Post NYSCATE 07 Tech Committee Meeting: Social Networking Software

When I brought up the idea of using Social Networking Software for our school, the first reaction was, “Huh?” After I described it as being related to MySpace, one committee member shot me a disdainful look and said, “Why would you want to do THAT?”

I explained that it is a tool for collaboration and interaction that our students already know and understand. Further, if we want he kids to use these tools that they are already using in a responsible and hopefully productive way, we need to demonstrate appropriate and safe use of these tools. I told them that we could set it up initially so that only our students and teachers have access to such a site through Ning or Elgg.

This allayed some concerns, but another brought up the idea that we cannot supervise what goes on in real time. I agreed that we would have to carefully monitor activities. I mentioned that my students already have the ability to message each other through one of my Moodle courses. This is monitored regularly as the teacher has full access to a transcripts and the same could be done with Ning or Elgg. Furthermore, we cannot monitor all student behaviors in the school itself and problems arise because of this. Just because there are problems from time to time, we do not prohibit movement through the halls. If there is a problem, we have to look into it and try to find the facts. Online, we have logs and transcripts that tell us exactly who said what and when they said it.

Finally, our superintendent came to my support, and the others gave reluctant assent. I have permission to investigate the use and try social networking on a limited and restricted basis.

I will probably install Elgg on our school’s webhosting account over the next few weeks. I like the fact that unlike  Ning, it will not have advertising.  After I get the feel of the environment, I’ll probably set up something with my fifth graders and those of one or two local districts for some kind of an on-line collaboration.

Here an interesting link to Wired Magazine’s website discussing the use of Elgg in education. I’m sending it to the other members of your tech committee to help answer the question, “Why would you want to do that?”

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2 comments

  1. Michael’s avatar

    Was there a presentation at NYSCATE on Elgg specifically? One of my more global takeaways from NYSCATE was on Personal Learning Environments (http://www.pointatopointb.org/2007/11/22/synthesizing-nyscate-1-personal-learning-environments/), and I came across Elgg after a bit of digging on my own. I like the fact it is hosted in-house, rather than on an external server (ala Ning). I’d be most interested in your discoveries during your testing.

    Michael

  2. Steve’s avatar

    If there was a presentation on Elgg, I didn’t see it. I ran into Elgg as I explored Moodle and the moodle website moodle.org a couple years ago. I didn’t really “get” it though–even though I actually installed it briefly.

    I am kind of puzzled though by the heavy reliance on these “free” services like Ning, Flickr, and YouTube. I am turned off by their advertising, links that lead to who-knows-what, and some of the inappropriate content that resides on these sites.

    With a server or inexpensive commecial webhosting, you can do much the same without the baggage and without giving up your intellectual property. I am also a huge fan of open-source server software.

    I will blog about my experiences as they occur, and if I find it worthwhile, I will probably go over some of the nuts and bolts on my openedweb.com moodle (http://openedweb.com redirects to the moodle). I hope to have the software installed somewhere by January if not sooner!

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