What are Social Networks?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social networks was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • there is a growing interest in higher ed education faculties (at least where I work) regarding the possibilities of leveraging social media networks to disseminate research information. Here is a literature review I wrote for our Research Committee on this very thing (July 2014) http://goo.gl/NUPwQw . One of the biggest discussions centres on how Twitter feeds, using strategic hashtags, can support dissemination. So, maybe it's the PLN nature (professional learning network) aspect of using hashtags as a filter that is the most strategic use academics will make of these networks. - n.wright n.wright Oct 15, 2014 - lkoster lkoster Oct 20, 2014 - jochen.robes jochen.robes Oct 27, 2014
  • Social networks and collaborative environments (in the social media technologies category) are interrelated. The significance for social networks in higher education is primarily based on the affordances of presence and collaboration. Personal learning networks, personal learning environments, and connected or networked learning are dependent on the affordances of social network technologies. This is a significant growth area in online learning in higher education. - Jolie Jolie Oct 23, 2014 - paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 27, 2014
  • Social networks are being used formally and informally at the University of Leeds in all sorts of ways by both staff and students as a way of interacting outside our more formal Virtual Learning Platform. We realised a long time ago that cannot control social networks, and so have embraced them as learning and teaching conduits. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 27, 2014

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • Social networks are not populated by person: they are populated by accounts and email addresses. "I" am two identities on Facebook, five identities on twitter, three identities on Gmail--etc. Social media are feared in higher ed for this very reason: context bleed. When I see someone from work at my local bar, I get a small shock. Am I dressed right? People lose jobs because of tweets.http://abcnews.go.com/International/woman-fired-tweet-aids-africa-sparks-internet-outrage/story?id=21298519 Some teachers leverage social media to expand the classroom--and then must quit because this is considered improper:
    When we think about social networks, we must include this plurality and confusion, or our description is incomplete. - edward.oneill edward.oneill Oct 14, 2014
  • There are, as Edward points out above, issues of identity online that are not yet fully addressed. Strategising about professional vs personal identities is a discussion still to take place in many higher ed quarters. - n.wright n.wright Oct 15, 2014
  • Innovation districts show significant potential across sectors worldwide. They are supported by social networks yet are not considered. What influence will innovation districts have on higher education teaching, learning and creative inquiry? "Innovation districts are the manifestation of mega-trends altering the location preferences of people and firms and, in the process, re-conceiving the very link between economy shaping, place making and social networking." http://www.brookings.edu/about/programs/metro/innovation-districts - Mark.fink Mark.fink Oct 15, 2014
  • - bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 19, 2014Social media is the new venue for public intellectuals. - helga helga Oct 20, 2014
  • Digital literacy will become increasingly important to teach learners how to navigate social media to stay safe, find credible information, and manage plural selves online. - Jolie Jolie Oct 23, 2014- kumiko.aoki kumiko.aoki Oct 28, 2014 - momillard momillard Oct 28, 2014
  • Privacy and the "right to be forgotten." This is especially important for students to understand as some of the things they post via social networking tools may follow them into their professional careers. While the "right to be forgotten" is recognized in the EU, it is not the case so far in the US. Good article here http://www.stanfordlawreview.org/online/privacy-paradox/right-to-be-forgotten - JoanLippincott JoanLippincott Oct 26, 2014- kumiko.aoki kumiko.aoki Oct 28, 2014 - momillard momillard Oct 28, 2014
  • Researchers and students are beginning to use social media feeds as primary sources to study important phenomena such as the revolutions in the Middle East. Tools are being developed to help collect and analyze data from social networking sites. http://www.nytimes.com/2012/02/19/books/review/how-an-egyptian-revolution-began-on-facebook.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0
    - JoanLippincott JoanLippincott Oct 26, 2014
  • The future of some (all?) Social Media tools are unsure In my understanding we need to mention challenges here as well. Perhaps this topic could fit elsewhere but I see that, for example, Twitter since it went to the stock market became less popular and has add-on's every two weeks which are more about advertising than anything else. Even though I am a firm believer in the opportunities, I also feel worries about the commercial side and to new tools that replace other tools so fast that educators find it hard to keep up. When we have helped teachers to learn podcasting, they have to go blogging, after blogging they have to use Twitter... even though this simply might be the reality they have to adapt to, it is a challenge especially in teacher training and in selecting which tool to use. - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 26, 2014 Esther de Groot's comments here resonate with me; I've had the experience of investing significant amounts of time into social media tools and sites that then either disappear with little warning or are sold to someone else and become so different in their approach that they lose their initial attractiveness and usefulness. Since we need to be where our learners are, this is a challenge without an obvious resolution: we need to be judicious about how much time we invest in learning/using any specific social media tool or site, and also can't afford to ignore the benefits that using social media provide for us and for our learners.- paul.signorelli paul.signorelli Oct 26, 2014 Yes, it's both. - michael.lambert michael.lambert Oct 26, 2014 If you have to invest much time learning how to use a social media tool, it will probably fail sooner rather than later. I think we need to get away from our focus on tools and look at the ends. The tools will change. The ends won't. In other words, the first question should be, "What message are you trying to send?" and then "Who do you want to get it?" before choosing the medium. The modalities of all of the tools reflect that. How effective they are at achieving an evident answer to those questions will determine their survival. If faculty are properly trained in communications strategies rather than a specific technology, the tools should matter less. From my perspective, I don't care how long the tool lasts as long as it outlasts the class. Most tools don't die that quickly and even then, I can always pivot because I always build in a backup solution. - tom.haymes tom.haymes Oct 29, 2014 again, I think this points to the dispositional reality of adaptive help-seeking and knowing that change is constant, but that transferring known skills from one platform to another is important. Standardising how things work across platforms is already taking shape, so transference becomes less problematic - n.wright n.wright Oct 27, 2014 OK, thanks, elaborating on this standardisation could then perhaps be useful to make the results of Horizon resonate with teachers - e.degroot e.degroot Oct 27, 2014 History suggests all social media companies will fail, no matter how big they are, but they will be almost certainly be replaced by other methods of social interaction that can be utilised for educationAl purposes. The pace of change is increasing, and will continue to do so and, in our field, we need to keep abreast of those advancements, sort the wheat from the chaff, and present them, where appropriate, to our learning and teaching colleagues as opportunities for them to Improve their practise. - damian.mcdonald damian.mcdonald Oct 27, 2014 The doom of Twitpic is instructive here. - bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 28, 2014 [Editor's Note: Moved here from RQ4.]

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on higher education?

  • the potential will be huge in terms of dissemination of research to those who can use it. Blogging by academics - putting abstractions and details into layperson-speak and explaining the significance of the work for everyday life - is a piece of the puzzle that has to be solved. There is too great a separation between the Academy and the rest of the education field and I am constantly amazed by the anti-intellectualism of some comments made by teachers in the schooling sectorbut the tide is turning. For example, I currently co-direct a research strand for an annual national conference for teachers in NZ (ULearn), and this strand is getting bigger each year. The impact on teachers who come to listen to other teachers and academics talk about their educational research is becoming significant, and is common to walk past teachers extolling the praises of what they've been learning. Social media networks have the potential to make this praxis link stronger and more robust, blurring these sector distinctions. - n.wright n.wright Oct 15, 2014 - bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 19, 2014Well said.- JoanLippincott JoanLippincott Oct 26, 2014
  • - bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 19, 2014Returning the world of education to the rest of the world. Metaphorically the classroom door is no longer closed. - lkoster lkoster Oct 20, 2014- kumiko.aoki kumiko.aoki Oct 28, 2014
  • Deeper integration of social networks into the instructional realm of higher education will increase the shift from instructor-centered, passive lecture to student-centered, active learning. This pedagogical change has been underway for some time but still exists on the fringe of higher ed. Further, more adoption of social networks as tools for learning will improve the relevancy of higher education. Gartner predicts by 2016, 50% of large organizations will have internal "Facebook-like social networks, and 30% of these will be considered as essential as email and telephones are today." IBM CEO, Ginni Rommetty, has noted, "The Social Network is the new production line." With social networks making these types of impactful changes in the workplace, higher education must recognize the value of teaching students how to use them meaningfully. - mpacansky-brock mpacansky-brock Oct 27, 2014
  • Social networks also hold tremendous potential to transform faculty development from a local, "boutique" model into a global, sustainable, cycle embedded in lifelong learning. Social networks empower faculty to become leaders by providing them with simple ways to share their teaching practices and cultivate conversations with other faculty about them. Engaging with and sharing through a social network may be less intimidating to a faculty member than starting her/his own blog. - mpacansky-brock mpacansky-brock Oct 27, 2014

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • - bryan.alexander bryan.alexander Oct 19, 2014I'd point to the many, many blogs for academics, like Crooked Timber.
  • application developed at GWU to identify, select, collect and preserve Twitter data for research purposes http://gwu-libraries.github.io/social-feed-manager/ [[user:JoanLippincott|1414351631] * The Center is a faculty development community created to improve sharing and innovation in teaching and learning through the California Community College system (which includes 112 colleges and serves 2.5 million students annually). It exists within Google+ as a G+ Communityhttps://plus.google.com/u/0/communities/100765743403325466833 - mpacansky-brock mpacansky-brock Oct 27, 2014

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