David Warlick questions the need for a social network. He says...
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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.
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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.

Tags: socialnetworking

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Steve, I would simply point David to this discussion. It's the purpose of this Ning. Are there limitations to the technology? Yes. Are there problems with David's approach too? Yes. I think the only thing we have established is that people need options, they need to work through those issues as best they can given all the variable being discussed here. I don't think the technologies are the primary point for this group, at least that's my opinion. I think the value is bringing people together to discuss theory and practice and the Ning allows lots of those conversations to take place quickly (and I really like Lisa's response below).
In ten years will the Ning be the technology we are using? I doubt it, but I don't know, but for now this community is providing opportunity for great discussions and sharing.

I do want to respond to the "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." point that is being espoused. I, agree, that there is a lot of blocking going on, but it's also my experience that a few practitioners can make headway into getting things unblocked when valid rationale can be supplied. I'm not justifying the practice but I am saying that there are schools in KY that now unblock Ning because of this and other communities like it. Kudos to you for providing a tool that allows educators create better social learning environments in their schools.

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