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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Pedagogy, Assessment, and Research of Social Networks

Recently I presented with Jonathan Bartels, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  and  Joan Rhodes, Virginia Commonwealth University on the literacy practices of social networks. Below is  a summary of that presentation.

Social Networks are becoming a powerful tool to transform the classroom. Instead of learning about a discipline we can utilize the affordances of social networks to have students learn to be a discipline.

At this point, Mendeley offers a great product...just having the ability to clean up your files and save them in a sensical pattern is an invaluable tool for most researchers.

What really sets Mendeley apart from all the other options for saving and indexing your PDFs is their online presence. The desktop version of Mendeley you can download and it will clean up, organize, and index the files on your machine. When you sync your library to their servers, you can then log in to your dashboard on Mendeley.

What follows is part social network, part shared library, part remote access to your library files. You can share your collections...and grow your collections...with other researchers.

You can also search to see what others are reading about, or what they may have published. Mendeley offers a small amount of free space to host your files online...this usually is enough to host your own materials. They also offer more space for a relatively small fee.

Social Networks in the Classroom

Role Play:

Use a social network to teach argumentative writing. Part of the challenge of teaching academic discourse and writing practices is contextualize writing. Rick Beach has done some great work using social networks to support argumentative writing.

If you were exploring climate literacy you could have students play as three characters: a coal conglomerate, an environmentalist, and a chamber of commerce member. Each character could then build a page on a social network. They could critique a source that does not support their position and then add sources that support their position.

Moving beyond Discussion Boards

Social networks allow us to create online or blended classroom that capture identity in a way that simple discussion boards do not. In fact many literacy and teacher educators use social networks to create a community of practice that continues beyond one semester.

As students add profiles, videos, and status updates you build a classroom not just a Q and A Discussion.


Too often our eportfolios are becoming a tool for simply showcasing and caegorizing student work. We can use social networks like Mahara
to use portfolios to truly look at the residue of learning that comes through participating.

Researching Social Networks

  Netnography the online practice of anthropology — could be helpful to advertisers and copywriters as they seek this enhanced understanding. Netnography is faster, simpler, timelier, and much less expensive than traditional ethnography- (Kozinets, 2006)

Content Analysis Protocol- Document the frequency and types of personal, identifying, and contact information they included (e.g., identification of real name, hometown, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, interests, and identifying image). Examine the use of various technical features, such frequency of blog use (if applicable) and blog topics as well as the presence of various visual media (e.g., videos, photos, music player). Note  others’ comments on their pages, including the number of comments, topics commented on, and number of friends in their network. (Greenhowe and Robeila, 2006)

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