Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The Definitive Word on Social Networking in Schools

danah boyd:

I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why social network sites (or networking ones) should be used in the classroom. Those tools are primarily about socializing, with media and information sharing there to prop up the socialization process (much status is gained from knowing about the cool new thing). I haven't even heard of a good reason why social network site features should be used in the classroom. What is the value of knowing who is friends with who or creating a profile when you already know all of your classmates?

This not to say that technology doesn't belong in the classroom.... But why social network sites? To the degree that they support blogging and group sharing, sure... but that's not the key point of them at all. They key features that make them unique are: profiles plus visible, articulated and surfable friends' lists. I simply don't get why these are of value in the classroom.


Kevin Prentiss said...

danah says "classroom" and you say school.

I think the distinction matters.

My personal focus is higher ed, and in higher ed "outside of classroom" still fits under "school" as Student Affairs.

In high school, there are student groups and though the links between outside-of-classroom involvement, engagement and education success are more thoroughly researched at the college level, I suspect students getting together outside of the classroom to be excited about something positive together is good for their education and thus in the interests of the school.

Social networking makes the discovery and maintenance of these interest groupings easier, and, if the school is involved, trackable.

I agree with most of danah's points about the classroom specifically.

In person is better. Let's not facebook the live experience.

Where network discovery is important and helpful, SNSs can be a great tool to network outside of the class, at the rest of the school, and when the student is ready, network around the world.

As far as "definitive word" - what happened to your feelings expressed in this post:


Isn't a tool to surface pockets of either interest or brilliance worth exploring?

Tom Hoffman said...

The key is if you buy danah's definition of social networking software, which is built around explicitly defining who your friends are. If you apply that definition, the problems of social networking in primary and secondary school is pretty clear, at least to most people who work in those schools. It undermines a whole set of social priorities for the school community. In practice, you'd end up with a school-sanctioned medium for reinforcing cliquishness, shunning, etc.

On the other hand, you can choose to not define social networking, the route Ewan chose, in which case it means everything and nothing. iirc, I also was using this definition when l3rn came around the first time, and focusing on the more general aspects of it.

Also, I tend to be more forgiving of implementations than concepts. I see no reason to spare people's feelings about their ideas, but I try to be less harsh on things people create.

Kevin Prentiss said...

I got a chuckle out of that last bit and I like the approach.

Agreed that it hinges on the definition. There's plenty of room between danah's and nothing.

danah says:

"Realize that there are interface problems and figure out how to work around them to meet your goals."

Students could use social networking for more than reinforcing cliquishness. Some do. If their idea/maturity/values are there they hack the interface. (Facebook is absolutely intended for danah's definition.)

The education opportunity is to meet some where between teaching the student and giving them the right interface.

As someone else pointed out on danah's comments - this is more important/relevant as students get older (and their network needs get more complex.)