Posts Tagged ‘social network’

Twitter has quickly become a force in American society and the technology realm. The company was founded in 2006, so the word “quickly” does not adequately describe the mind-boggling growth of this Web 2.0 technology. Twitter has gained over 100 million users worldwide in just four years.

Simply stated, Twitter is a free, web-based application that allows users to send and receive short messages; Twitter is simply a social network/microblog. These short messages (aka, tweets) are limited to 140 characters and are text-based. Each tweet is posted on the author’s Twitter profile page. In addition, individuals have the ability to subscribe to other authors’ Twitter accounts. Once a person “subscribes” to an author’s Twitter account, each tweet, from said author, will automatically be sent to the subscribers account. These subscribers are known as “followers.”

Authors have the ability to restrict delivery to designated individuals, and they can form closed groups. Mobility is a key component of Twitter. The limitation of 140 text-based characters coincides well with Short Message Service (SMS), which is now a standard feature of most cell phones. However, messages can be posted through text messages, instant messages or web forms. There are a number of third party services and other Web 2.0 applications that tie in with Twitter.

The first class assignment in IT 860 was to create a Twitter account and post 5 tweets to our class Twitter account. Joining Twitter was very easy; all that was required was logging on to http://twitter.com/ and filling out a few pieces of basic information. At this point, I seized the opportunity to personalize my Twitter account by configuring settings, modifying the layout and completing the profile questions.

Next, I searched for our class account. I began “following” the class Twitter account (i.e., @it860), which was signified by the standard Twitter icon. I would like to note here that Twitter accounts are generally referred to by using the @ sign followed by the account name (e.g., @it860).

Finally, I posted five tweets to the class @it860 Twitter account. One twist on this assignment was the requirement to post these five tweets through Direct Messages. Normally, you post a tweet by typing a quick message in the “What’s happening?” box, illustrated below:

However, for this assignment we needed to send Direct Messages that would instantly go to all classmates. This was easily accomplished in one of two ways. First, you could post a tweet normally but precede the message text with “d it780”.  In this scenario, the author would literally type “d it780 message…” in the “What’s happening?” box. Second, you can click the “Direct Message” link (illustrated below), and that link takes you to a direct message page from which you can choose a group and type a Direct Message:

Here are the first five tweets I posted to the class account via Direct Message:

  • Here is a great Web 2.0 wiki that outlines a number of tools by category- http://is.gd/cz9Ly
  • I just checked out Bebo. I thought it was limited to bands but it’s grown – http://www.bebo.com/
  • I just figured out that WordPress has a widget for Twitter!
  • Twitter Keys is a shortcut for icons in a tweet. ✌ for now; I’ve had to many cups of ♨ – http://is.gd/czc2g

Twitter Keys Bank

I learned several new concepts from this assignment. Signing up for and personalizing a Twitter account is free, easy and quick. During the tweeting process, I learned the difference between a normal tweet and a Direct Message. I also discovered several really cool tools and third party plug-ins that work in conjunction with Twitter. For example, Twitter Keys facilitates a shortcut for inserting icons into a tweet by using an icon bank (picture below). Last, I found a WordPress widget for Twitter, so you can check out my latest tweets on the sidebar of this page.

My Twitter page is https://twitter.com/jon_woodward. Feel free to check out this account or subscribe.

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Social networking represents the most ubiquitous Web 2.0 technology to date. Evidence of the value and importance of social networking sites (SNS) can be seen in the huge online communities that have recently been formed. For example, Facebook is only six years old (born in 2004), and this SNS now has a population of over 400 million, which would make it the third largest country in the world. As with most great forces or tools, there is a great deal of responsibility that comes with social networking sites. While these applications have great potential, they also allow for a number of dangers and immoral activity.

The vast potential and inherent dangers found in SNS were discussed by Ewbank, Kay, Foulger, and Carter in their article “Conceptualizing Codes of Conduct in Social Networking Communities.” This discussion was primarily focused on the potential and dangers associated with educational use of SNS. Yuen and Yang (2010) wrote a corollary article, “Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in E-Learning Courses,” that primarily focused on a specific, positive aspect of using SNS in teaching and learning (i.e., building community).

Boundaries of SNS in Education

As technology evolves, educational institutions must be leaders in adopting those technologies that have the potential to support and enhance the learning process. Balancing this pursuit, institutional and corporate policy makers should help insure a safe learning environment for participants that use such technology, specifically SNS for this discussion. Adding to this recipe of adoption, news agencies tend to only focus on the negative aspects of items and scenarios, such as the Facebook killer. The article “Conceptualizing Codes of Conduct in Social Networking Communities” provides a research-based discussion on what concerns educators should be aware of while developing and participating in SNS.

The authors alluded to several legal battles that have ensued because of various aspects of SNS. In some cases, parents of students have sued institutions because of a violation of “free speech” rights (e.g., J.S. v. Blue Mountain School District, 2007 or A.B. v. State of Indiana, 2008). Conversely, some teachers have filed suit against students for defamation, intimidating speech, and harassment (e.g., Wisniewski v. Board of Education, Weedsport Central School District, 2007). While the parameters of teacher conduct outside of school is often embedded in organizational codes, some teachers have lost their job because of content placed online (e.g., Tamara Hoover and Austin Independent School District).

Knowing the Minefield
In this litigious atmosphere, teachers must be guarded in how they conduct activity on SNS. The authors pointed to three issues that seemed to be especially vulnerable in the context of SNS. First, SNS present a “magnified forum” for students to be embarrassed or mistreated. Second, private and public information often becomes indistinguishable on SNS. Last, SNS tend to blur the lines between users’ personal and professional identities.

This fog is further enhanced because students do not necessarily have the same moral code online as they maintain offline. The example given by the authors described that students might deem hacking and piracy behaviors as acceptable, yet theses same students defend privacy and property rights outside of the technology realm.

Proceeding with Caution
The authors made an excellent suggestion in relationship to creating codes of conduct for SNS. Most organizations already have a policies and procedures manual that outlines a code of conduct, and similarly, most institutions have an Acceptable Use Policy for the Internet. Schools should begin to tackle this issue by applying those policies to the SNS. Obviously, some tweaking would need to occur, but this seems like an excellent place to start. A balance can be found between ensuring safety and allowing for creativity.

Building Community in Social Networking Sites
Despite the negative aspects of SNS discussed previously, the potential for SNS to enhance online learning is immense. This is especially true as it relates to building community in an e-learning environment. Yuen and Yang discussed this potential in their article “Using Social Networking to Enhance Sense of Community in E-Learning Courses.”

I have taken a large number of online, hybrid, and web-enhanced classes. In a large portion of those classes, a disconnect could be found between both the student-to-teacher relationship and the peer-to-peer relationship that is normally present in a traditional class. The purpose of Yuen and Yang was to explore the possibilities of SNS to help fill such a gap.

Case for Community
The authors discussed the fact that most learning management systems (LMS) were contrived and organized to meet the needs of the organization rather than the students. A number of researchers are beginning to raise questions about the monopoly of LMS to drive e-learning (Palloff & Pratt, 1999; Rovai, 2002a, 2002b). Simultaneously, some researchers have argued that a sense of community is an essential part of the e-learning environment (Yang & Liu, 2008). This body of research is driving educators to look for a solution to a missing link (i.e., community) in the current e-learning environment, which is driven by LMS.

Yuen and Yang provided a convincing argument to use SNS to meet this communal void. A major factor in this argument is based on the pervasive standing of SNS. As mentioned earlier, SNS are an accepted part of everyday life for a large segment of the population. Therefore, it is a technological tool that is already being employed by the majority of learners, especially younger students. In fact, SNS are beginning to reshape the “social fabric” of many educational organizations.

The authors also provided a backbone of research on community. Several studies reveal a relationship between a sense of community and certain aspects of students’ outcomes and perceptions. Yuen and Yang also identified a sound approach to measuring community in an online environment.

The research conducted for their project focused on two classes of graduate students in the field of technology. Ning (www.ning.com) served as the SNS used in conjunction with each class. At the end of the term, each student was given a questionnaire to determine his or her perceptions of the class.

In both classes, the learners signified a positive community spirit, interdependence, trust, and cohesion. The students gave a favorable response when asked about the shared learning environment through their interactions with classmates.

Future Trends
The growth of SNS in education seems imminent. Currently, a large number of institutions are using SNS for a variety of purposes, from recruitment to alumni relations. This growth will probably continue to invade the online learning environment. It will be interesting to see how this infusion will occur. LMS will probably begin to incorporate more and more features of the SNS. To a large degree, the battlefield will be based in money. Will the fee-based LMS (e.g., Blackboard) be able to offer a product that is so superior to open source SNS (e.g., Ning) and LMS (e.g., Moodle) that it is worth the cost?

I would imagine that at some point, the free systems will be deemed “good enough” for most institutions. This is already the case in many educational organizations. A tough economy will quicken the pace of adoption toward these free applications. Will the security of a fee-based LMS play a role? For some institutions, I would argue that this would play a large role in choosing what direction the e-learning might purse.

These two chapters were excellent. They provided a research-based explanation of community in SNS and the perils of using SNS. Educators will need to keep a sharp eye out for developing SNS technologies and evolving LMS. Also, it is the responsibility of the educational community to constantly measure the culture of the ever-evolving learning community.

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