Web 2.0 – not Social Networking

I am a guest participant in a debate on the Economist web site. Here is the proposition:

Proposition: Governments and universities everywhere should complete to attract qualified students, regardless of nationality or residence. more
Social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook have now become a ubiquitous part of many students’ lives. The value of social networking has been defined, in one sense, as the collective power of community to help inform perspectives that would not be unilaterally formed – e.g. the best thinking comes from many not one. Others argue that significant time spent on social networking platforms actually distract students from their studies. So a question emerges, could the introduction of social networking tools be useful in a formal classroom setting? Additionally, is the concept of social networking a progressive, but legitimate, form of student-to-student and student-to-teacher collaboration?

My guest commentary will be posted 1/24. I am also working on a chapter of a new book on effective Internet use management in a Web 2.0 world. (Yes, a new book. The working title is Youth Risk Online: A Guide for Adults Who Work With Children and Teens. I hope this will be a helpful text for teachers and librarians, and other adults, on these issues. Research-based. No fear-mongering.)

Anyway, all of this got me to thinking about these issues. I am thinking that one of the problems is the terminology we are using. Whenever we say “social networking in schools” people will invariably think that we mean that we want students to be able to use MySpace and Facebook at school. The vast majority of us recognize that this approach will likely not fly because these sites are not educational. Note the problem that NSBA got into by not being clear about what they meant about social networking in schools. Even I criticized them for not being clear about what they were advocating.

So what I am thinking is that we may have a terminology problem – that is pretty easily fixed. The term “social networking” has all sorts of negative baggage – much of this grounded in irresponsible fear-mongering, but negative baggage none the less.

What if we switched terms and started talking about the use of Web 2.0 technologies in schools? Read the proposition above, substitute “Web 2.0” for “social networking,” and eliminate the reference to MySpace and Facebook. Wouldn’t this shift the conversation in a better direction?



4 responses to “Web 2.0 – not Social Networking

  1. Yes, Web 2.0 sounds better than Social Networking, even if it is the same thing. Social Networking is still a social, not educational or business, activity. We need to be teaching our kids that what they post WILL come back to bite them. Employers do check the various sites as part of the hiring process, and if they don’t like what they see they don’t hire the candidate.

  2. i agree in terminology problem. it is why i used the term “scholarship” and called my students “scholars.”

    as for social networking, too often it revolves around my space and facebook. toys in the web 2.0 world. the real tool in social networking
    for scholarship is the blog and the wiki. these are the tools one should concentrate on not the toys. it is a matter of education of the masses.
    don’t speak about the toys nor the fears; emphasize the tools like blogs, wikis and for goodness sake call the students “scholars.” kick it up a notch. we have to get out of the gutter. web 2.0 should be lifting us from the morass of a stagnant educational environment.

    good luck,

  3. Jan Naher-Snowden

    Changing terminology will only work if the change is made explicitly distinct for those who might be stuck in the “social networking” terminology or Myspace or Facebook mindset. Ted addresses the need for making a clear and clean distinction between the “toy” forms of networking and the “purposeful” forms (wikis and blogs, and whatever iteration is in the future that has yet to be born). Perhaps drawing an analogy with “purposeful” student groups that meet F2F in comparison with student groups that also meet F2F but that are essentially social with no real redeeming academic or socially responsible value, like cliques and gangs, etc. Perhaps adding “purposeful” with “scholarship” may help to clarify the distinction, especially for those who are not familiar with Web2.0, like parents, administrators, school boards, and other groups with diverting attention to their agenda as their reason for being.

    hope this adds something to the discussion,

  4. Nancy,

    I am in total agreement with your assessment of the terminology, perhaps “Educational Networking” would be more appropriate. Unfortunately, I think the problem lies as much with our news media, who choose to dramatize everything for the sake of ratings and readers, and our parents, politicians, and community members who are happy to share their negative opinions without having the slightest notion what they’re talking about!

    Many “immigrant” teachers who use technology have not ventured into the world of networking either, and so have no idea of the potential for learning that can happen in that medium. There are also many forms of networking, for instance Twitter and Second Life; these platforms have changed my professional life so dramatically in the last six months, that I hardly know how to convey it.

    Bottom line – it’s about perception, and understanding. Two decades ago, “networking” was the buzz word for business professionals who wanted to expand their audience or “saleability” to employers -it has only turned into a “dirty” word because people do not understand the power that a meeting of minds can produce.

    It is incumbent upon district administrators and board members to allow teachers the respect and latitude to make decisions for their students, and to train them to do so. Additionally, these decisions must be well informed and based on sound research and pedagogical principals! I have seen far to many knee-jerk reactions that are not in any way related to pedagogy and ultimately leave teachers powerless to do their best with the best tools available. No More F.U.D.s please -I’ve had my fill!

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