David Warlick questions the need for a social network. He says...
Also, I’ve not had time yet to mention Steve Hargadon’s School2.0 social network. He’s using Ning, a social network builder, and there already seems to be a highly active Library20 network. I’m not sure how helpful these will be. Do we all really need a new place to go. It’s what I like about blogs, podcasts, and RSS, that the network is so organic and so boundaryless. It follows us around.

Here’s why I think a social network, like Ning, could make a big difference. Yes, the blogosphere provides a fair amount of conversation and connectivity… but:

1. You have to learn to set up a blog
2. You have to learn to use RSS feeds
3. You have to figure out a way to connect with and to others who have the same interests
4. The blogosphere becomes an echo-chamber/selective-few-voices medium because of the limits of voices that can be subscribed to–note Will Richardson saying he is tuning out most of those voices and only listening to a few. To be heard in that environment is not easy.

Even for the technically savvy, this is not an easy way to get into the dialog.

Here’s what something like Ning offers:

1. Instant connection to others
2. Low initial technical understanding to do so
3. Quick access to the dialog of the community without RSS needed
4. RSS capable, once comfortable
5. Individual blogging built in, super easy to post and experiment
6. Socially-engaging

Seems to me this is why there are 700+ people in the Library 2.0 social network that can be mobilized and communicated with in an instant–while the blogosphere provides a much less coherent group. And I think a coherent group, that is inviting and easy, is needed for educational technologists using collaborative web tools in the classroom.

Since School 2.0 seems to be too theoretical, I switched to Classroom 2.0. The network is http://classroom20.ning.com.

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You and Warlick make good points.

He's right. This is a limited utility vehicle.

You're right. The utility might be in just getting people over the threshold.

Here's where I see the stumbling block: "3. Quick access to the dialog of the community without RSS needed "

You need a community HERE to have the dialog. But the real action is OUT THERE.
Good points. So, my vision would be that this network allows new folks to get in and watch the dialog, and then to participate with a low learning threshold. Then, they can graduate to their own independent blog--if they want.

And it give those of us with more experience a chance to see what dialog takes place here--a dialog, theoretically, that is more "inclusive" than the blogosphere.

I also like the way it provides a "bucket" for things, like photos and videos. And a way to quickly find and chat with others. Should be interesting to watch.
I agree on all points, Steve. Only 2 reserves so far: I haven't found a way to change the copyright license to a creative commons one, and I haven't found a help menu.
True, the interface is very intuitive for people who know English, but if there were a help menu, then it could be translated into other languages for those who don't, as with wikispaces.com/help.
(and now I'll discover if you can use html tags in these forums, lol)
The tension between "School 2.0" and "Classroom 2.0" is intriguing.

Both terms are grounded in the belief that the old shaping technologies of school building and school room and the new communication technologies, e.g. YouTube and MySpace, can be "blended" for the improvement of learning.

That's been the faith, the animating belief behind the enthusiastic embrace of all the new technologies: radio and the classroom, cinema and the classroom, television and the classroom.

And, of course, the "visionaries" and the "early adopters"--(me included)-supported by the Hawthorne effect--demonstrate that those gains are indeed possible.

And then, as time goes by, new evidence accumulates.

And the radio is mostly turned off in the classroom, and fewer movies shown, and the television set. . .

So, here's a reasonably safe prediction:

After the Hawthorne Effect settles down, we'll learn that the old building technologies and the new communication technologies don't blend that easily.

And among the agents of the forthcoming disillusion will be the "digital natives."

Steve Eskow
This is a point that I have thought a lot about. What leads me to believe that the read/write web may be different is the degree to which 1) the students are engaged in creating content, and 2) the personal learning practices of the teachers using these tools are so dramatically changing, and 3) it is allowing the implementation of pedagogical practices that are not new, but are newly facilitated by the medium

Now, having said that, I think that the number of teachers actively using read/write web technologies in the classroom is pretty small. Thus, it seems appropriate to use one of the web's very own tools (social networking) to increase exposure to each other. :) And that, I don't think, was possible before.
The problem is the dichotomy between 2 and 3.

There are upwards of 7 million teachers in the US.

Maybe 7,000 are doing anything with Web 2.0


of the 65,000 school districts, damn near all of them are blocking access to the very tools the teachers need to transform their practice.

But you're right .. the opportunity exists for educators of all stripes to collaborate outside the walls.

Which brings us back to why are we bothering with the classroom anyway? If the students are out here (and they are) but the only way the teachers can get out here is by leaving the school ... what's that say?
Re: "of the 65,000 school districts, damn near all of them are blocking access to the very tools the teachers need to transform their practice. "

In a presentation of some Web 2.0 tools at a teachers' training institute (here in Switzerland), we had foreseen to do a recording of a part of it with Studio Odeo. But the institute's firewall (?) blocked the recording. So I piggybacked an external open wireless connection, but you can't do that in regular teaching.
Let me pursue an old analogy: perhaps you and others here will tell me if it fits.

Let's assume that the "Assembly Line" is a well-designed and efficient technology. A moving belt, a product designed to be assembled in stages as it moves along such a belt, workers assigned specific tasks to do as the prduct comes to their section of the belt. . .

Now, in this scenario, it is proposed that the efficiency of Assembly Line can be dramatically improved if we put small computers at the station of each worker, "blend" the virtues of two splendid technologies: call it Assembly Line 2.0.

Distance learning--correspondence education, radio education, tv education, computer-mediated distance learning--worked, and works now precisely because the learners and the teachers and the instruction did not have to accomdodate to the rhythms and routines of the classroom, although instruction tended to be shaped (and misshaped) by the traditions and instructional practices developed in classrooms.

Classroom instruction, and "curricula" and the teaching practices and the "standards" developed for the school building and the classroom divert and distract the new communication technologies from what they can do well.

If the history is any sort of guide to the future, the marriage of the classroom and the computer will be an uneasy one, with much tension, and perhaps eventual divorce.
Social Networks are a wonderful source of knowledge and a meeting place for like minded educators who can share resources with others. Ning communities such as this one can make all the difference to an educator who is just starting with web 2.0 technologies. It allows the novice blogger to view various blog posts of others and become comfortable in finding their online voice to share their ideas. I have definitely benefited from this social network and I have discovered interesting projects to get involved in. I know I will continue to be a member of this community for a long time.
While I have a high regard for David Warlick and the rest of the successful edubloggers, what they sometimes fail to acknowledge is that BLOGGING IS HARD WORK. Few educators have the time or interest to devote the amount of energy it takes to have a successful blog. Also, while the blogger benefits, the commenter's benefit pales in comparison. A social network provides equal standing for everyone, allowing all educators access to connect and have their issues addressed, instantly. Furthermore, unless you have a wildly successful blog, even if you write a provocative and/or worthy post, few people will comment. Though I have a blog, when I want instant valuable answers to issues, a social network is the forum I choose. Additionally, the social network often compliments my blog. I often point my readers to discussions on Classroom 2.0 to read additional thinking about the topic at hand.

Thank you Steve and all of those who contribute on Classroom 2.0.
Would much of this be moot if we all worked in places that high levels of organizational effectiveness? Where teachers/students/staff reflected with each other, shared thoughts, and strategized ways to improve student learning. Where we constantly visited each others classrooms.

Instead, I fear, we are doing this virtually. "Twittering" a question rather than asking our neighbor.

Do we turn to technology (blogging or nings) because it easy, or because the traditional means of reflection/improvement have become so hard?

I think the percentage of users is higher than you think.
Brandt, I feel that places with high levels of organizational effectiveness probably already encourage employees/members to be part of learning communities where they can expand the range of ideas and resources that they apply to solving the problems the organization focuses on. No matter how smart the people are in an organization, their knowledge is limited by what the have learned in their life, who they know and what those people have learned.

A network like this one, expands the range of knowledge that can be accessed at any time to solve a problem. I'm posted a set of links that relate to this, which I hope expand the ideas that anyone reading this has for their own use.



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