Sunday, November 9, 2008

I'll Facebook You Later.............

I do it, she does it, they do it, and even you do it! You don't have to be a social butterfly to have multiple social networks, even networks within networks.......OK, I'm getting a little ahead of myself now. I'll begin with the definition:
What is social networking? Simply put, a network is a group of people that are linked in some way. Maybe the group of people went to the same highschool, or university, or worked at the same company at one point in their lives. That is their link to one another. Social networking sites are websites created to foster social networks. These sites can be as SPECIFIC as the Techer-Librarian Ning or Flickr or as FLEXIBLE as Facebook or MySpace. I love the fact that through online social networking, I can have access to social networks that are half-way across the globe. So far, I have ventured into the world of social networking sites as a participant and as a reader. I have thoroughly enjoyed exploring Facebook and Flickr and am now totally hooked on the Teacher-librarian Ning.......

Wait a minute......."Ning" that's a new word in my vocabulary, is it new to yours? If so, let me enlighten you.............
A "Ning" (which means peace in Chinese) is a relatively new site that has been developed for those who have not found a social networking site that meets their social networking needs. The purpose of Ning was to enable anyone to create their own custom social networking site that meets their specific needs. In EDES 501 this week, I followed a Trailfire that led me to the Teacher-Librarian Ning that had been created by Joyce Valenza, specifically for Teacher-Librarians to meet and discuss issues directly related to this unique role. Wow! Now, if you are familiar with Facebook, imagine a Facebook for Librarians! Many of the same useful applications but all the members on this Ning have very similar interests. What an amazingly powerful tool. I could go on and on about the great things that I am learning from this site, but, I have a better idea.........why don't you take a moment now to check it out? Don't worry, I'll wait............When you come back you can read my thoughts on some of the other social networking sites out there now and decide for yourself which ones (if not all) are best suited for your personal and professional goals. OK, see you later then!

Welcome back! Alright, now that I have your attention again, I thought that I should do a brief overview of some of the social networking sites that I have explored:
Fun Factor: First of all, I am a huge fan of Facebook. Once on it, I was able to connect to so many people that I have lost touch with. It literally saved me hours of work finding high school alumni for my ten year reunion. Members can post and view pictures, notes, songs, videos, and links and search out long lost friends. Members can also keep updated on friend's status' and track birthdays with FB's birthday calendar. There are many fun (and useless) applications that can be added to your profile to personalize your page.

Ease of Use: It takes approximately one minute to sign up and be on your way. It is very user friendly.

Useful for Educators: Somewhat, yes it will capture their attention, yes they will think it is cool that their teacher is into Facebooking, yes you can post pictures, websites and other useful things. But, and it's a big but, other websites can do this and more and, as an educator, you can have more control over more things on other websites (a private blog for instance).

Downsides: Some past students have found me and added me as their friend (which I don't mind), in fact, I have added past teachers to my friend's list as well. BUT (there it is again), sometimes there are things that I rather NOT know about my students. Once you enter that realm you may find out more than you would like to know and then you enter the very grey area of professional ethics. As a new teacher, I would prefer to use a tool that I have more control over that is made specifically for my purpose in the classroom. Personally, I also have very little control over what people post on my wall and in their photo albums and I would prefer to keep my students out of that part of my life.

Fun Factor: Very fun, very engaging. This social networking site not only serves it's purpose for connecting people with similar interests (photography), but it also is a great way to share multimedia. I've already discussed this site on my blog, so I won't go into much more detail as I already have.
Ease of Use: Very easy! Again, one minute to set up a few short steps to upload photos and instant access to public photos!

Uses for Educators:
I've already gone on about this in a previous post, so feel free to search for it on my blog. But, there are MANY great uses for this just for the photos and photo tools. In regards to it being a social networking site, you can easily find others who share your interests/hobbies as they have posted or linked to photos of those interests/hobbies. Many of my grade six students do a country project every spring. Why not find a Flickr user that has actually been to that country OR who currently resides in that country? Awesome!

Pssst! It's no secret, but not EVERYONE on Flickr is an educator or share our interest of keeping the site PG13, so there may not be content suitable for the younger audience (or even a more mature audience...........).


Fun Factor: I did a quick tour of MySpace, I did not sign up for an account though. I found a friend's MySpace page and it looked very interesting and fun. More customizable than a Facebook page but I noticed that many of my friends, peers, and colleagues do not have accounts on MySpace., probably not for me. Do I really need another page to check and maintain weekly? The few friends that I did find hadn't updated their profile in at least three months.................

Ease of Use: Very easy to use. Templates, fast uploads make this fun and easy to use.

Uses for Educators: It is another way to connect to your students on their level however, I feel that there is always a danger of blurring the lines between professional and friend. Using it as a professional, it would be handy to search out people with similar interests/areas of study, but I still feel that there are other sites out there better suited for pro-d networking.

Downsides: Public access issue again. Pg13 please!

The Teacher-Librarian Ning
Fun Factor: Five stars! I absolutely love this site. It is the Facebook of Professional Development! In fact, I just attended a TL network meeting and told everyone about it and invited them to join : )

Ease of Use: Again, so easy! Less than a minute to set up and your customizable page has templates to choose from. You do not have to know HTML to change the look of your "page".

Uses for Educators: This site has unlimited potential for professional development. With separate forums for secondary TLs, middle school TLs and elementary TLs, you can connect to other educators with similar interests and pro-d goals. For example, just now I was browsing forums and other TL's pages and came across an animated video made by GoAnimate. I loved this video so much, I am going to take some time to learn how to use this great tool. In the thread below the video, several TLs are discussing how to use this tool.

Downsides: ANOTHER website to add to your toolbar, Diigo, and or Delicious account........ life is hard..........

Well, that is about it for me. Please feel free to comment on your experiences on these sites or recommend your favourite sites for me to check out.
Talk to you later!


Rhonda said...

Yep, I sure agree that there are some things I'd rather not know about my former students, and even my own adult kids! That's why I took my daughter's advice not to add her to my Facebook. I feel I did a good job highlighting the risks and dangers of online networking when the girls were growing up, and now I have to trust that they're equipped to take on the world.

katkin said...

Hi April,

I really like how you set up your post for this week's theme. You gave such a concise synopsis of each of the social networking sites you explored which I appreciated. I agree with... the TeacherLibrarian Network Ning is such a good fit for us. This is the kind of "find" that we will continue to support long after the course is finished.


Joanne de Groot said...

Thanks, April, for your pros/cons list about various social networking sites. I'm glad you have found the TeacherLibrarian Ning--it's a great resource for sharing ideas/asking questions and making contacts. It will be great to get some more Canadians on board, as well. I'm with you on facebook--it's a great way to re-connect with friends and family, but I can also understand how a classroom teacher would be leary about being friends with students and parents--sometimes there needs to be a line between personal and professional that is pretty clear!