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Posts Tagged ‘social networking’

Love them or hate them social networking sites are deeply embedded in our lives. And if they are deeply embedded in the lives of those aged over 20, it’s safe to say they are second nature to anyone under 20.  Sitting in a campus computer lab writing this blog there are more than a dozen people in the room checking their Facebook pages at any one time.  For the under 25s, Facebook is a conduit to life. It forges their sense of identity and  belonging.  Older generations may struggle to see the relevance but I’d suggest you leave such thoughts at the door.  While you ponder “Why would you?”, “Who has time anyway?” or “No wonder their personal communication skills are so poor”, a new social network site will have sprung up defining the next generation of communicators, collaborators and colleagues.  You don’t have to “get it”. You don’t even have to like it, but if you truly want to connect with secondary students  – now, today –  you’d be crazy not to use them in class.

So clearly I’m not going to bother to defend the “Why would you?” question for this post.

First up the sea of blue and white screens currently threatening to engulf me is the portal to the wonderful world of Facebook which surely needs no introduction.  If we’re looking for ways to engage with our students , to build positive and possibly lasting relationships with them, this social network ticks boxes.

So here’s a few basics pointers in case….Facebook has a number of features with which users may interact. They include the Wall, a space on every user’s profile page that allows friends to post messages for the user to see; Photos, where users can upload albums and photos; and Status, which allows users to inform their friends of their whereabouts and actions,  News Feed appears on every user’s homepage and highlights information including profile changes, upcoming events, and birthdays of the user’s friends.  Users can control what types of information is shared automatically with friends. Facebook Notes is a blogging feature that allows tags and embeddable images.

If you’re considering setting up a Facebook group, there are a few things to consider first. Here are a few tips for starting out:

  1. Create a separate account just for your classes. Keep two accounts if you want to use Facebook personally as well. This keeps your Facebook relationship at school on a professional level.
  2. Manage privacy settings. If you don’t want to manage two accounts, use these tips to manage privacy to keep your personal and professional lives separate.
  3. Friend students carefully. Make sure you are “friending” students in current and former classes for professional purposes. As a rule of thumb, maintain the same level of professionalism on Facebook as you would in person.
  4. Ask students to put you on limited access to their pages. This keeps you from having to see their personal photos, status updates or other information that may compromise your professional working relationship.
  5. Use FB as a course management system. Use in place of other course management systems such as Blackboard to access all your online information and connections with fewer restrictions.
  6. Stay active. Keep posting messages, use as many Facebook apps and resources as possible, and update status reports so your students know you are engaged.
  7. Get over the term “friend”.  Some teachers are disturbed by the idea of making friends with their students. Instead of adapting the Facebook term in the common way, try to think about the relationship as one of a mentor.

Sribd has a visual presentation which covers off a lot of the privacy/security questions as well as the ethics of communicating with students this way in its Teachers’ Guide to Using Facebook.   or you can read a teacher’s suggestions here.

So exactly how might you choose to use Facebook in class? 

  1. As a way to manage assignments, to network with students and learn more about them.  Dunedin School Logan Park High is doing this successfully….
  2. For class projects – share book reviews, poll your class using the poll app, bring literature to life by doing a character study
  3. To establish your own personal learning networks – Facebook in Education aims to be an ongoing resource for information about how educators can use Facebook – yes, free resources and lesson plans! Join groups, stay in touch with former classmates, share material and access resources.
  4. Facebook has student resources – weread, flash card creator and more.
  5. And of course there are resources and tools for us too – webnaria enables you to post lesson notes to your group, there is a file uploader and a quiz creator
  6. Plus resources for both students and teachers – slideshare etc.

If you need more ideas – here’s another 94!

Now I said I wouldn’t but in case you’re not convinced about the potential of social networking sites as a learning tool, here’s a few more positives to ponder. Online social networks:

  • create an inviting atmosphere
  • are informal
  • encourage collaboration
  • are current
  • assist with engagement outside the class
  • teach personal responsibility (through educating students about privacy and security issues)
  • enhance student-teacher relationships
  • encourage active learning

There are various social networking tools you can set up to help students collaborate, share and discuss learning online. I am out of time to look at more today but will quickly mention Ning which is a bit like Facebook for education. It allows you to set up a closed community where students each have their own profile. You can customise the tools you want to have available but typically there are resources to enable everyone to upload video, documents, photos and sound files, have online discussions, blog and create events which are stored in a calendar and shared with all users.

The main difference between Facebook and Ning is that Ning has far fewer apps (add ons/tools/toys) than Facebook.  Personally I think the interface is cleaner, smarter and simple to use.  Setting up a group on Ning would certainly keep your class work separate to students’ personal social networking activity – less danger of crossover. But it would also mean students would need to join another site and set up another account which may be off-putting for some …

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…that may well be the question you are pondering. Twitter is one of those Web 2.0 applications that people either love or love to hate.  “Why would I?”  is probably the first reaction from time poor teachers. Fair enough.  As with any online application, it pays to keep an open mind but in reality, you should only go there if it enhances the teaching and learning process.

In case you’ve been asleep for the past five years, Twitter is a microblogging service. Think of it as the equivalent of a Facebook status update. In 140 characters or less, you can share news and information with a network of followers and vice versa. 

Here’s some tips on getting started:

  • Sign up and create a profile at twitter.com
  • Include a photo or Avatar and a quick description of yourself
  • Unless you specify otherwise, what you write will be seen by the whole twitterverse
  • If you want to follow a person, click on their name and then click “Follow”.
  • If you don’t want to receive their updates click “unfollow”.
  • If they are being a pain, you can block them.
  • Links to websites in your tweet are automatically shortened but are active so your followers can click on them and visit sites of mutual interest
  • RT is a retweet – handy for passing on useful information to your network while acknowledging the source
  • Use # hash to tag tweets and make searching easier
  • Te reply to a fellow tweeter or mention them in your tweet, use the @ sign For example:

@budgie10 thanks for that link to the Kings High blog (reply)

Just saw @budgie10’s newest post on the Kings High blog – hilarious (mention)

For English teachers, the brevity of twitter can make it a useful classroom tool.  Using 140 characters or less is a great way to teach young people to write simply, using the best words available.  Twitter also presents a range of specific classroom activities. Here’s a few I’ve gleaned from reading how “real” teachers are using twitter:

  • A tweetstory – Choose a theme/genre, post a standard story opener and tweet to your network, ask network to continue the story and follow them via www.twitterfall.com or a #tag. Then students can follow, choose the best ones and edit them into a coherent story – great for editing skills.
  • Short but tweet – give students the 140 character rule, assign them with either the intro, character description or whole story.  In groups, get students to play “pass it on” – but they must do this in twitter speak (140 characters). They then add to it in their groups. Results can posted to twitter or via blogs.
  • Word morph – Use twitter to send out a word and have your network give students the synonym and other meanings.  Or have the classroom connect during a writing workshop.  Then have the students help each other create a wordle cloud of a word and its synonyms, antonyms and examples to foster more descriptive writing.
  • POV and character development – After reading a novel or short story, assign students a character and create a twitter account e.g. @atticusfinch. Students use their study of that character to create conversations around key events in the plot.  Or focus on events or situations that are omitted from the plot but referred to so students are creating their own fiction based on their knowledge of the writer, the time period and the characters.
  • Word Play – online games eg: anagrams – post 8 letters and see how many new words can be formed, “What does it mean?”, use twtpoll to post definitions – “Who can guess the correct definition?” post a word and guess – synonyms, antonyms, homonyms?
  • Bite Sized info – Set up a twitter account dedicated to just one topic for pure information eg: Shakespeare quotes, poetic devices, newspaper jargon etc
  • Multi-media class newspapers – Students shared links and tweets become professinal looking articles. Create a class or project newspaper at Paper.li by creating a specific twitter account for the class/project. It will auto-publish a multimedia newspaper to all the tweeps followed by the main twitter accounts and send it out to those who subscribed.  

More ideas like this can be found here with thanks to @tombarrett on Twitter.

Personally I can’t wait to have a go at paper.li  but there are clearly lots of really practical and engaging ideas of use to English teachers.

For all teachers, twitter offers a forum for professional development and reflection. Here’s why Twitter is also useful in this regard:

  • It’s instant – if you’re under pressure to find a resource or come up with a lesson activity, tweet to your network and get help quickly!
  • Access to global experts – you can follow people you may not get a chance to shoulder tap in the real world and ask them questions
  • Access to colleagues – twitter can be used for peer review – ask and you may well receive
  • It’s quick and easy to use  – which lays to rest the “time poor” argument!
  • It’s inspiring – you can follow really smart people on twitter as Phil Beadle says: “Following smart people on Twitter is like a mental shot of espresso”

Don’t forget to visit my resource page for links to more articles and resources on Twitter in the C21 Classroom.

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