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?

  • - rnidhubhda rnidhubhda Feb 5, 2015 I find Twitter to be a wonderful resource for language learning. The character limit alone confines students to writing succinctly, but in keeping with correct syntax and grammatical points at all times. Twitter also provides an environment for authentic conversations between learners and fluent speakers.
  • Social networks are useful for facilitating the creation of connections between academics. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015 And for PLN and CPD - rnidhubhda rnidhubhda Feb 16, 2015
  • Social networks can facilitate socialisation amongst students, e.g. creation of informal support networks, study groups etc. This is especially useful for 'off-campus' students - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015 Yes James I have seen this work very well where students are on work placement. Being able to bring up issues they meet in the workplace and comparing these and getting feedback from other students and staff. - ckane ckane Feb 16, 2015

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

  • While social networks are hugely important in many aspects of our social, academic and professional life, more discussion is needed on the potential tensions between public exposure and the protection of privacy, the management of a virtual identity, the creation and maintenance of Personal Learning Environments (PLEs), the responsible use of social networks, etc.- francoise.blin francoise.blin Feb 14, 2015 Yes all of that and content ownership/protection as well - rnidhubhda rnidhubhda Feb 16, 2015
  • Links to the creation and maintenance of online learning communities need to established.- francoise.blin francoise.blin Feb 14, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on third-level education in Ireland?

  • Facilitating the creation of connections between academics can result in information sharing, collaborations etc. that may not have happened before these social networks. - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015
  • Social networks, either themselves (e.g. twitter, facebook etc.) or the models they use as created inside institutional VLEs, can facilitate increased contact/ease of communication and collaboration between students, and students and lecturers/tutors, for either formal or informal purposes. This is especially useful for 'off-campus' students - james.brunton james.brunton Feb 12, 2015. I agree, but the possible merging of the public and the private needs to be looked at. There are also some ethical considerations... Should we, as academics or PR departments in our institution, move into the spaces created or used by our students for their own purposes? Or should we instead enable them to build bridges between their formal and informal learning, to create their own learning networks and spaces?- francoise.blin francoise.blin Feb 14, 2015 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015
  • And there is some evidence that students want to maintain a line between their personal social media spaces (such as Facebook) and their learning spaces, for them to be distinct and separate. There is strong opportunity, however, to use social networks and VLEs/LMSs to enhance institution/student contact in even simple ways such as notifications of dates, deadlines, reminders, etc. - NSweeney NSweeney Feb 14, 2015 - deirdre.butler deirdre.butler Feb 14, 2015 I think we can use these tools for reflection group work and assessment also, blogging journals and wikis - ckane ckane Feb 16, 2015[- Muiris.OGrady Muiris.OGrady Feb 19, 2015]
  • Maintaining a divide between personal and educational spaces I believe is an important issue but because students are used to communicating in a social space with one another they already know how to behave in this type of environment. They are already comfortable and they know the unwritten rules. In the early days lurkers were a major problem in discussion boards etc. - ckane ckane Feb 16, 2015

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

  • Social networks of any kind are extensively used by the Computer Assisted Language Learning Communities (CALL) across the world, some very successfully, others less so.- francoise.blin francoise.blin Feb 14, 2015
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