Thursday, October 30, 2008

Social Networking Sites & Learning

http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2008/10/30/social


This article reports on a few sessions at the Educause conference in Orlando, FL that have focused on the potential for social networking sites to be used to promote learning among students in higher education.  It sounds like people have pretty much accepted the fact that things like Facebook are not going to go away, so the question for educators is "how to we capitalize on students interest in web 2.0 to promote learning?"  Some educators fear that it is naive to use sites like Facebook as learning environments because students will become distracted by everything else that is there and fail to engage in any meaningful learning.  Others think that students will just stay one step ahead of the academic machine and switch to other social networking venues to avoid contact with faculty, etc.  They may not appreciate being "friended" by professors, TA's, etc.  

As much as I agree that social networking and other web 2.0 features can be abused by students, I think that we have a responsibility to have some sort of academic presence there and to capitalize on the opportunities that are presented by social networking sites.  To take the approach of "we'll ignore it and hope that it goes away" seems irresponsible and lazy (think about the stance the church has taken in the world of the internet by having a presence and using lds.org and other sites to be a positive force on the internet).  It will be interesting to see how BYU responds to this trend--it seems like we are a little slow in adopting tehnological innovations at times.  For instance, I work in New Student Programs here at the University and about a year and a half ago we were tossing around the idea of creating Freshman Facebook groups prior to New Student Orientation to help students get connected with each other and to post information, events, etc. that would be useful for first-year students.  When that idea was presented to a committee of administrators it was quickly shot down.  Another example would be our desire to hold on to LMS's like Blackboard for as long as we have when there are a number of more attractive alternatives available.   I guess it just takes time for people to warm-up to things.

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