Social Networking Summary and Pedagogical uses in Tertiary Education

Communication and Collaboration

Social networking sites are not the new learning management systems. From the perspective of the theory of cooperative freedom, however, the special kind of communication and interaction afforded by social networking sites is interesting and has pedagogical potential. From this point of view, social networking should be considered as a supplement to other tools. The potential of social networking lies within transparency and the ability to create awareness among students.
The pedagogical potential lies within developing social networks in which students’ activities are visible to other students. The potential is to support transparency through a combination of personalization and socialization and through sharing personal information and tools within social networks (Dalsgaard 2006).

Personal Learning Environment (PLE) Tools

Personal tools are tools that first and foremost support the activities of the individual for example Facebook, Twitter or an ePortfolio. This means that personal tools are used by the individual for individual purposes. In that sense, they are related to a personal profile or web page within a social network, which is developed and used by the individual. For example, personal tools could support activities such as finding literature, writing texts, taking notes, keeping track of links, solving assignments, etc.

Transparency versus Privacy versus Permissions

Personal tools support transparency when they are made available to others. The personal tools become social. It is possible to use the personal tools as the starting point for social networks. Students can connect to and subscribe to the personal tools of other students. The web service is a good example of a personal tool that can be used socially. is a social bookmarking service, which enables people to collect their bookmarks on a web page. Initially the service supports individual organization and use of bookmarks. However, the bookmarks are made available for everyone on the web, which means that they are shared. Students can use similar personal tools to organize their work, collect literature, write notes, brainstorm, develop thoughts and ideas, write assignments, etc. Sharing these tools with other students through networking supports transparency and consequently awareness among students.

Transparency and Cooperative Learning

Cooperative learning and a socio-cultural approach provide a strong motive for support of transparency between students. A cornerstone in cooperative online education is that cooperation should be voluntary, but attractive and appealing. It should be offered as an appealing opportunity to those who seek cooperation. The challenge is therefore primarily to help those who are interested in cooperation to engage in a network of suitable learning partners. In addition it is necessary to stimulate the rest of the students to contribute to the learning community. This means that students should not be encouraged or tempted to withdraw from the learning community. Total seclusion is undesirable. Students should be stimulated to be visible as potential partners and resources for others. Transparent information could be a huge cooperative resource. The dilemma is that students who do not contribute to the community cannot be perceived as learning resources for others. The potential of the learning community will then be diluted. So one may argue that a successful cooperative learning community may depend on a mutual understanding that the members have a commitment to serve as a resource for the learning community. (Dalsgaard, 2009) )

Transparency as a Special Kind of Communication

From the perspective of the theory of cooperative freedom and the socio-cultural approach, an individual’s awareness of the activities of other individuals becomes a focal point of attention within learning. The objective is not community-building or collaboration but increased awareness. Supporting awareness within a cooperative learning environment will be the focus of the discussion of the pedagogical potential of social networks.
As stated above, social networking does not necessarily involve dialogue or collaboration. Instead, we will argue that transparency is a dominant feature of social networking. An interesting aspect of social networking is that the starting point is the individual or personal.

This is in opposition to discussion forums in which communication always takes place in a shared forum. In a social networking site each individual has a personal page and profile, which the individual develops and modifies. Other people can view these pages and follow activities of their ”friends.” In other words, actions within a social networking site are transparent. This creates a kind of indirect or passive form of communication and sharing. In opposition to discussion forums, people do not necessarily send messages or documents in order to communicate or share. Instead, they update their profile, add pictures or texts, etc. to their own page. The starting point for this kind of communication is students’ own work and their personal pages. The personal page is then shared in a social network.

The personal page provides opportunities for personalization; the individual can choose the look and content of the page. An important function of the personal page is that it serves as the individual’s personal representation on the web. This makes social networking sites radically different from discussion groups and other community-based tools. In a discussion forum you are represented by your posts only, whereas you are always “present” in a social network through your personal page.


The evolution of the web has taken us:
· From content centric to user centric models;
· From the web as a virtual space for storing information to the web as a platform for services;
· From program based innovation to web based innovation.

The Impacts on the user community are
· Improved user experiences through improved technology
· Increased contribution to website's relevance and performance
· Building social communities of need online
· More applications for specific purposes

The impacts on the business community are
· Trust in the user to contribute to content and performance
· Niche application development with a faster time to market
· Content is still king

Anderson, T. (2008). Networks vs. groups in higher education. Message posted to
Bang, J., & Dalsgaard, C. (2006). Rethinking e-learning: Shifting the focus to learning activities. In E. K. Sorensen & D. Murchú (Eds.), Enhancing learning through technology. Information Science Publishing.

Dalsgaard, C; (2009) Transparency in Cooperative Online Education; Aarhus University, Denmark

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