Sunday, October 11, 2009

Social Networks in the Classroom

In Steve Haragadon’s blog entry about building effective social networks, he makes a point about “a network must fulfill some compelling need”. This made me think about what are the needs of my students and how can those needs be delivered and met?
We teach what we feel is important for our students to learn and present information which usually reflects our own personal style of teaching, but are we fulfilling the needs of our students? How would we know and then devise a network which students would find effective in meeting their education goals? Before any thought goes into building an effective social network it would seem necessary to understand who your audience and participants are going to be. There should to be a period of assessing the needs of our classes and our students.’ What are their goals, strengths as well as weaknesses? Identifying the levels of understanding should be met prior to developing your class site to help ensure the needs are being addressed. If our students acknowledge these themselves, it would help ensure participation and collaboration.
Perhaps some ways of getting our students to help identify what would be helpful in the developing a class network site is to simply ask what they would find useful. What are the goals of the class and how those can goals be incorporated in the curriculum. Take a class poll, have students vote on the content in their site and even have student help design the site if possible.
If this site is going to be used by the students, then it would seem logical to have the students invest in presentation and content. Perhaps part of the curriculum in all of our class should include the development of class sites designed and approved by each class having a common goal of identifying the content as the course progresses. This could fulfill an effective network between students and establish collaborative learning. We know that students learn best when they are actively involved in the process. Research has shown us that students working together as a group retain information longer and are more satisfied with their classes. Using social networks within classrooms can create informal learning groups where information could be passed from student to student applying what they have learned and sharing this with others.

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