This posting is one I send to the World Economic Forum recently and worthy of saving in my blog.
Some excellent thought provoking comments here on how the phenomenon of social networking has affected people’s lives and business pursuits. I’d like to comment on the three questions from a learning technologist point-of-view.
1. “How are social networks changing society?”
The changes that I see in the educational section of society are most encouraging and inclusive. Teachers and their students are putting social networks to good use for their teaching and learning. Changes observed include: increased communication, improved collaboration and enhanced cooperation. Teachers are now embracing and blending social networking activities into classes in schools, colleges and communities. There is a ‘shift’ in innovative thinking by teachers and a definite ‘upsurge’ of engagement for learners : in Australian vocational and educational training (VET) we thrive on and embed social networking into our personal learning networks.
2. “What are the most important implications and risks for society?”
The most important implication for society (IMHO) is the growth of ‘critical mass’ a stage of global communication that will enable and enhance humanitarian initiatives. This site and the World Economic Forum (annual meeting in DAVOS) for example is a great example of reaching out to networks and appealing to individuals to ‘care’ about world issues instantly and effectively. In educational circles the most important implications for ‘educational networking’ is the sharing of ideas, strategies and challenges – an effective approach to breaking down silos of information and encouraging a ‘change’ in attitude towards innovative teaching and learning. We’re beginning to opt for the term ‘educational networking’ to overcome some of the barriers from those who may perceive ‘social networking’ as frivolous – often leading to blocking sites because they are categorised as ‘social networking’. (Note: what a strange reason for denying access!)
I think that the biggest risk is that the ‘blockers’ will maintain their influence in our educational network environments through a skewed perception of what ‘social networking’ is really all about. WE need to OPEN their minds to the potentials of ‘educational networking’ practices, break down those barriers and seamlessly blending our online networks with our personal networks. Yes, Kaliya, I agree we need to EMPOWER. Yes, Dawn, I agree we need to CONNECT.
3. “What should individuals and institutions do to leverage the power of social networks and improve society?”
Individuals in educational circles are already benefiting from the connections they have made in networks in their communities, their states, their country and across the globe. Just look at the sheer numbers of networks that have emerged online in the last few years and the way in which their membership has grown exponentially. e.g.