Is your use of social networking focused on learning or measuring? Recently I wrote an article called "Academic Social Networking: Big Brother or Community of Learners?" I've attached that article to this discussion as a way to start this discussion.
At schools in Toronto, Canada, where I live, "social" networks are being adopted that are really administrative systems for posting and rolling up academic results using the Internet as a broadband pipe. But I see "social networking" in a far different light. I see it as a vehicle for research, discussion, collaboration and learning.
For example, today's headlines on the ecological disaster in the Gulf of Mexico represents a learning opportunity of enormous importance to young people. The economics of oil is one subject. The science and engineering of deep water drilling is another. The ecology of the Gulf a third. Energy alternatives is a fourth. Carbon footprint is a fifth. The geopolitical implications of oil is a sixth. Risk analysis is a seventh. The list goes on. How can students utilize the tools of the Internet and social networking to engage in these topics? How can teachers direct the community of student learners as they blog, present multimedia, comment, message and share with each other.
When I was a student I never quite fit in with the regular classroom learning process. I was always turning over rocks, conducting experiments, challenging teachers on facts expressed from lesson plans. I was a "pain in the ass" to many. I see in social networking the unleashing of the kind of curiosity I had channeled through the power of the medium. The world of the Internet and mass media is the world of these young people, the first generation of purely digital natives. What tools they use, and how they learn is far different than the way I went about it when I was a student.
So let's engage in a discussion on how to use social networking as a learning environment for students, parents and teachers.