Contiguous islands of social networking

Here I am joining yet another community of web 2.0 proponents. It's like leaving those "loosely connected pieces" or a "subject scent trail" through the web. But enough gripes about the lack of integration.

I do considerable work here at the university and within the secondary school system advocating for the use of social software in the teaching and learning process. Of late I've been pushing the use of Elgg - a.k.a Eduspaces - and have developed a variety of Elgg based social software sites as class sites, cohort sites, and communities of practice.

It is an uphill battle in many cases - demonstrating and discussing the opportunities; responding to criticisms and confusion; dealing with continued comments on secuirty, confidentiallity, and the worst two bugbears of all - 1. "I (as a teacher) have no control over web access for my students" and 2. : "I (as a teacher) don't want/trust my students to use social software tools safely and effectively."

The first "bugbear" question can be dealt with by changing administrative policies and pulling educational technology control out of the hands of IT personnel. Safety and security will always be issues of concern, but we need to look beyond the obstacles to freely explore the potential of web 2.0.

The second "bugbear" question is more complicated because it is bound up in fear and power. Teachers and administrators do not trust their students and rather than work towards dealing with that fear, they would rather use the power to seclude and exclude the students. This is the wrong approach and is doomed to failure (kids will use social software out of school) and catstrophe ( teachers and schooling will lose credibility with the students, education and the future of learning will suffer.

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