(Social Networks and Education from reinventing project- based learning blog by Jane Krauss - Oct. 2007)
There are a number of Social Networking Sites that are student friendly and enable educators and students to benefit from accessing them. The sidebar of the article If you can't beat 'em, Join 'em (Aug. 2007) from ProQuest lists four of these sites.
1. Imbee (www.imbee.com)
Content A web-based site developed for the tweener set Features a spot for teachers to have their own class pages and even includes lesson plans. The animated look draws kids in, and the site has all the social networking gadgets of the larger sites, but the teacher areas are open only to whomever the teacher allows in-other teachers, students, and parents. This site gets contributed content from its corporate sponsors, which include PBS and Disney.
2. TIGed (www.tiged.org)
Content An offshoot of the global-awareness social networking site TakinglTGIobal (www.tig.org), where teachers can get their students involved in issues that affect the environment, and other contemporary topics. The site features an activities database, discussion boards, thematic classrooms, and other tools, and teachers control the environment. It's currently being used in more than 700 classrooms in 39 countries. Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard Canada are corporate sponsors, and more than 10 educational foundations also support the site.
3. Tnink.com (www.think.com)
Content: A web-based online learning community sponsored by the Oracle Education Foundation (www.oraclefoundation.org) as a safe space for students to collaborate and share knowledge. It features tools to enable students to publish their own websites and to collaborate on projects with other participating students anywhere in the world.Think.com is also used by students participating in the yearly ThinkQuest (www.thinkquest.com) competition, in which students work together to create an innovative website on any topic within a broad range of educational categories.
4. Haiku Learning Management System (www.haikuls.com)
Content: More than just a social networking site, Haiku LMS is a learning management system that features numerous tools for teachers, including calendars, assignments, and class rosters. Teachers can build their own secure websites and offer collaboration tools such as blogs, forums, and wikis.The site recognizes when a user has multiple accounts for different teachers and can link all the user's class pages. Cost: Free up to 1MB of storage space. Beyond that, from $4.95 per month for 50MB of storage space up to $50 per month for 1GB.
Social Networking Sites have many educational benefits and can be used for a variety of educational purposes;
- lessons can be presented using blog and chat applications
- students can correspond with the teacher through private messaging on SNS
- peer editing and feedback can occur on blogs
- create multimedia projects
- create daily newscasts
- podcasts can be uploaded onto SNS
- write essays from prompts on the blog tool
- write blogs
- post stories
- improve reading skills
- improve writing skills through creating a profile, posts, comments and collaborating and communicating with peers online
- work on collaborative projects
- book reviews/clubs
- share music and write reviews
- creativity through art
- utilize various fun application with an educational focus
- develop surveys
Karen Greenwood Henke, chair of the Emerging Technologies Committee at the Consortium for School Networking (www.cosn.org) states that a social networking site is only effective as an instructional tool if a school has a plan for using it. She goes on to say that any successful social networking site has a reason to exist and that reason shouldn't be because students are going to use it. With a plan in place and curriculum objectives in mind, I firmly believe that the Web 2.0 tool of Social Networking Sites will benefit both educators and students.