“Facebook a valid educational tool”

Is your institution using Facebook?

According to a report, if you’re not then you could be missing out.

The Guardian reports:

Teachers and lecturers are getting the lowdown on how to use social networking sites such as Facebook and Bebo in an educational way.

Most schools and colleges in the UK block access to the websites but they are missing out on their potential for education, a government-funded guide says.

Have a look at the full report.

MySpace to be upgraded

Changes are afoot at MySpace, as they try to attract new and keep old users.

BBC’s Newsbeat says:

MySpace is preparing a major redesign next week as it tries to attract more casual users and increase the amount of time its members spend online.

With the popularity of other social networking sites such as Facebook, sites such as MySpace need to change and alter in order to retain and keep users.

From an e-learning perspective, such changes can cause confusion for learners, and if features are removed or deleted, then it can impact on learning activities and scenarios which use such social networking sites.

Google has eye on social web

The BBC reported on how Google is making it even easier for people to interact online.

Google has joined the drive to make the web more social by introducing tools to enable people to interact with their friends.

Of course this means that educational and learning sites can use the same tools making it easier for learners to interact and engage with each other.

This may mean of course that learners from other “places” and “institutions” will interact and engage with each other.

Some institutions will see this collaboration as a “danger” or “cheating” and therefore block the sites. Whilst others will engage with this process and look at how it could impact on learning and enhance it and the changes that may be needed to be made to assessment models.

Children flock to social networks…

BBC reports on how more than 25% of children between eight and eleven actively use social networking websites.

More than a quarter of eight to 11-year-olds in the UK have a profile on a social network, research shows.

Most sites, such as Bebo, MySpace and Facebook, set a minimum age of between 13 and 14 to create a profile but none actively enforce the age limit.

Ofcom’s survey of 5,000 adults and 3,000 children found 49% of those aged between eight and 17 have a profile.

Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this, by the time these children come to College or onto University, they will have been using and immersed into the world of social networking – unlikely I expect that they will be using Facebook or Bebo as who remembers Friendster?

However that they will be use to the concept of communicating socially online. I would also expect that they will also start to use these environments for working together on learning activities as well.

Obviously there are issues with putting personal and embarrassing information online as institutions and employers also have access to these sites and Google, but it would be a shame to focus on the negative aspects of these sites and forget the potential that these places have for learners to interact and engage with each other – in the same way they already do engage collaboratively for learning in the physical social areas within our institutions.

As I write this I am sitting in the cafe area of my college and there are learners here drinking coffee and talking, I know some are talking about non-learning stuff, but there are others who are talking and discussing what they just did or what they need to do.

We provide physical social environments for our learners to socialise and engage with each other, is it too much to ask to provide access to similar social environments which are online?

Originally written for e-Learning Stuff.

Evolution of the social network

BBC Click reports on the evolution of social networking.Evolution of the social network

Recent reports of social networking’s demise may be slightly premature.

Sure, some users are completely fed up with receiving friends invites, being “bitten”, “poked” and indeed having sheep thrown at them.

And there has been a 5% slowdown in new UK users to the larger social networks, Facebook and MySpace, between December 2007 and January this year.

But Alex Burmaster, an analyst at Nielsen Online which compiled the figures showing the decline, says: “The slow down in social networks is being somewhat exaggerated. It’s a natural form of any growth that we see in the online eco-system.