Here is a typical scenario in education when an instructor or administrative person decides to explore some online social networking tool. Let’s take micro-blogging for an example. You sign up for Twitter, learn to use it, and then Tweet away for a few days or even weeks. They you get busy and disappear for about the same amount of time – a couple of days or weeks (or months). Then you magically appear online again, apologizing profusely for your absence and Tweeting away… but for a shorter period of time than your first episode of activity. Then life creeps back in and you disappear again for a while. You come back to Twitter when life settles down, take a good hard look at it, and decide to give up. “No one was commenting on anything I read” or “no one seemed to respond to me or post on my wall or whatever” is your typical response, depending on the tool.
Sound familiar? I was pretty much describing my experience with several programs. The problem here is that we are applying an older educational paradigm to a new educational tool. With the old “sit and soak” educational method, your audience was still going to be there when you came back to that cool idea because, well, they had to be. You can start a cool new idea in class, then put it aside for a few weeks to get the “real” content in, and then come back to the new stuff when you get time. In the traditional educational setting, many things can be put off so that we can focus on “the basics.” Your audience – your students – will still care about their test grade even if you got to busy for a while to get it graded.
Online social networking is different. You have to look at it like building a successful television program. You have to make choices that will give people a reason to tune in… and sometimes, you may have to make a sacrifice to get that done. The sacrifice I am talking about here is not as painful as you would think. I am just talking about making some changes in mindset to get social networking happening in your educational setting.
Over the next three blog posts, I will take a look at the three C’s of online networking in education: