Wednesday, 4 July 2007

Social Networking and Language Teaching

What is Social Networking?

According to Wikipedia, the first social networking website was Classmates.com, which began in 1995. There were over 50 social networking sites using the Circle of Friends in 2005 when one such online community, MySpace, was getting more page views than Google. Google has a social network called Orkut, launched in 2004. Social networking began to be seen as a component of internet strategy at around the same time: in March 2005 Yahoo launched Yahoo! 360°, their entry into the field, and in July 2005 News Corporation bought Circle of Friends-based MySpace, followed by ITV buying Old Boy Network-based Friends Reunited in December that year. It is estimated that combined there are now over 200 social networking sites using these existing and emerging social networking models.

In these communities, an initial set of founders sends out messages inviting members of their own personal networks to join the site. New members repeat the process, growing the total number of members and links in the network. Sites then offer features such as automatic address book updates, viewable profiles, the ability to form new links through "introduction services," and other forms of online social connections. Social networks can also be organized around business connections, as in the case of LinkedIn.

Wikipedia defines “Blended Networking” as an approach to social networking that combines both offline elements (face-to-face events) and online elements. MySpace, for example, builds on independent music and party scenes, and Facebook was originally designed to mirror a college community, though it has since expanded its scope to include high school, job-related, and regional networks. The newest social networks on the Internet are becoming more focused on niches such as travel, art, tennis, football (soccer), golf, cars, dog owners, and even cosmetic surgery. Other social networking sites focus on local communities, sharing local business and entertainment reviews, news, event calendars and happenings.

Children’s use of Social Networking needs to be monitored to ensure safety. Here are a few sites to make parents and teachers more aware of the dangers and how risks can be minimized.
http://www.childnet-int.org/blogsafety/teachers.html
http://www.commonsense.com/internet-safety-guide/social-networking.php
http://staysafeonline.org/connectedandprotected.html

Teachers are starting to see the potential of social networking to share good practice and avoid constantly re-inventing the proverbial wheel. Language teachers can also benefit from sharing experiences with colleagues from abroad in general and from their target language country in particular.

Ning groups http://www.ning.com/ have been quite popular with teachers so far. Ning is a site that enables you to create your own social networking site. It has a blog feature, the facility for uploading photos, videos and other documents you wish to share with the group. It also has a forum facility with an attractive community-style interface that does lend itself to discussion and the posting of resources.

Interestingly, apart from http://primarymfl.ning.com/ , I have not been able to find any Ning groups about language teaching in general.

Ning groups of interest to language teachers focus on the International Dimension:
http://globaleducation.ning.com/
http://etwinningambassadors.ning.com/

or on ICT as a teaching tool:
http://nextgen.ning.com/
http://comingofage.ning.com/
http://ictnet.ning.com/
http://edtech100.ning.com/
http://virtualteach.ning.com/
http://laptoplearning.ning.com/
http://classroom20.ning.com/
http://teachers20.ning.com/
http://school20.ning.com/

Other popular forms of Social Networking for languages teachers include yahoo groups with supporting websites like mfl resources http://groups.yahoo.com/group/mflresources/ http://www.mflresources.org.uk/ and discussion lists like Linguanet http://www.mailtalk.ac.uk/lists/linguanet-forum.html

2 comments:

Joe said...

Hi Isabelle,

Have a look at this video on social networking. It's great.

http://www.commoncraft.com/video-social-networking

Best wishes

Joe

IC Jones said...

Hi Joe

I like it! It is short and sweet and it is a great introduction for any discussions about what teachers could gain out of joining social networks.

Thanks again for the link. I will also box it on the blog.