Essay: Propose Ways to Utilize Social Networking

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Social Networking in the Education and the Birth of the Social Network Administrator

In this essay, the author will draw parallels between the issues of online learning and computer networking with the new phenomena of social networking. As computer networking has revolutionized organizational communication and the facilitation of decision-making, so it will be in the field of social networking. Also the essay will assess the effectiveness of online communication within an educational institution. The challenge for the administrator and community members is to seamlessly integrate different social networking platforms so that group decision making and other group work that are essential to the development of well-conceived school policies and practices can be facilitated to the benefit of the organization. This author feels that logically the recently created job position of social network administrator within the business community should be adapted to the educational environment to iron out issues of trust, text messaging management and the selection of appropriate platforms for social networking.

Few people have not heard about social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Linkdin. Tweeting has become synonymous with text-messaging and communication.

It is necessary therefore to look in detail at the issue of text messaging and how it can be used in an educational institution. In "Text Messaging and Implications for its Use in Education, Dean K. Tomita looks at text messaging and how it will facilitate communication and decision making between students and their teachers. Text messaging is of course the guts of the utility and can be subdivided into three subcomponents, including Instant Messaging (IM), Short Messaging Service (SMS) and microblogging. IM is a form of computer chat which allows text-based conversations in real time with one or more individuals on the net. SMS is a communications protocol that is used to deliver short text messages of up to 160 characters via Global System for Mobile communication (GSM) enabled mobile phones. Microblogging is a new Web 2.0 technology that is gaining in popularity, building upon IM and SMS and further incorporating blogging, text messaging and social networking together in one package. Twitter is an opt in instant messaging application set up in a community type of format. This form of blogging allows brief text messages. These "tweets" to the Twitter website (public or private) are easy to set in terms of access (anyone or only select individuals can view) (Tomita 2009, 186).

Tomita asks the basic question of why educational teachers should use Twitter to teach students. While he does not ask the question of how Twitter (or any other similar utility) will be used by teachers and administrators, by logical extension, their experience needs to reflect the world of their students for the classroom experience to be successful. Inevitably, the educational organization itself will have to organize itself into communities reflecting the communities that students themselves have created, relating to the students the experience of age. Unlike the traditional learning process which is thought of as only a linear process with a beginning and an end and that is compartmentalized, social utilities create hyperlinked communities and connections across organizations (ibid, 187).

Herein lays the problem, but also the opportunity. At their best, educational institutions should be democratic in nature. However, almost all of us can recall a time in our high school or college days when it seemed as if the educational institution stifled original thought rather than promoting it. The great potential for social networking platforms is the leveling and democratizing effects upon the communities that they help to create. While the technology is exciting and influences human culture, we must not lose sight of the human at the keyboard, doing the text messages, blogging and setting up communities. We must remember why we are educators. The social engineering aspects of the technology in the educational realm have to be explored. In other words, we need to speak a bit about the fundamentals of the modern educational institution. We need to become social network administrators.

In John Dewey's classic The school and society: &, The child and the curriculum, he explores the use of the educational institution as a social engineering vehicle. As in our time, John Dewey's world was in the throws of great technological change. The great master of education waxed profoundly in Hegelian terms about the conflicting elements in a problem. He says that "Solution comes only by getting away from the meaning of terms that is already fixed upon and coming to see the conditions from another point-of-view, and hence in a fresh light…The fundamental factors in the educative process are an immature, undeveloped being…The educative process is the due interaction of these forces. Such a conception of each in relation to the other as facilitates completest and freest interaction is the essence of educational theory (Dewey, 2009, 4)."

Thesis has become antithesis. From where will we derive synthesis? Really, it is a question that will be best explained by the world of Instructional Technology. For this reason we will briefly see how the new platforms are being integrated by Instructional Technology theorists and the teachers themselves. As in battle, the generals must on occasions consult their foot soldiers to figure out the situation at the front in the trenches. Again it seems that Twitter is now out in the forefront with its competitors with 75 million users (Gaudin, 2010. While Linkdin is the most popular professional network with some twenty million users, other social networks are more popular. Networks such as Myspace (one hundred million users) and Facebook (seventy million users) complicate the choice of which network or networks to use (Joldrichsen 2009). Given Twitter's frenetic growth, current numbers and popularity with students and educators, Twitter has the potential to become the flagship and the role model for social networking in education. However, as Gaudin's title indicates, they are asleep at the mouse (Gaudin, 2010). Almost all of us have had the experience either as a child or as an adult of unpackaging a new item. When the euphoria of novelty wears off, we inevitably ask "how do we use it." Interestingly, even the digital generations of x and y who have grown up with a mouse in their hands are mystified.

To get a grip upon what to do with the mouse, this author will first examine a field test of tweeting in the classroom. Since the technology is so new, field tests by innovative educators will be enlightening. Secondly, from an administrative standpoint, we need to see what is happening in the world of business. This may seem taboo to many in the educational arena. We do not like to reminded of how far behind in technological terms many of us in education actually are. However, the facts of life right now are that the most innovative administrative and staff uses of social networking in twenty-first century organizational building and design are happening now in the business world or in institutions closely associated with them. This author will include some recent dissertational material. We ignore (and I am sure John Dewey would probably agree with me emphatically on this point) these sources of innovation at our peril and risk becoming obsolete and disposable.

In "Educators Test the Limits of Twitter Microblogging Tool," Katie Ash tracks a field test of the popular social utility in the classroom. Microblogging and social networking are joined again at the proverbial hip. George Mayo is an 8th grade English teacher at Silver Spring International Middle School in Montgomery County, Md. And is glowing over the system's simplicity. However, even he admits that the system has limitations. Due to the number of users, he employed only one account and password that he gave out. Other educators Ash interviewed also felt that control was an issue (Ash, 2008).

In essence, what George Mayo was talking about is a current challenge in the field of online learning. Anyone who has spoken to an online instructor will tell you that their greatest challenge was to leave linear thinking behind and engage the student behind the screen and the mouse. By logical extension, it applies here as well in social networking. Online education requires unique abilities on the part of the instructor to engage the student, particularly in discussion threads and texting during classes. Certainly, online communication requires just as much care and diligence. In essence, the person who is the node of the online community that they have created is the teacher. The key for us as school administrators and staff is to identify who is skilled at this activity and place them in the roles they are gifted for, which is creating a safe, non-threatening environment where they will not be threatened or flamed by the inevitable bully. Perhaps this is the reason for the hesitation at the mouse. Not all of us are as outgoing, gregarious and able to fend for ourselves in thinking and interacting. A shy and timid person might be scared away from a system like Twitter because of its… [END OF PREVIEW]

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