Saturday, October 10, 2009

Steve Hargadon's Themes and Using Social Networking in my Classes

    Steve Hargadon, who developed the Classroom 2.0 Ning site, shared some things he’s learned about building effective social networks with his blog posting of January 28, 2009. Of the six themes he discusses, I am going to talk about the first two and relate them to my Yavapai College ITV classes that I teach.
    The first theme he explores is “You don’t really know which social networking sites you create will take off or succeed.”  In other words, for a social networking site to succeed, people need to decide it is worth their while to get involved and participate. If they don’t do that, you’ve created a site that is meaningless. In fact, he says it is often the case that a social network will not get a response from people. When there is a response, the participants may go off in directions the network creator hadn’t envisioned. At this point, you have to let go of the sense of authority you have and realize that this is a collaborative effort and something new is being co-created by all involved.
    I’ve been thinking of how I can get my students involved in a class Ning or social bookmarking site to share Internet research findings for issues in Child Care, a class I will start teaching in a few weeks. The class only runs for five weeks and is packed with in class activities already. However, I’d like students to be able to explore topics of their own choosing and share what they find with the rest of the class. In a full semester course, this would be doable by having students do presentations spread out through the semester. In a five week class this is not possible.
    How will employing social networking to share web research work for us? I can force participation in the social networking site I create for the class by making it part of the course requirements. But is this what I want to do? Will students find value in participating and collaborating in what I’ve set up or will they simply post their info and make comments to each other but never become fully engaged? Discussion boards in Blackboard can sometimes feel like that.
    This leads me to consider Hargadon’s second theme: “Topic or content is maybe not as important as the act of engagement.” Hmmmm. . .more for me to ponder. Hargadon says that our job is to help the conversation take place and not define what is talked about. I guess the implications for this when I develop my class social networking spot are that I don’t need to be so concerned about what students are writing about but rather that they are engaged and participating. This is a totally different idea than the Yavapai College outcomes based learning, a behavioral approach. This is a constructivist model of learning. I think it is worth pursuing to see what happens. I like the possibilities that learning of value to the student may come out of it even if it has nothing to do with the learning outcomes of the course. Wouldn’t it be great if the students built a resource and community they could continue to participate in after the class has ended?

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