What are Social Networks?

Today’s web users are prolific creators of content, and they upload photographs, audio, and video to cloud-based social networks, such as Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, YouTube, Flickr, and many others by the billions. While the initial emphasis of social networks was placed on producing and uploading media to these popular sharing sites, as the notion of social media has evolved it has ultimately become more about the conversations started and relationships formed via this media. When users log in to Facebook and Twitter, two of the sites that have the most subscribers and daily traffic, they are there to see what their family, friends, and favorite brands and organizations are doing and who is talking about what. For educational institutions, social media enables two-way dialogues between students, prospective students, educators, and the institution that are less formal than with other media. New tools, such as Facebook’s social search engine, promise to mine these interactions using a concept known as the social graph. A person’s social graph represents the sum of all of a person’s online social connections (who he or she is friends with, who likes the things she or her friends are interested in, who among those connections is where, etc.) and provides a means to search and navigate those connections. Social graphs can be visualized in a variety of interesting ways, but far more interesting is the information embedded within the social graph and what it can tell us.

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(1) How might this technology be relevant to the educational sector you know best?

  • Using social networks that are popular with students makes it more likely that they will participate in informal discussion with peers. Social network spaces can be used to replace threaded discussion forums in institutional LMSs (such as Blackboard). - kelli.mcgraw kelli.mcgraw Feb 3, 2015
  • Social networks can allow real-time communication for a whole host of purposes - school marketing and promotion, advice in emergencies, back-channel communication for quieter students, documentation of student and teacher learning.- cpaterso cpaterso Feb 6, 2015
  • Social networks can become essential components of a students' professional learning network if used to encourage learning and sharing ideas...maximising networked opportunities that cannot be reached in other ways - annieagnew annieagnew Mar 1, 2015
  • As a means for communicating with students in places they are comfortable and as platforms for learning social media continues to be important in education. - ktairi ktairi Mar 1, 2015

(2) What themes are missing from the above description that you think are important?

  • - helen.carter helen.carter Feb 24, 2015This starts to look like Learning Analytics
  • Although the use of social networks has the potential to enable two-way dialogues between students, staff, the institution etc., this requires careful management and strategic planning to be successful. Social media is also at times used by institutions and teachers to broadcast news and invite responses, but if authentic social elements are missing then students are less likely to participate in dialogue with such accounts/groups. - kelli.mcgraw kelli.mcgraw Feb 3, 2015
  • While the tide is changing, just the mention of social networking can strike terror into administrators who are responsible for designing policies. Students are losing the ability to communicate face to face, attention to detail is fading, and social media can be a major distraction to student learning. - cpaterso cpaterso Feb 6, 2015
  • The divide between the personal and student can be tricky to navigate. It is dependant on students/staff having a understanding of the affordances of operating in these spaces and digital literacy skills to be confident in these spaces.
    How students define themselves as learners and the identity they construct requires some skill. - ktairi ktairi Mar 1, 2015

(3) What do you see as the potential impact of this technology on teaching, learning, or creative inquiry?

  • The use of social networking has the potential to connect learning and inquiry to broader digital identities and communities used by students and teachers. Use of social media also makes it easier for learners to access and draw on multiple forms of media for research and to represent their learning. - kelli.mcgraw kelli.mcgraw Feb 3, 2015
  • Social networking helps us to absorb massive amounts of information more easily (compared to 20 years ago). It also raises awareness of important issues and increases advocacy.- cpaterso cpaterso Feb 6, 2015
  • In tertiary sectors, social networking can cross over the barriers frequently experienced by students who have limited access or time to connect with other students - enabling asynchronous collaboration, shared ideas and professional networking - annieagnew annieagnew Mar 1, 2015
  • Students are often more at ease in these spaces than institutional learning management systems - ktairi ktairi Mar 1, 2015

(4) Do you have or know of a project working in this area?

  • Many Facebook groups for individual units/courses at university are set up as private/closed spaces, so examples are not easily shared. However these are the spaces where students seem to feel safer and more willing to participate in dialogue with others. In 2014 I successfully used (closed) Facebook groups with my English Curriculum Studies classes in semesters 1 & 2, and a (closed) Google Community of Google Plus with my 'Youth, popular culture and texts' class in Semester 2. - kelli.mcgraw kelli.mcgraw Feb 3, 2015
  • A Twitter account for the Masters in Education (Leadership and Management) at QUT was established in 2014 (
    https://twitter.com/QUT_LMEd) and this will be used again throughout 2015. The Twitter profile links back to a course blog. FYI here is a post in which lecturer Dr Jill Willis addresses student concerns about using Twitter:
    - kelli.mcgraw kelli.mcgraw Feb 3, 2015
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