SN for learning with teenagers might give them an interesting insight into worthy ways of using such applications.
With adults it may be different. In regards to colleges, given the amount of students that daily access to Facebook, I think that Junco makes a point when associate engagement with Facebook: They are engaged to Facebook, so let’s use Facebook for learning and engage them. In other words, let students speak out in the way they usually speak. This lead as to a new challenge: to use an open SN for our learning community.
However, I find some difficulties with this. On the other side, a closed SN can be quite useful -I’m thinking in my own classes.
I’m sorry for no providing any experience about using SNs for learning. Honestly, I hardly use Facebook or any other SN, thought I have an account. Personally, I dislike the lack of privacy, as well as the possibility of been identified in photographs uploaded by others. Nevertheless, I hope I will try Elgg one of these days.