As I read the title of this response blog, I began to ponder the term "Social Network." The more I thought about it, the more confused I became. Not because I do not understand the term, but because it is hard to describe one's own online social network. I recently read a comment on Megan Fritz's blog about the number of social networking tools available and which one's to encourage students to use. I admit that I find myself in a similar situation. I feel like I use many different tools and use different tools for each aspect of my life. I use specific tools for pure socialization, be it myspace or blogging. These social networks have become such an important aspect of my life that I use them everyday.
I also use professional social networking, but that has been slower to develop. I think that I was resistant to the thought of using these because I was almost afraid that using these tools might make work more important than family, etc. Instead, I am amazed at how they have made my job easier. For instance, I recently created a ning for teachers at my school. The purpose of this tool is to bring teachers together to share tools and instructional strategies since the face-to-face meeting time is so limited. I would like to see this grow into a place where creative thinking can be developed and shared problem solving can occur. Similarly, I use my google reader to keep track of educational blogs and new related to my profession. I use this network to stay on top of new professional practices and communicate with my fellow teachers. This has also been helpful when searching for lesson ideas because I have certain blogs that I know have links to specific topics or lesson plans. I have recently begun to explore using blogs to communicate with parents and students. My new science fair blog has only one official "follower" but several parents and students have mentioned it, so I know that more have viewed it. I think that resources such as these are going to become even more valuable in the realm of parent/teacher communication because of our fast paced, busy society. Instead of staying late, I can post a quick update, etc. Parents can quickly email me a question, instead of calling and leaving the message on a voicemail that I may or may not get anytime soon.
I think I need to explore a little more how these tools can be used with elementary schoolers. I have been exploring voicethread, which allows students to share their work with other students in my class, but sharing work with the world is a little scary to me. I checked out imbee, and was encouraged that creating an account is a little more challenging. Adults have to confirm their identity. Although I need to research more about what this means, it still made feel like the site was safe. I will need to look into it more to determine if it would be appropriate for my students. I do think it would be appropriate to teach them about these tools and perhaps, much like I have learned myself, which type of tool is best suited for professional vs. personal interactions.