Professional Social Networks – Living Out Loud

Facebook?  Linkedin?  Twitter?  Blogs? Texting?  Email?  As a language teacher, I consider them all to be useful social networking tools although not everyone does. They can be categorised as one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many and each is useful in different circumstances and contexts.  I think most people consider primarily many-to-many platforms only to be social networking tools.

I have registered on and off for Linkedin (primarily many-to-many), but as a result of being irritated by emails suggesting I connect with this person or that, I have closed my account for good. It’s the old push-pull issue.  Sometimes pull sites add push features to keep their clientele, but for me, those push emails are irritating.  Basically, I am not looking for a job and don’t expect to change my present one.  I am not looking for promotion.  I keep motivated through study and professional development.  So I unlinked myself from linked-in.

Similar story with Facebook (primarily many-to-many). I don’t know how many times I have opened and closed my account but have finally decided to retain it, simply because that’s how I connect with my adult children on a different level to face-to-face.  It is not for professional reasons at all.

I enjoy using Twitter (many-to-many), because I am a writer at heart, but I keep my following group to ten or fewer.  If I add one I make myself to get rid of another.  There are only so many hours in a day.  However, I have wondered about asking my students to use Twitter to scaffold their foreign language writing.  Not quite there yet though.

I also enjoy blogging (mainly one-to-many), not so much to publish, but to clarify and record my thinking.  Even so, it is always gratifying when a post is acknowledged.

The technologies that I use the most would have to be email (one-to-one but sometimes one-to-many) and Skype (one-to-one or many-to-many).

I use email because that’s how most adults communicate these days, especially at work.  There is no choice.  But I have to say that for the last five years I have begun work at seven every day in order to spend the first 45 mins or so clearing my email and actioning the items.  Then I continue to clear them all day in between classes.

I often use Skype because it’s a no-cost way to talk to my children who are scattered around New Zealand and Australia, and also with friends in France.  However, I have also used it professionally.  I have organised school trips using Skype, and my EdD cohort used Skype for online meetings and catchups between face-to-face block courses.

In a school context, I have used several social networking platforms with my students but they are mainly many-to-many for safety reasons.

I began in the early 2000s with Nicenet, the Internet Classroom Assistant (ICA), which was plain, but free, and useful for teachers whose schools did not yet support online learning.  It allowed students to register with a code given by the teacher, so it was secure, in order to access instructions, assignments, resources, email individuals or the class, to take part in threaded discussions etc etc.

Then Edmodo came along (many-to-many), an education-safe, Facebook-style site really useful for online exchanges between schools, outside of closed school networks.  My students currently have online partnerships with schools in France where they communicate in French and English.  It’s interesting, however, that my colleagues and I consider the exchanges to be successful when individual students connect in the many-to-many site and then follow up and continue their language-learning relationships outside the site and one-to-one.  Most do that using texting rather than email and show me their text conversation threads on their phones.

For closed, within school networks, I set my students up using Google Drive (many-to-many and one-to-many).  The school is BYOD and all students have google accounts.  They set up private online exercise books and share them with me, the teacher, and I have set up a class page with resource and instruction folders where students can hand in work viewable by the rest of the class.  I haven’t yet moved to google classroom.

Even NCEA internal assessments are able to be handed in using sites such as google drive and classroom.  For example, my students are able to record their presentations/speeches at home and post them online for viewing by a digital audience.

Interestingly, however, I ask them to hand in their writing assessments in printed out form because it takes me about three times longer to digitally grade and provide feedback on foreign language writing then using pen and paper.  I simply don’t have the time.  Writing in English would be different.

So, professional social networks… so many issues and preferences and uses.  I often think back to the years before I entered the world of personal computing and online communication, and the years before ordinary people had mobile phones, and marvel at how we existed.   How did we ever manage?

Life was so much quieter back then.

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