Should we try to use social networking services such as Facebook and Myspace as serious educational tools, or should they remain the domain of informal chat and backstage antics? This is one of the questions addressed in the latest issue of Learning, Media and Technology. Neil Selwyn and Lyndsay Grant are to be applauded for bringing together an excellent, very readable special issue of the journal which focuses on Learning and Social Software. In his podcast on the journal website, Neil talks about exposing the 'gritty reality' of social software, and how he wanted the special issue to 'priviledge robust empirical study' into the likes of wikis and social networking tools in formal learning contexts. He calls for a serious debate on these issues, as a means to move away from the 'hype' and presumptions of Web 2.0 toward a more critical perspective. There are 6 main articles in the issue, but two stand out for me, both of which deal with how Facebook is being used in education.

The first article examines Facebook as a tool for socialising. Written by Clare Madge and her colleagues, the article reveals that socialising is the prime functionality of the service, and that attempts to use it in a formal educational context are problematic. 'We therefore feel that it is important that the British Higher Education sector is aware of Facebook and recognises its potential and importance to students but we would recommend caution about moving into a social networking space that students clearly feel is 'theirs' for social rather than academic purposes'.

Madge C, Meek J, Wellens J and Hooley T (2009) Facebook, social integration and informal learning at university: It is more for socialising and talking to friends about work than for actually doing work'. Learning, Media and Technology, 34 (2), 141-155.

The second stand out paper is by Neil Selwyn, who explores students' actual education related use of Facebook. He uses Goffman's notion of presentation of self through 'facework' to analyse the comments from a number of university students, and counsels: '...Facebook appears to provide a ready space where the 'role conflict' that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed 'backstage' area'.
Selwyn N (2009) Faceworking: exploring students' education-related use of Facebook, Learning, Media and Technology, 34 (2), 157-174.

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slime said…
i have been involved with learning platforms and providers for around 5yrs and it is an endless (pointless?) goal to entice learners into the platform and replicate the engagement and functionality of fbook and myspace.

Seems to me that the more simple way forward would be for the providers to write apps to integrate into the social networking sites. That way the learners can go to their preferred SN site and collect, work, collaborate and store all their learning stuff in one place.. feel like I'm stating the obvious but still waiting..
Bethany Smith said…
Selwyn also has a great paper at http://www.scribd.com/doc/513958/Facebook-seminar-paper-Selwyn - Screw Blackboard do it on Facebook, that compares his students use of FB for class related activities vs. Bb.

I used his research extensively for my thesis on whether Ning could be used as an alternative - excited to read some of his new work. Thanks!
geordie_online said…
Working in an Further Education College we have carried extensive work in using a variety of social networks, including Facebook.

We found these social networks provide an excellent supplement to the formal VLE and the individualised e-mail.

However, in these public spaces the young learners were exploring who they were (as teenagers do) and were uncomfortable about all learners accessing their profiles. Also, we were aware that we could not force all learners in a group to sign up as the terms and conditions are for a third party application, this ten proved difficult to include all.

We want to use social networks in our 'Learning Cloud' at college, however it will be one where we have more control e.g. www.ning.com or www.imjack.com Where we can include all and monitor.

The learners will not naturally use this software, as facebook will be their preferred media. However, we will emphasise that their facebook account is their own space, into which we do not want to intrude. We will provide similar software, but more college specific.

See more of the work we are doing at www.transformproject.co.uk
Many thanks for these links. I'm currently teaching PD that incorporates a discussion on the uses of Facebook in the classroom. Will provide the journal links as a matter of course from this point.

Martin Jorgensen
slime said…
I had high hopes for Ning, lots of opportunities to 'personalise' lots of communication opportunities however I've struggled to get youngsters to engage in discussions.. preferring to do this on their own social networking sites. The absence of file storage facility also hindered thing things we wanted to try tho' Ning tell me this functionality is coming.

Will persevere tho' :-)
Mick said…
Being a teacher I agree with what you said in this post. I have found an alternative site however, http://applebatch.com. This is a new teacher network site that allows teachers to come together and share lesson plans, find jobs, and solve common problems.
david said…
Blogs are so informative where we get lots of information on any topic. Nice job keep it up!!


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