Friday, February 8, 2008

Journal #1

"Social Networking for the K-12 Set" by Jim Klein

This article discusses the social networking site created for the Saugus Unified School District. It begins with an overview of the needs for networks similar to the one they created as well as the limits of existing, public sites. The goals of the project were to create a community in which students and teachers could share information, learn and grow in an open, but safe environment. Of particular concern in the creation of the network was the desire to allow open access among community members while still maintaining accountability for content and relevance. The designers were able to do this by creating a diverse number of forums with varying degrees of access based on the users. For example, teachers have more control over content and access to areas on the network that students do not.

The network has two communities, one for teachers to post announcements, podcasts, lesson plans etc and the second a student community that allows children of all ages to share information and collaborate with other children, not only in their district but globally. The author comments on the sense of community that is fostered between teachers, parents and students. He also mentions the benefits of the user friendly interface they were able to create. The designers have effectively created a system that is user friendly and encourages people to use tools of technology that they may not have thought they were capable of using before.
The article concludes with some advice for other districts interested in creating their own social network including a list of relevant web resources.

1. What problems may the movement towards social networking create for students who have few technological resources outside the classroom?
-- If a district moves towards creating an online community it needs to take into account the resources that exist beyond the school walls. It is possible that such a move could create an education gap between students whose families embrace the new system and those who don’t or can’t. Not only must the district take into account the financial limitations in their communities; they must also account for cultural differences that may preclude a use of technological resources. I was struck by the part of the article that mentioned having students download podcasted lesson plans to personal ipods as an example of some pretty lofty financial expectations for students and families.

2. How can social networking benefit parent and teacher communications?
-- Assuming that both parents and teachers have access to the technology necessary to use an online network, the system can be a very effective way for both groups to communicate about students. If a teacher creates a public newsletter or a blog, they can present a myriad of information that may be of interest to parents without having to contact them one-on-one. Also, an online forum may allow for a more honest and open dialogue between teachers and parents as it can foster a more relaxed and casual environment than a traditional parent/teacher conference.