Social Networking in High School

Is the average high school student able to define social networking or give an example of it? I thought most would use Facebook as an example, but during a recent visit to a local high school, one freshman student used e-mailing his teacher in First Class as an example.  Many of his classmates were of the same opinion as he, so it opened up a much-needed conversation during which this classroom full of 20 students spoke about where they preferred to network with each other.
Their preferred places to communicate with their friends:
As for social networking in schools, the students felt that there were just too many places to have to check already (a complaint that teachers share themselves).  It was the one topic of conversation that period that everyone in the room seemed to agree on. The complaint was that in one subject area the teacher would use Moodle, the next Google Apps, the next Diigo and that ultimately they forgot to check something and missed turning in an assignment.
Image Credit: http://treatingyourself.com

When asked which network would be the preferred place to use for school, students had a tough time coming to a consensus. We posed a similar request as to which gaming system the majority of the class would prefer to use (ie X-Box, Wii, Nintendo DSi) and they could not make a decision either. We reasoned that teachers felt the same and found it difficult to find a content management system or collaboration tool that satisfied every staff member in a building which resulted in all these different tools the students had to use.

The conversation ended with a link to a Wallwisher we had set up in the hopes that those that didn’t particate in the conversation might take a stab at it this way. They didn’t really. The comments left were from the same boys (the young ladies remained very quiet during our session together) that shared their opinions during class and the tool, in this case, didn’t reveal anything that our talk hadn’t uncovered. But it did introduce the classroom teacher to an easy way to post a question or topic and have students share answers.
Yet another place to have to check for information.

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Do You Have a Handout for That?

I recently spoke at a conference where the anticipated attendance was 16,000. There were 30 laptops set up with 60 seats and then overflow seating for another 40 people. I gave 5 presentations over 2 days. I didn’t know before I got there how many people I was going to see and now that I’m home, I still don’t know. But I can tell you that at least 10 people asked me if I had a handout I could give them. There were also many attendees that commented about it. I was grateful to see this Tweet from NJ educator Brian McLaughlin.

brian

I think sometimes as educators, we are accustomed to getting everything on paper. But what really happens to it? We stick it in a folder, we throw it away, or it gets lost in a an ever-growing pile of papers collecting on our desk.

Here are some tools that I’ve been using and have seem some other educators use to share information and resources during presentations and professional development sessions:

Google Docs
Click on Share — Publish as Webpage and Google Docs will assign you a unique public URL (link) for your document. You still will be the only one that has rights to edit your Google Doc, unless you invite Collaborators, but you can use this feature to share a digital agenda, list of links, or anything that you would have printed out in the past. Here’s a sample… http://docs.google.com/View?id=ddn2z86w_3dn2hs4fj

http://www.scribd.com/
On Scribd, you can upload a Word or PDF file and they will convert it into a web document. This way your attendees have access to it on their computers. All you have to do is share the URL  with them. Here’s a sample…http://www.scribd.com/doc/17245218/Discovery-Education-Whats-New-2009

Wikis
http://www.wikispaces.com/
http://sites.google.com
http://pbworks.com/
Wikis will allow you to embed more than one type of content on them. Like I did for my presentations at the NJEA Convention, I included links to websites, embedded videos and gadgets to PollEverywhere and Slideshare. These are pieces of information you really can’t print out. Here’s a sample… http://njea-tis-09.wikispaces.com/shoestring-did-you-say-that-was-free

Glogster
Glogster advertises itself as “a creative, dynamic, and innovative digital outlet that captures learner’s excitement for online creations, keeps learners engaged in course content, and makes teaching and learning more fun.” This is great, but to summarize, it allows us to provide our attendees (whether they are students or educators) with a digital resource rather than a printed one. Here’s a sample… http://udltechtoolkit.wikispaces.com/

Wallwisher
Wallwisher defines itself as a “web page where people actually post messages.” The great part about this is that you don’t need an account with Wallwisher in order to post a note on a Wall. So you can have the folks in your session contribute ideas or links to the wall and then save the URL to refer back to. There’s no need to print out anything during the workshop and run and go make copies as they’ll always have access to the information. Here’s a sample… http://wallwisher.com/wall/techforum09

Do you have any tools you are using with your students or in professional development to eliminate unnecessary handouts and to increase productivity? Please share them!