Just heard a great presentation by Jane Hart, posing the question of how, not if, but how we use social networking in our classrooms as a learning tool. I know this will turn a few hairs grey back in my staffroom, so I had better tread warily.
Much of Jane’s presentation made a case for Twitter as the killer classroom app, and I know that many teachers just don’t get what anything involving hashtags and 140 characters or less could possibly contribute. There are many ideas out there, and Jane certainly made a compelling case, so I don’t want to rehearse a catalogue of ideas. What struck me most forcibly during the talk, was how deeply things have changed in the last ten years, and how altered the terrain is. All learning is social. We are social animals and we learn from each other all the time. The Socratic method, perhaps the earliest pedagogical method we have, is based on question and answer, and essentially that is what social learning is all about. What ICTs add to the equation is the speed and extent to which one can broadcast a question, how many people it can reach, and how quickly it can be answered.
Now, so much of social networking is just plain frivolous, the endless likes, and status updates, but used intelligently it is a powerful tool precisely because of the extent and reach it can attain. Networks are exponential. You may have 100 followers on your twitter feed, but if they each have a 100, pretty soon your question can have reached an unthinkable number of people. Thinking about it this way allows one to see that if used properly, it can become a powerful tool for enquiry in the classroom.