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.

Social Learning: more peer interaction

8 thoughts on “Social Learning: more peer interaction

  • November 17, 2013 at 6:13 pm

    I agree that a lot of the web 2.0 tools we have been learning about and using, like blogs, discussion boards, and wikis, can perform most of the same functions as a social network. But, I also think that SNS, like Edumodo could be used quite effectively even in an elementary classroom. I, too, have no personal experience in using SNS for learning, but I appreciate that a class can be identified an individual or group assignments can be developed, worked on, and evaluated all within this network. (I am planning on trying it out.) Is this considered a “closed” network?

    • November 18, 2013 at 6:39 am

      Hi Mary,
      Not sure about this. I don’t know that application, neither I know if you can manage who enters. However, I just have seen the video they have in the front page, and it seems so.
      The video is really gripping. I am getting curious… Also, it seems to me that they have created a social network thought for replacing the “traditional” LMSs or CMSs, with the easiness, readiness and spontaneity of a SN. Just notice their using mobiles phones for class business. It looks as if it perfectly fits with teenagers.

  • November 17, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    I too, agree that blogs, discussion boards and the like could work like social networking. I think they are much safer, and in my opinion a better way to go. Of course teaching primary education, it is hard to incorporate social media in the classroom. I also think there is a scary line when using Facebook and other like sites. There is a lack of privacy and it can be very scary, the information posted can be easily accessed. This brings me to the question then of should we have our students creating accounts like these to use in a classroom. A blog, discussion board and wiki is much easier to keep an eye on when it comes to sharing. You really made some great points.
    I didn’t add uses really either, but I do think social networking could be a great way to stay in touch with parents, and to let people know what is happening within a classroom. But there again there is a line of what should be made public.

    • November 18, 2013 at 10:52 am

      I think the same, Sharray. Using a SN for keeping in touch with parents may help to create continuity between school and home, between the teacher and the parents. It could be great.
      Anyway, I don’t see to be a good idea using an open SN like Facebook with primary school students -neither with teenagers. What is more, using a safe SN for the first time, can facilitate their learning good practices in a safe environment.

  • November 18, 2013 at 11:11 am

    I was also seeing an overlap between the functions of blogs and wikis in the realm of social networking. I like how you distinguished that a social network supports “spontaneous and informal peer interaction, with bits of content instead of elaborated entries.” I think that this is a good way to distinguish SN tools from blogs or wikis. Using the best tool for the job is essential. By identifying the best use for social networks. we can strengthen how we utilize this tool with our students. Using SNs for informal interaction can add another realm for collaboration in our classrooms. When students have a more informal place to express thoughts, they may find or build meaning with each other.

    • November 18, 2013 at 12:15 pm

      That’s what I want to try with my students. I think that this can be useful, as you say, although I have some queries about how to manage it. Maybe trying out is the only way to solve them.

  • November 18, 2013 at 12:31 pm

    I think you provided a really good point in exploring the types of communication supported by and facilitated through the previous types of web 2.0 tools and that of Social Networks. Not to beat a dead horse, but I think this once again goes back to being purposeful about the tools we use. We need to choose the tool that is going to promote the types of interactions we want students to have around a certain learning concept. Spontaneous, informal communication can be important for developing a culture of learning and a supporting learning community. More formal communication can be useful when you’re encouraging students to express learning and critical thought.

    • November 18, 2013 at 12:57 pm

      Quite right, Devon.
      Reading your comment I wander if one possible use could be as a discussion board or forum. I will try when I get the opportunity.

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