Saturday, March 24, 2007

The Value of a Social Network?

David Warlick questions the need for a social network for those using the tools of Web 2.0 in the classroom. He says...

Also, I’ve not had time yet to mention Steve Hargadon’s School2.0 social network. He’s using Ning, a social network builder, and there already seems to be a highly active Library20 network. I’m not sure how helpful these will be. Do we all really need a new place to go. It’s what I like about blogs, podcasts, and RSS, that the network is so organic and so boundaryless. It follows us around.

Here’s why I think a social network, like Ning, could make a big difference. Yes, the blogosphere provides a fair amount of conversation and connectivity… but it isn't super-inviting to the beginner:

1. You have to learn to set up a blog
2. You have to learn to use RSS feeds
3. You have to figure out a way to connect with and to others who have the same interests
4. The blogosphere becomes an echo-chamber/selective-few-voices medium because of the limits of voices that can be subscribed to–note Will Richardson saying he is tuning out most of those voices and only listening to a few. To be heard in that environment is not easy.

Even for the technically savvy, this is not an easy way to get into the dialog.

Here’s what something like Ning offers:

1. Instant connection to others
2. Low initial technical understanding to do so
3. Quick access to the dialog of the community without RSS needed
4. RSS capable, once comfortable
5. Individual blogging built in, super easy to post and experiment
6. Socially-engaging

Seems to me this is why there are 700+ people in the Library 2.0 social network that can be mobilized and communicated with in an instant–while the blogosphere provides a much less coherent group. And I think a coherent group, that is inviting and easy, is needed for educational technologists using collaborative web tools in the classroom.

Since School 2.0 seems to be too theoretical, I switched to Classroom 2.0. The network is