Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Response Blog # 1 - My Own Social Network

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.


Carrie Mitton said...

Your experience is sounding a lot like mine--some hesitation, but taking steps forward. I can understand the fear that developing a professional social network will be time consuming. I found this post by David Warlick about keeping your Personal Learning Network from getting out of hand. One tip he gave was to limit yourself to 15 minutes per day (or every few days). If after 15 minutes you feel like you haven’t learned what you wanted to learn, then something needs to be changed in your network. He gave some practical tips—mostly to keep it simple by not subscribing to a million blogs and tools.
Also, as far as web 2.0 tools for kids to build a personal learning network, I use 21 Classes for our blogging tool (we’re blogging about books). I like it because you can decide whether the entire public can view the post, or just those you admit to your community. Also, you have total control over the student accounts—you can delete something if it’s inappropriate, or even change the settings so that you need to approve all blog posts before they go live. This is the first year I’m using it, and aside from a few issues helping the students learn to navigate the site, it’s gone really smooth.

Carrie Mitton said...

Hmmm...the link I thought I posted in the comment above didn't work. Let me try this one more time. :)

Here's the link to the David Warlick blog post on managing your PLN.

Megan Fritz said...

Using a blog as sort of a "newsletter" for your science fair may be a great way to get teachers involved! This at least gets them looking at the blog. Eventually, they'll begin commenting w/ questions. It will spread but it will take time! Have you "linked" your Ning to your blog yet? You can "badge" on your blog advertising your Ning. That's another way to "get the word out"!

Thanks to Carrie for reminding me about the link to Warlick's PLN post. I especially like #9 about the google blog search! I put a bookmark into our insys497 Diigo group.