By Polly Peterson
How Can Social Networks Enhance Learning?
Perhaps you think professors should stay out of the social networking sphere. You have privacy concerns and you're not interested in 'friending' your teachers. The good news is you don't have to become contacts with your professors or your classmates to access a Facebook page or group. Such pages can be moderated and either open (publicly viewable by anyone) or closed (so that only invited members can view them and comment privately among their classmates).
College students have expressed interest in using Facebook for class discussions and sharing resources because of its global accessibility and ease of use. Their responses indicate a preference for social media platforms over other course management systems because most of them are already using these outlets daily. More and more students and educators are tapping into social networking to promote accessibility and visibility of resources, such as educational videos and news articles announcing the latest research discoveries.
Teachers and librarians are finding innovative ways to engage the iGeneration. Digital learning environments can strengthen feedback loops for students, and can also be an effective means of assessment. For instance, say you're developing a fictional character for your composition class; you could design a social network profile for the protagonist of your story and track your character's popularity by the number of 'likes' or 'friends.'
Social Networks for Scholars
There's a proliferation of social networks accessible from your keyboard that allow you to connect with other scholars and find extracurricular learning opportunities. Consider joining an online book club at Good Reads, creating a profile to showcase your favorite authors at Shelfari or contributing to book discussion threads on Copia.
If you're a science major, consider creating a profile at ResearchGate.net where you can interact with others who are contributing to your field. Academia.edu and Mendeley.com are other social networks for faculty and students to share research, search for prospective collaborators and download published articles. Like Facebook and LinkedIn, you can 'follow' scholars who have similar research interests and join groups for your specialization or school.
Learn more about Mendeley's social network for researchers in our interview with Jessica Mezei.