Networking the Digital Classroom

Web 2.0 Learning Networks

Web 2.0 Learning Networks from Learning on the Job.

In the 21st century classroom students are linked together not only in the material world, but also in the digital world.  They are probably members of a number of social networking sites, connecting them to a large and varied social group.  Teachers are also developing online identities, with accounts on websites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  Since these online social networks are often used on a daily basis they can be a great platform for learning and sharing ideas.

Students are often discouraged from interacting with social media during class time.  However, if used smartly the networks formed with social media can facilitate learning, both in formal and informal education environments.

Lets get familiar with the social media ecosystem:

The social media ecosystem refers to the connections and interactions between blogs, wikis, social networks, and websites, etc..  A product of the social media ecosystem is the the digital marketplace.  The digital marketplace is a hub where ideas, thoughts, knowledge and  news can be shared.  By breaking boundaries of time and space, social media enables the development of loose and large social networks (open).

Large social networks allow users to have access to a huge amount of information and potential to share information with a large number of people.  In terms of information and knowledge sharing it is better to have weaker connections within a larger network, than strong connections within a closed network.  Therefore teachers should focus on showing their students how to use their social media networks to effectively become a part of the digital marketplace.

Diagram showing connections between different types of social media.

The Social Media or Content Ecosystem from Raelin Sawka Musuraca.

There are various types of social media to consider for learning:

  • Collaborative platforms (ex. Wiki, open source, Google Docs)
  • Blogs and Microblogs (ex. WordPress, Twitter)
  • Content communities (ex. YouTube, any website with user-supplied content)
  • Social Networking (ex. Facebook, LinkedIn, virtual game worlds/social worlds)

I think it is so important to incorporate these technologies in the classroom and not ban them from the classroom.  Students already have the proficiency with these technologies, they simply need the guidance in how to apply them to their learning.  To succeed in the “real” world students need these skills, so why not start building them in high school or even earlier.

In future posts I will elaborate and provide more specific examples of how different social media and networking tools can be used in the classroom.  So stay tuned!

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