E-learning with web 2.0


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- ► category - Social networking services (also known as social networking sites, both abbreviated as SNSs) are classic web 2.0 tools which foster interaction and sharing. All major social networking platforms have app versions for mobile devices, allowing them to be used in connection with geolocation software on smart devices. In 2013, Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, the largest and best-known social networking service, stated that Facebook has become a mobile company, with more users accessing it through apps on mobile devices than through a web browser on a laptop or desktop computer. This reflects the increasing migration of web 2.0 services into the mobile space (see Going Mobile below).

- ► what - Social networking services provide platforms where users can typically:

  • set up a personal profile page where they can post status updates in the form of text, images, audio and/or video files
  • keep up with their friends' and contacts' status updates through a newsfeed
  • communicate with their friends and contacts through a variety of interactive channels
  • assemble and display their interests in the form of links to pages or groups
  • set up their own public or private pages or groups
  • use third-party applications, such as gaming apps

In 2011-2012, Facebook, shifted to a Timeline model, where users' full histories are displayed as a kind of narrative of their lives. The most popular educational social networking service, Edmodo, shares many of Facebook's features, as well as its appearance, but does not work with the Timeline model.

For an overview of the recent, dramatic growth of social media, especially social networking services, see the YouTube video Social Media Revolution (on the right below). Although presented from a business perspective, it gives viewers a sense of the scale and impact of social media. For an overview of the size of the major social media services, including social networking services, see the Social Media 2014 inforgraphic.

- ► why - Social networking services represent a fundamental shift away from the content-oriented web (where webpages were usually about topics) to the person-oriented web (where webpages are about people). They are thus the model for PLNs, PLEs and e-portfolios.

Individuals' profile pages on social networking services like Facebook can be used as spaces to display examples of work; to present links to work on other sites; to gather personal connections; and to include links to social or educational networks. The interactive channels on these pages can be a way for students to collaborate with each other on group projects outside of class time. In some ways, then, profile pages can function as mini-PLEs.

Pages or groups on social networking services like Facebook can be used to facilitate communication about group activities and projects; to gather and display drafts and final versions of project work; to maintain ongoing social, educational and/or professional contacts; and to build networks. In some ways, pages or groups can also function like mini-VLEs. It's interesting to note that there are already numerous educational and professional groups which 'meet' on Facebook.

- ► how - For a light-hearted and clear explanation of social networking, try Lee Lefever's video Social Networking in Plain English. For guidelines on how to use Facebook in education, see The Edublogger's The Why and How of Using Facebook for Educators, the site Facebook for Educators, or the beta site Education Social.

- ► where -
While Facebook, with some 1.3 billion users, is the leading social networking service everywhere it is accessible, alternative social networking services include Bebo, Friendster and MySpace , along with the Korean Cyworld (싸이월드), the Japanese Mixi (ミクシィ) and the Russian VK (ВКонтакте), though all have lost ground to Facebook. Note that Google's Orkut was discontinued in 2014. A newer contender is Google+, released in 2011. Despite widely praised features - some of which appear to have prompted changes to Facebook - it has yet to make significant inroads into Facebook's market share. China has a number of increasingly large social networking services, including Renren (人人网), which bears some similarities to Facebook, and Qzone (QQ空间).

Some educators prefer not to use established social networking sites, but to create their own spaces on other services, some of which are effectively hybrids of VLEs and social networking services. The most popular of these is the dedicated educational service Edmodo, which is similar in appearance and has many similar functions to Facebook, while Schoology is also widely used.

Ning was also very popular with educators until the discontinuation of its free educational service in August 2010. For more information on Ning, see Educause's 7 Things You Should Know about Ning or, for a tutorial plus links to good examples of educational Ning sites, see Nik Peachey's Create Your Own Social Network in 7 Steps.

Other formerly popular alternatives which have now ceased operation or changed focus include Grouply and Grou.ps.

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What About Me data visualisation of the content of Mark Pegrum's Facebook Timeline (August, 2013)
Services such as Fakebook, The Wall Machine and the Google Docs template Historical Facebook Lesson help users to create fake Facebook profiles. Teachers might ask students to create fake profiles for fictional or historical characters as a way of encouraging them to think about digital identity management and digital safety.

There are a number of social networking sites designed specifically for children. For a guide to these, see Common Sense Media's Social Networking for Kids (2011).

There is also an increasingly well-known professional (social) networking service called LinkedIn, which is used to build networks of professional contacts. See the map of Mark Pegrum's LinkedIn network at the end of this screen.

- ► going mobile - Common social networking services, including Facebook, Google+, MySpace and Renren (人人网), are available in mobile app versions. Many social networking services are now more heavily used on mobile devices than laptop or desktop computers, allowing users to exploit geolocation technology to link updates, photos, reviews and so on to real-world locations. See the geosocial networking page of the E-language wiki for more information.

- ► examples - Social networking services typically require users to sign up as members before they can enter, so it's rare to find publicly accessible examples of educational social networking pages or sites. However, there are some Ning-based examples on Nik Peachey's site (see under where above), and there are screen captures of Edmodo, Facebook, Grou.ps and Ning-based examples on the Student projects page of this wiki.

- ► variations - Variations on social networking services include microblogging services. 43 Things, a social networking (or even social sharing) site with a difference, focuses on the sharing and comparing of life goals. There are a number of services, including FriendFeed, Hi, I'm and Spokeo, which allow you to pull together your various online profiles and/or those of your friends and acquaintances.

- ► dangers - There are some safety and privacy issues with social networking services (though arguably the dangers are greater in other internet channels like IM). It's important to put in place a well-considered educational strategy which offers young people guidance on the possible risks. Links to useful resources can be found on the digital safety page. Other, related issues include 'collapsed contexts' (discussed by danah boyd), continuous partial attention (discussed by Linda Stone), and the self-marketing in which users are encouraged to engage on web 2.0 services in general but social networking services in particular (discussed by Alice Marwick).

- ► more - For academic and journalistic references about social networking, see the E-learning references page. You'll also find current information in the E-learning tag cloud

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Visualisation of Mark Pegrum's LinkedIn Network, with Colour-Coded Subnetworks (August 2013)



Credits: The image at the top left shows the logo from the homepage of the Edmodo service. The Facebook data visualisation was created with Intel's What About Me?. The LinkedIn data visualisation was created with LinkedIn Maps.

Contact: There's no such thing as a finished wiki. Like all wikis, this one is a work in progress and there will be changes from time to time in organisation, content and links. However, don't let that stop you from contacting me at any time with comments, suggestions or questions.