Friday, November 13, 2009

Social Networking Changes the Way We Work Together

Last night I read an article for my Teaching with Technology class by Dallas McPheeters entitled Social Networking Technologies in Education. He stated that "Social networking sites offer the tools to level the playing field from the old hierarchal, top-down structure of the corporate era to the new, horizontal, and collaborative structure taking form on the world wide web."

The article as a whole had some very exciting an interesting concepts, but I agree with the author and can see the changes he was speaking of occuring in the workplace and on the college campus. There is a much greater need today for employees and students to be skilled and capable of working in teams than ever before.

I see college students who struggle with working in groups or simply maintaining good open communication with their instructors. Those who are able to navigate well using email, or social networking sites, are more engaged and connected and are better able to utilize the resources provided to them.

Being cognizant of and having the ability to implement new ideas for networking with team members to accomplish the task at hand, gives employees an added advantage in the workplace, which in today's economy is critical.

I also think that the collaborative structure that McPheeters talks about is also a good example of the constructivism theory of learning, because it enables one person to build on the knowledge of another.

McPheeters also states that "social networks are a defining characteristic used to describe the advent of Web 2.0 as the transition from the web as a static tool of document storage to an interactive network inviting collaboration on all levels." This says to me that Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace have a much greater purpose than the social and entertainment value they provide, they have actually changed the way people interact and work together.

We recently started using facebook in our program in working with adult college students. We started by using a group page to announce workshops, events, and links of interest to students. I have gradually moved toward inviting students to be my "friends" on my personal page. Some advisors have a professional page versus allowing students access to their private page.

Personally, I feel that students need good role models to set a positive example in order to effectively use social networking tools. Since befriending my students in this way, it allows me to see not only what their interests are, but also areas in which they may be struggling. We also use a blog site, email of course, and we have done mass text messages to a group of students to send them notifications about an upcoming event or deadline.

Recently, we were receiving progress reports from professors and I did an IM chat with a student and asked how she thought she was doing in math. She said it was getting harder. When I informed her that the professor reported she had a 73 average, she said she thought her grade was much higher and agreed that she might benefit from some extra tutoring help. She was in my office the next day to sign up for tutorials. The non-intimidating nature of our initial conversation allowed me to provide some necessary intervention to get the student moving in the right direction. Since using these online tools, I have experienced an increase in communication with students as opposed to the traditional methods of using only the phone and emails to contact them.

The discussion board posts above generated the most replies I have ever received (17) since starting my coursework! Below is my Final Word.

Thank you all for your comments and replies. I enjoyed reading each one. Here is my final summary to wrap up this discussion which seems to have generated a great deal of interest.

1. Social networking technology has changed the web and the way people interact and work together.
2. For the most part, school districts and teachers either do not see the value of using social networking tools or are very limited in what they can use.
3. Teachers are using alternative methods to network and collaborate such as wikis, blogs, and class websites.
4. Students need to be educated to be responsible users of social networking technology.
5. Students who effectively use social networking tools appear to be better communicators with the world they live in.

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