Thursday, 3 July 2008

How I use Facebook (Social Networking and learning, 1)

I’ve been thinking about how social networking can be used for learning for a while now! The only problem is that I’ve been thinking about it by myself (which sort of defeats the object of social media!). So I thought I would put some of those thoughts on my blog as a first step. At the same time, Ben Tomkinson (who works in my team at Ufi learndirect) is looking at social networking, how other training providers and companies are using it (what can be learnt from this), and how Ufi learndirect might use it (though we already have some exciting things on the go).

As this will probably be a series of blogs, I will start at the beginning. How I use social networking sites and what I find useful. I find you need to understand the social web fairly well before you can then go on to thinking about learning solutions. I’m no expert but I have spent considerable time interacting on the social web (just ask my wife how annoying this is!!)

I’m on Facebook, Linked In (business networking) and Twitter (micro social networking). I know this sounds draconian, but my first step was to tell my friends that they could only interact with me via Facebook (yes, we can still meet face to face!! I’m talking about online here!). This blog is about Facebook.

What I found is that email communication is a poor man’s social network! Why do email when you can social network?

The two big things (for me in any case) is……
1) I do not want a million friends on Facebook!! My security is set so that only friends can view my Facebook page. I reject most people. I just want my friends (or those friends I have lost touch with accidentally!). I’ve rejected my Grandma’s invite to be a friend as at her age I don’t think she should know what I get up too!! I’m thinking of her health of course! Seriously though sometimes I don’t want all my family on my Facebook site! To solve this, I am thinking of having two pages - one for my inner circle and one for the rest. Also I’m aware that many people meet new people on the web (I do this more via specialist communities of practices or blogs. Some of these communities of practice are via Facebook. They are called “Groups”.)

2) Social Networking via a laptop is a bore and is so yesterday!! Mobile is so much better! You can organise your life, view your friends updates, update your status, upload photo’s all via your mobile. I have my mobile with me 24/7. I’m only online via a laptop for 5-10 hours a day (you may gasp!!)

I feel there is still a blog or two about social networking in general. But I promise that in future blogs I will discuss what can be potentially applied to learning. Also I’m very much aware that I’m quite into online social media. Others will not use it in as deep or rich way that I do! Others may use the social media in a deeper way than me! Though I do feel that what was once the preserve of the early adopter, the geek and the young is widening out. That you can look at some aspects of how geeks and the young use social media and in some cases see what the future is.

Help please!!! Could you let me know how you or your friends use social networking (or why you hate it!). Just put a comment on the blog (I know many of you prefer to email me with comments, but it would be great if you could share your views. Anonymous comments are fine!)

That’s the end of the blog………..PS. But read on if you want a more detailed list of what I like about Facebook (the same goes with the other sites):

  • Your friends know what you are up to. You know what they are up to (without millions of phone calls or texts!!). I update my status fairly regularly on Facebook (where am I. What am I doing. If it is vaguely interesting that is!). I put pictures on Faceebook (but mostly via mobile phone. You take the pic and send it to your Facebook site. It’s so easy. To be honest I really can’t be bothered to link my camera and upload pic’s via a laptop!). You don’t have to email or speak to friends - you can just be!! You interact when you want rather than think that you have to phone someone because you haven’t spoken to them for a while!
    Likewise I can keep track of my friends and what they are doing. All this is aggregated into one page (you don’t have to go into individual friends pages; though I do sometimes put messages on their “wall”)
  • Organise my social life. It’s much easier than email as you can chat to everyone (or selected subgroups) at once. I also instant message via Face book.
  • There are lots of widgets on Facebook developed by third parties. Some of them are fun where you can compare your interests with friends (eg. Music, films, IQ!) and do quizzes etc etc
  • Share your favourite clips and videos
  • Groups: I belong to groups on Facebook (eg. Tottenham Hotspurs, Springsteen and some learning groups). This is great. Companies should go where their customers are (as this is easiest for the customer).

PPS. Starter for 10. A list of questions I think we need answers to during any research. Do you have any to add??
1. How do people use social networking sites in their everyday lives. What may happen in 5 years!
2. How are training providers or tutors/lectures using social networking sites (case studies). How are companies using sites for communications/engagement with staff and customers. What can we learn?
3. What do the “experts” think social networking sites could be used for in relation to learning. How can it be used both in formal and informal learning (and structured vs. unstructured learning). Can it also be used as evidence for assessment? How is it blended with often linear (!) elearning courses.
4. What is the difference between a network (social network) and a community (a community of practice)
5. What are the pro’s and cons of using social networking sites for learning (eg. you should go to where your learners are; are there security issues)
6. What are the pro’s and cons of building your own community of practice outside a social networking site. (How do you build your own community? What are the Critical Success Factors to building a community of practice. There is now quite a bit of science out there to this!). Perhaps this is a separate piece of research?
7. What is the social networking functionality to Learner Management Systems. How can social networking sites (or community or practice) be integrated with a LMS?


Jeremy Beezer said...

I use Social Networking in many the same ways as you do. I would add that MySpace is good for music (including hosting live gigs even). Myspace has also been used by film producers to help with the script and to provide "extra's".

Could learndirect design a new ad campaign with help of a social networking site? How can you engage the community?


Peter Hawke said...

On your research questions, I think you need to put equal weight to research into "social networking and learning" and "communities of practice and learning". Although there is some cross over.

Peter Hawke

Dan Roddy said...

Darren, you raise a lot of interesting points.

I feel quite strongly that most LMSs are ghettos. They are soulless places devoid of human contact (perhaps that's just the LMSs I've been exposed to).

Social network sites (SNS) on the other hand are constantly changing, active places where you are aware that you are not alone, where changes to people and situations are in evidence and you can enjoy "downtime". I think that Clive Shepard's recent revisioning of the blended model on social terms is a great way of showing up how current LMSs fail if we really want to integrate learning in to the wider workplace.

I think that just as for you (and me) email is now a dead technology - a hang up from the desktop age - so we'll see LMSs as something similar. fb in particular, with its clean appearance, useful basic features and the open API allowing all sorts of material to be added, lends itself quite well to the role of supplanting the traditional LMS - how long before "fb API compliant" gets added to the list of outputs for the new rapid development tools alongside ACORM and AICC? Or more simply, before an LCMS app comes along to piggyback on all the robust, easy to use features already in place?

But bigger than fb, Google are weighing in with an open standard designed to allow ANY site to add social tools - could this be a way for traditional LMSs to redeem themselves, by picking up these features ready built and don the garb of the 21st century online experience?

wilbau said...

Well, hm, forgive me.
I'm just doing something like social networking and hope I will find some day some time to think about it :)

On your blog I'm missing the links to add you as a friend on maybe BlogCatalog, MyBlogLog, Bumpzee, Twitter, FaceBook, MySpace ...

I'm looking forward to see you there.

Have a nice day.

Darren Sidnick said...

Ben and I had a good meeting yesterday with a chap whose an expert in elearning and technology. His feedback was that we need to consider:

• Why is social networking so addictive – is it the mass industrialisation of gossip. If this is the case, can it really be replicated for learning (as social networking is about gossip)
• Security and destructive behaviour – all training providers have a duty of care to learners (Ufi learndirect deal with some of the most venerable)
• Outside personal/friendships, are social networking sites more for single issue style stuff (this is the “glue” to hold the network)
• Communities or practice, decent groups or blogs all need to be moderated. Moderated ones are the best according to this chap
• Quality vs quantity. Don’t just look at stats on Facebook (etc), but look at quantity and how in depth the relationship goes with the customer
• Many people put false profiles. Many parents tell their children to use a different name
• Easy to move to another social network – what impact would this have on any training providers strategy
• Look at general theories of network and community. The same still applies eg. book on strong and weak social capital is a good basis
• What is the business model if you used social networking. What is cost of engagement and what is the ROI?

Darren Sidnick said...


Thanks for your comments. I've put a link to my "Linked In" profile and am now aso following you on Twitter (just called "Sidnick"!!). Prefer not to put up my Facebook link as it's for family and close friends.

Richard Hyett said...

Using Google Alerts, I track down blogs whose authors are better informed than I am, about things I want to learn about. Once I've found the blogs, I subscribe to their feeds (comment and post), and follow them daily using Google's home page aggregator ig. If they use twitter I follow them with that. I comment a lot, I find this is a good way to learn. So far I have had little success with social networking sites.