Monday, November 16, 2009

Social Networking Sites Blog

1. Reflections on the process of learning about the tool
I created an account on Facebook prior to starting this course. The process was pretty straight forward, I was invited by a friend (or many friends) of mine to join Facebook. I entered all my account information and started uploading my pictures and tried to get a feel of the network. This is usually the best part from me, personalizing my page. Even though I was reluctant to move from Hi5 (which I’m still a member of) to Facebook, I looked forward to personalizing my page. I was disappointed as my Facebook page did not allow me to change my colors and background and give my page a little flair. I soon got over it though - at times you just accept the things you cannot change.

I wondered to myself which Ning I would join since my particular interest was not in TL. So I googled ‘Jamaica Ning’ and the list came up with Jamaican Diaspora Ning. I went straight to join that network as I was always hearing about the Jamaican Diaspora while I lived in Jamaica. At first I was able to view the different blogs and pictures and posts made by members on the page, but I did not have access to a homepage. I then signed up and was quite surprised when I got a message that they would inform me if I qualified to be a member. I don’t know what kind of checks they did (if any) but the next day I got an email that informed me I was approved as a member. I logged in with my username and password and uploaded my profile picture. I had now become a member of the Jamaican Diaspora Ning.

2. Discussion of the tool in terms of my own personal learning
Ning and Facebook (FB) offer slightly different things for me as a person, subsequently I do things differently on these sites.

FB is more of a personal space for me and I use it differently from Ning. For one, I only have my friends on FB. I don’t invite people that I don’t know to be a part of my network of friends, neither do I invite my friends’ friends that I know but do not consider my friends. I have connected and reconnected with friends from church, high school, college and university – and of course I have some family members there too. My high school classmates are currently planning a reunion online. FB gives me the feeling of nostalgia and family and that’s one of my main motivations for having an account. With Ning, I am in a network of mostly strangers, except from a few of my friends that I invited to join after I became a member. The relationship factor is different in Ning, while we (users) may not be friends we share a commonality of being Jamaicans united “worldwide for our common good.” Persons upload pictures of events that take place in Jamaica and that is what peaks my interest, being current with what is taking place at home.

My posts on FB tend to be more of a personal nature. I find out how my friends are doing or wish them happy birthday and at times engage them in a live chat. I hardly ever update ‘What’s on your mind’. Frankly, I don’t have the time to be speaking constantly about my frame of mind or say what I am currently doing - it is just too much of a time consuming activity. When you post, then most times you end up in a dialogue with your friends commenting or asking questions and you need to be courteous enough to respond. With so much work on my ‘plate’ now, most times I am just a lurker when I log on to FB. In the holidays I will engage more, just not now. Even though I am not on as frequent as I would like to be, most of my friends understand that I have not deserted them, it’s just that my focus is elsewhere now.

I am yet to post a comment or write a blog on Ning. Firstly, it’s because I am fairly new to the group. I originally thought I just needed to be a part of 2 social networks, I didn’t know that one had to specifically be a Ning, so I recently joined. Secondly, I have a feeling that whatever I post will be scrutinized by people that I don’t know. Thirdly, because the nature of the network is more formal than informal, so I prefer to read for now until I have something valuable to add. The thing I enjoy the most about the Ning that I am apart of is BlogTalkRadio. There are different feature topics and persons who are interviewed engage in dialogue with the hosts- there is something about hearing your own accent that gives me that ‘at home’ feeling.

Although FB has the functionality of creating fan pages, Ning provides the avenue for persons and groups to unite around a common theme. Even though only my friends are in FB we have varied interests, interests that are maybe best captured on a network like Ning. As a graduate student or a professional, I would prefer to create a Ning, I think it would be easier to disband a Ning, if intended to use it in a committee fashion, or it would be easier to leave a Ning, if your profession changed and you were moving to another network. I don’t like the idea of putting people on your FB friend list only to remove them shortly after.

3. Discussion of the tool in terms of teaching and learning
The use of SNS continues to generate much discussion in the educational sector (Saunders, 2008). While some teachers are thinking of ways in which they could enhance the teaching learning environment, others comment on the distracting and distasteful flavour that it could have leave within the classroom. These are just some of the considerations of SNSs where teaching and learning is concerned.

Psychosocial benefits – “Tynes(2007) highlights the psychosocial benefits of SNS, these benefits includes the provision of social cognitive skills such as perspectives taking, social support, autonomy and intimacy and the facilitation of identity exploration. Students are able to develop certain communication skills as they interact with their friends and other students. While younger students may seek to explore their identities, adult learners are more likely to develop and strengthen cognitive skills as they engage in discussion on topical issues and are less intimidated when sharing their views. Griffith and Liyanage (2008) states “the sharing of information amongst groups can have a positive effect...academics are learning more about the students they teach simply by viewing the students profiles on SNS”(p.78).

Networking – Seckor (2005) conducted a case study for the London School of Economics and Political Science where they looked at the use of Facebook amongst librarians. It was noted that while many of the librarians joined FB for social reasons the application can overlap into their professional world when they promote library events. That is just one example as other SNSs are created explicitly for networking opportunities and career enhancements. Until I watched the SNS in plain English videos, I realized I had never really understood the networking aspect of FB and other SNSs. Maybe it is because I have never thought of using FB in the light that they mentioned. As I mentioned earlier in the blog, I use FB to stay in touch with family and friends, but never to forge new personal or professional ties. SNSs are meeting different needs for different kinds of people. I think teachers and adult learners are more likely to take advantage of this functionality of SNSs than would K-12 students. Whatever our motives are, the “forging of new ties” or “networking” seem to be the driving force behind the creation of SNSs.

Joining individuals of similar interest – SNSs bring people of similar interest together. For example, “Facebook users can join groups based on similar interests and can connect with each other through networks of friends.” (Coutts et al., 2007). The learning experience can be greatly enhanced when peers are given the freedom to share with each other in their ‘own’ space. A lot of informal learning takes place in these environments. Students and even teachers can belong to communities that address issues or events that they are passionate about and this can be a means of expanding one’s knowledge on a subject and engaging members in critical thinking.

Converging Selves – SNS can be a place where the different identities of a user merge. This can either work for or against members of the network, depending on the nature of their profession or the grade that they are in. In a study done by Saunders (2008) on pre-service teachers, many of them noted professionalism as an issue for them and ended up removing or editing their Facebook profiles once they became teachers. Saunders (2008) also noted “these teachers lives are in motion; teacher “selves” rub up against their young adult social selves, their sister selves. At the same time these young women’s identities are in flux, in motion between a college student and teacher.” While younger learners are less concerned with what they write on their wall in FB, adult learners/teachers have to be constantly gauging their conversation for their audience as individuals can be held liable for what the comments that they make on SNSs.

Safety issues – for many K-12 educators and administrators, internet safety is a topic of great concern. (Coutts et al., 2007). Information shared between SNS users can vary greatly; information can be collated and data mined for illegitimate use, resulting in students becoming victims of sexual predators or cyber bullying (Griffith & Liyanage, 2008). Safety will continue to be an issue in the Web2.0 world and teachers can share in the responsibility of educating students how to navigate safely within these environments. Appropriate use of discussion boards may be a starting point for teachers to encourage students to be respectful to their classmates when posting comments and responding to questions.

Notwithstanding the numerous benefits of teaching and learning within SNSs, teachers still have to contend with the blocking of popular SNS sites on campus along with the considerations that I mentioned above. While some universities have started using SNSs for improving pedagogy, others are still reviewing the research that has been done on them and are deciding if the challenges outweigh the benefits.

Coutts, J., Dawson, K., Boyer, J. & Ferdig, R. (2007). Will you be my friend? Prospective teachers’ use of Facebook and implications for teacher education. In R. Carlsen et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2007 (pp. 1937-1941). Chesapeake, VA: AACE.

Griffith, S. & Liyanage, L. (2008). An introduction to the potential of social networking sites in education. Proceedings of the Emerging technologies Conference.

Saunders, S. (2008). The role of social networking sites in teacher education programs: A qualitative exploration. In K. McFerrin et al. (Eds.), Proceedings of Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference 2008. Chesapeake, VA:AACE.

Seckor, J (2005). Case study 5: Libraries and Facebook. London School of Economics and Political Science. Retrieved from

Tynes, B. (2007). Internet safety gone wild? Sacrificing the educational and psychosocial benefits of online social environments. Journal of Adolescent Research. 22(6). Retrieved from