What are Social Networks?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social networks was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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- john.burns john.burns Oct 11, 2015 - jason.graham jason.graham Oct 14, 2015 - mortensenj2 mortensenj2 Nov 10, 2015

(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Social media platforms (like Twitter) provide schools with new ways to connect and extend their learning communities. Many schools in Asia are now taking advantage of their own hashtags (http://www.j0hn.org/blog/schools-that-enable-their-learning-communities-via-a-hashtag)
    to share ideas, de-privatise practice, boost classroom transparency and to make authentic connections with professionals. Emerging analytics tools (http://www.hastracking.com) make it possible to track these communities as they develop, keying schools into number of users, interactions, distribution of content and growth of ideas. - john.burns john.burns Oct 14, 2015- sarahhodgson sarahhodgson Nov 4, 2015- anita.chen anita.chen Nov 10, 2015
  • Connecting learners (students,teachers, admin) to enable them to build their own personal learning network. This not only enhances learning but challenges ideas and creates relationships and connections.Having an online community to go to for help or contribute helps build our communication skills and creating our own tribe. https://whatedsaid.wordpress.com/2012/04/13/whats-a-connected-educator/ - jason.graham jason.graham Oct 15, 2015- sarahhodgson sarahhodgson Nov 4, 2015- anita.chen anita.chen Nov 10, 2015
  • As a communication tool for schools to parent community and others with such items as game updates, PTA Events, last minute items like school closing, bus scheduling etc.- simon.gauci simon.gauci Oct 15, 2015
  • Social Media platforms like Twitter and YouTube have become a mainstay in my classroom. It enables teachers and students to connect outside of a classroom setting (i.e. the virtual world) while remaining inside the classroom. As an English teacher, it's a great way to get in touch with authors who in turn contact my students. We use hashtags for everything, even when we're not using Twitter. - uzay.ashton uzay.ashton Nov 2, 2015- sarahhodgson sarahhodgson Nov 4, 2015- anita.chen anita.chen Nov 10, 2015
  • Allowing our students to participate in authentic online interactions both mirrors what they are doing in their private lives and prepares them for what life will be like when they get older. Since social media is not going anywhere (quite the contrary), empowering our kids with the tools to navigate it safely and efficiently is extremely important. An additional aspect of this is for students to experience true feedback (not always positive!) and learn to deal with it in healthy ways. - brian.duffy brian.duffy Nov 4, 2015
    • I agree - we've seen the use of social media in the lower primary classrooms (with classroom accounts) as an opportunity to talk about not just connecting and learning from others, but also who you interact with and what and how you share. Provides authentic opportunities for learning around online choices and consequences - dbeabout dbeabout Nov 8, 2015
    • Yes, authenticity is key when using social media in education. Schools have tried hard to build their own communication networks, and not many have been very successful. It is often easier and more beneficial to meet students (and parents) on the social networks they already are on, and at the same time teach students about appropriate behaviour on all these platforms. - tommi.svinhufvud tommi.svinhufvud Nov 8, 2015- anita.chen anita.chen Nov 10, 2015
  • Many teachers are using Pinterest as their default search tool to find visual resources such as posters and anchor charts for reading and writing workshops. - janice.dwyer janice.dwyer Nov 7, 2015- anita.chen anita.chen Nov 10, 2015
  • We have seen Twitter complete a variety of tasks, it has connected teachers with a PLN, it has connected students to other students around the globe, it has connected students to experts and 'real world' primary sources, it has built a brand for the school with a clear, mission, vision and values. It has enabled students to own their learning story, to provide real time feedback for parents and students, to help document specific learning patterns using hashtags, to enable students to develop international-mindedness by interacting with other students around the globe.- tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • There could be an opportunity to focus on the 'learning network' piece of social media. Not only can learners (teachers and students) connect with each other but they can also make authentic connections to real world professionals and initiatives. Shekou International School has seen elementary students connecting with artist of the likes of Banksy, Heather Hansen and others. - john.burns john.burns Oct 14, 2015
  • What are the risks/hazards or criticisms of Social Networks in schooling? Here's an article that examines some of these issues:http://www.districtadministration.com/article/social-networking-tool-student-and-teacher-learning - simon.gauci simon.gauci Oct 15, 2015
  • 10 commandments for twitter in the classroom: http://ukedchat.com/2014/10/22/ukedmag-the-10-commandments-of-tweets-with-students-by-iteachre/ - mortensenj2 mortensenj2 Nov 10, 2015
  • Pros and Cons of Social Media in Education - with a terrific info-graphic: http://www.educatorstechnology.com/2014/03/the-11-ways-schools-use-social-media.html - simon.gauci simon.gauci Oct 15, 2015
  • Building online profiles within the classroom. Rules and/or guidelines to using Social Media in the classroom. - uzay.ashton uzay.ashton Nov 2, 2015
  • Are blogs considered a social media platform/part of a social network? If so, they provide a multitude of teaching and learning opportunities. - dbeabout dbeabout Nov 8, 2015
  • An aspect of social networking that is missing from above is the idea of claiming and filling the social media 'space' of your organization. If a school does not own its social media space, there is the danger that other, unofficial pages and accounts pop up, and potentially portray the school very differently from what the school would want to. - tommi.svinhufvud tommi.svinhufvud Nov 8, 2015
  • The ubiquity of social media is a new phenomenon and there is no real template of how to move forward in this landscape. When constructing other school policies, educators draw on a rich history of nearly a century of child psychology and create policy informed by such theory. With the rapid shift happening in social media schools look to a variety of resources to define what is ‘right’ for their own community. At NIST we suggest to create clear, smart, simple, positive, open statements on a school’s philosophy for expected behaviors. Schools no longer need to be the microcosm in which children learn how to navigate civilization, interact with others, build relationships and forge connections. Their learning landscape is now global. They should be able to create their own connections in safe, effective and ethical ways. It follows that we have the responsibility as educators to create documents, policies, and philosophies that underpin our practice with desire to leverage technology in the best way for our learners.- tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • In addition, as Tommi stated above, the brand of a school in a rapidly expanding competitive market of international schools dictates that social media be branded under the school. This creates a messy area for teachers, who generally cringe when branding is associated with education. Branding often carries negative connotations due to its association with the cut-throat business world. Yet branding is often among the most important processes a school can undertake, as it produces a clearly shared strategy for disseminating that school's mission, vision and values for all stakeholders. It is also crucial when branching into social media, a platform that can lead to confusion, negative feedback and even public relations disasters if it is not aligned to strategy. The bottom line is that you cannot have an effective social media strategy without a clearly defined brand.- tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • Further, despite the leaps in technology in learning contexts, and the rapid use of connected technology and social media infiltrating the educational arena, we have found that on one hand, social media has been integrated into some schools ad hoc with early adopters carte blanche exploring its vast potential. On the other hand, research evidences that some schools have placed great restrictions on students by negating connected networking spaces such as apps and websites; video/photo sharing websites; blogs, both corporate and personal; micro-blogs (e.g., Twitter); forums; discussion boards and groups; Wikis; podcasts; video and web conferences; and e-mail and instant messaging, so much so that the ways in which educators, students and the broader learning community can utilize technology to enrich learning opportunities is severely reduced. An obvious theme that is raised is equity when constructing a forced digital divide. If students are unable to access the resources, experts and connections that social media provides them- ethically we are impeding their ability to learn in the best way they are able. I examine the idea of democracy in education and social media in my EdD paper on the death of social media policy - tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • I agree that what's missing from the above is the issues around social media policies, some of which are so outdated that it's laughable now. Schools simply cannot keep up with the times. Social media is so ubiquitous that we cannot have policies which separate teachers from students, teachers from parents, etc. because that does not reflect reality. Not to mention that if students don't have access to parents and teachers on social media, then where are they getting their models/ exemplars of appropriate/ effective use? Justin Bieber? (no, really!) - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015
  • Also what's missing is that empowered students want to make a difference in the world -- but they often are not sure how to do this within a social network. They are so used to using social networks as social and personal tools that they are shocked or surprised to learn that the way to use these tools to create a force for good ("positive branding/ marketing") is actually quite different. Some kids learn this on their own (i.e, the Youtube sensations), but most don't. Should we be teaching this? I would advocate we should. Branding /marketing in an online media space is very different than other communication skills in social networking. I see this as a entirely new area of communication that deserves its own space for learning as much as speaking, writing, listening, etc in the English /Language Arts curriculum. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • Schools that effectively leverage social media are in a stronger position to explore blended learning opportunities, flexible timetable structures and teacher to learner ratios. - john.burns john.burns Oct 14, 2015
  • Creation of a learning network (s) - jason.graham jason.graham Oct 15, 2015
  • Has the potential to blur the lines of relationships...teacher-to-student and visa-versa as well as from one colleague to another...if a teacher is not in on the latest network or has a limited social network graph, that may come across as anti-colegial/congenial, so to speak, not a team player. Remember, we're are talking about "potential" rather than actual. Seeing [ahead] potential impact is like predicting potential future jobs.- simon.gauci simon.gauci Oct 15, 2015
  • Schools have the ability to build their own social media networks with which they can connect to the school community (parents, students, teachers) as well as other schools around the world. - uzay.ashton uzay.ashton Nov 2, 2015
  • Student to student connection: Pew Research (2011) released a study in which young adults were featured as the most avid texters by a statistically significant margin. One of the things we have found at NIST is that students will often find ways to connect online. In the past, they have figured out how to use a Google doc to chat, use Explain Everything to message each other. Kids love to connect and we don’t want to discourage that. However, by encouraging students to connect with each other regarding: current content, images, wonderings, or questions teachers are able to use what they already know about the way students engage and leverage a shared tool (Twitter) to increase time on task. Class to class connection: Kids love to hear each others' ideas. In fact, some of the coolest student centered inquiries come from kid-centered idea creation. Twitter allows classes to connect across continents to share ideas, thoughts, aspects of their lives, fears, hopes, dreams and actions they have taken. It allows authentic collaboration and learning across cultures which develops international mindedness. I have 8 more that you can read here.- tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • Students have the potential to learn to be social media managers, online community managers, digital marketing agents, etc. -- this is no different from other forms of communication in earlier years. The only difference is that now it's living in the online world, and those people are being paid good money. So without a doubt this has great impact, and it's an area we're not addressing. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Shekou International School in China leverages a Twitter hashtag extensively to support its learning community. This YouTube video highlights the extended benefits (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJ3eWpQLqL0) - john.burns john.burns Oct 14, 2015 #sisrocks - dbeabout dbeabout Nov 8, 2015 #cishk - anita.chen anita.chen Nov 10, 2015
    • We also use/have created multiple hashtags for school initiatives/events: #siscares #chatSIS #SISCAPpl #ampedsis #sisassess - dbeabout dbeabout Nov 8, 2015
  • #pypchat has been running for a while using a hashtag to connect educators https://pypchat.wikispaces.com/ - jason.graham jason.graham Oct 15, 2015 Another example of this is #kchatAP http://kchatap.weebly.com/ whichs is connecting Early Years Teachers in the Asia Pacific region. - janice.dwyer janice.dwyer Nov 7, 2015
  • Here's an excellent project that I was a part of for one season: "Global Youth Debates is a global collaborative project created around research and formal debating. It uses Web 2.0 tools to connect, communicate and debate across the world."
    http://www.flatconnections.com/global-youth-debates.html - simon.gauci simon.gauci Oct 15, 2015

  • I am part of a group of IB Language & Literature teachers on Twitter. We use the hashtag #langNlit whenever we post something relevant to the course. - uzay.ashton uzay.ashton Nov 2, 2015
  • Canadian International School of Hong Kong uses the Twitter hashtag #cdnishk to connect its learning community to each other and to other schools around the world. Many teachers from the school tweet from their classrooms and it is also used as a communication tool for connecting to the parent body. - sarahhodgson sarahhodgson Nov 4, 2015
  • An extensive network of social media (including Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc) has been created and is curated at NIST by @toscakilloran. This is slowly transitioning to a more teacher and student-controlled situation. Notable accounts/hashtags are @NISTschool @NISTEleICT and specific year-level and class accounts. - brian.duffy brian.duffy Nov 4, 2015 Thanks Bri! Nice shout out!! :) Tosca
  • Chinese International School in Hong Kong uses Google+ Communities in the Secondary school as protected project spaces, where students show evidence of their learning, and connect and communicate with each other. An example is the Year 11 Global Issues community: https://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/114135555372632596855 - tommi.svinhufvud tommi.svinhufvud Nov 8, 2015
  • Recently I completed a website for social media in schools http://nistsocialmediaforschools.weebly.com/ using NISTs branding and school wide integration of Twitter as a case study to help other schools integrate social media into their teaching and learning. I wrote a doctoral paper examining the creation of social media policies for education http://www.ed-ucation.ca/blog/the-death-of-social-media-policy to examine current trends in social media within the international school context. I manage the social media for NIST, and have created Pinterest to house pins for teachers, students and parents to view and interact with, 25 Twitter accounts, Youtube channels, Vine, Instagram and Facebook all with a clear brand. Our hashtags are #NISTevent #TEDxNIST #NISTthink #NISTPD We have a large connection of other schools and part of our mission is to retweet and celebrate other international schools around the globe. Each child has a blog and those blogs although not easily searchable are open to the public, as we help children learn to be responsible digital citizens. We encourage students to comment on others blogs, and to tweet out their reflections as a form of micro-blogging. - tosca.killoran tosca.killoran Nov 9, 2015
  • It's only an embryonic thought at the moment, but UWCSEA (East) is thinking about running social media community workshop sessions for student leaders who would like to learn things like "How to manage your service group's FB page" etc. At the moment there is huge demand for this and very few people within the school environment who are "experts" at it. - adrienne.michetti adrienne.michetti Nov 10, 2015

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