Social Network Technology in the Classroom

Considering that today’s students were born wired, and live and play in the world of the Web, the challenge for many teachers and administrators is meeting students on their own turf and adapting to the students’ medium of choice. Specifically, the emergence of social networks has created a technical gap between teachers, students, and parents unlike any that has previously existed. The need to use technology in the classroom is becoming more important every day. Clearly, social networking will be at the core of any technology that is to succeed in the classroom.

Although some teachers are hesitant to use social networking (also referred to as Web 2.0) – considering privacy issues and a potentially steep learning curve – it’s important that they learn to understand and use these tools that are becoming increasingly embedded in the lives of their students.

However, social networks such as MySpace and Facebook are the students’ domain, and teachers and parents may not always be welcome. To many of today’s students, a teacher socializing on Facebook is the equivalent of having that teacher show up at a weekend party, or at a regular student hangout.

Today’s educators need an intuitive, safe, online environment that connects students, teachers, parents, and administrators in a responsible way. One that is geared toward education and one that, while driven by teachers, is open to students, parents, and administrators.

Simply put, they need a social network for the classroom.

In a true Web 2.0 environment, students, parents, and administrators can participate in the teaching process by showing mastery of a specific topic or concept. All parties can interact to ask questions, share knowledge, and relay experiences. The proliferation of ideas never needs to be stagnant. This concept applies not only within a specific classroom, but across all classrooms that can now share a common learning environment – a common social network. To take it a step further, the concept not only applies to all classrooms sharing that same learning environment, but to all classrooms across time.

Consider, as an example, a lesson that was taught in the classroom just ten years ago: The lesson was introduced, a discussion followed, and the lesson ended.

Now, consider that same lesson as it is taught in a Web 2.0 embraced environment: The lesson is introduced, and an online discussion follows. But this discussion includes the viewpoints and experiences of students, teachers, administrators, and parents from around the globe. It will include comments and span new ideas and conversations. It will be supported by images and videos which will also spawn new ideas and conversations.

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