I thought I would start my look at the three C’s of social networking in education by tackling the hardest one: consistency. I know I made that sound like I had a choice on which one of the three to start with. And the truth is, I did – I don’t think these three C’s go in any order. We really need to consider them all at once, and also work on them as they come up. You can look at the context first, or community first… but you need to look at all of them before jumping in.
So, consistency. You need to think of your social network as a television show. If you watch a television show that starts out on Monday nights, then goes off the air for a few weeks, and then comes back on Saturday afternoons, and then goes away for a while, and then comes back once on a Friday morning – you would give up watching it after a while. The same is true with any social networking site – be it a blog, or a podcast, or a wiki even. You need to look at your site visitors as an audience – if you aren’t consistently giving them new content to read or look at, they will check out after a while.
This gets hard for the working professional that is attempting to social network as part of their job. The modern mindset is that when the deadline is on, then that is ALL you can focus on and nothing else. Even five minutes spent off task and you will miss the deadline.
We know this isn’t true – but that is how we work sometimes. And I think we are seeing subtle changes in the younger generations – they value networking as much as the older generations do, but they are more willing so carve out a few minutes each day to do it.
So, that is what you have to commit to if you want to get some type of social network going – you have to make the time for it, even of the deadline is looming. The amount of time you commit would be in proportion to the size of your networking tool and also the expected update frequency. Micro-blogs and FaceBook take less time to update, but need to be attended to daily or every other day or else people will start to lose interest. So set aside 10 minutes a day to update those. Blogs and wikis take more time, so they probably need to be updated weekly – either at least once or maybe a few times a week. So find that 30 minutes to a couple of hours each week that you can update these. Set aside this time as almost sacred – you will do something no matter what the deadline crunch is (even if it is a short “Auuhhhh – deadline!” update).
I also need to point out that consistently also applies to your actual content – make sure that it is interesting and applicable to your target audience.Your online history students don’t want to read about your newest toothpaste adventures in your micro-blog.
Coming up next: Community
Matt is currently an Instructional Designer II at Orbis Education and a Part-Time Instructor at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley. Previously he worked as a Learning Innovation Researcher with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His work focuses on learning theory, Heutagogy, and learner agency. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.