Guy Merchants’ article Unravelling the social network: theory and research argues that networks can create a sense of belonging. The social network is a way of ‘conceptualising social grouping and interaction’. Wellman (2002) suggests that social networks in traditional societies are ‘characterized by a predominance of face-to-face encounters contained within relatively small geographical areas’. Though technology can make new connections possible, it can also be seen as a way of enhancing pre-existing relationships (Vincent 2000; Gillen and Hall 2010). With many social networking sites available- Facebook, Bebo, MySpace, and Twitter, educators are starting to wonder about using these networks as a different way to learn. Merchant (2010) identified a number of areas which were characterised as learning about SNSs, learning from SNSs and learning with SNSs. Educators are using social networking to engage students to learn in a new and exciting way. One example is how Walker (2010) used Twitter with his class of 6 year olds to show the value of online social networking in evaluating and reflecting on learning. Using social network in a classroom can create meaningful discussions and help students exchange ideas with each other. It can have benefits by creating better communication between students and teachers, homework or class notes can be uploaded and messages or events can be announced. Though using social networking will always cause worries. Children might become the subject of cyber bullying or they might lose the interpersonal skills they need for the future. But if it is monitored and used correctly then it will always have its benefits. Many schools are using VLE as a way of creating a social network in a safe and secure environment that can be monitored easily by their educators. Since primary school children are to young to have a Facebook account, creating a classroom on a VLE is a great way for them to communicate with each other in a safe way. It also gives them a better start to learning how to behave and stay safe on a VLE before they are old enough to start using social networking sites.
Here are some useful websites on using social media in the classroom: