Social Networks | Facebook | Ning | Twitter | Benefits of social networks | Further info | Short URL for this page

(This is the transcript of the aPLaNet Video Guide #1: Using a Social Network- and of its copy in http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jOZ7E_suqQs - produced by its captioning in http://www.universalsubtitles.org/en/videos/OQfc1xX6tLOt/en/257931/ . As the slides do not add extra information, but only mark transitions, I am replacing them here by titles. - calmansi calmansi Mar 22, 2012)

Social Networks

Welcome to the video series explaining some of the basic concepts and tools of the aPlaNet project.
One of the main goals of the project is to show teachers how to keep up with that professional development through the use of social networks.
Social networking as a tool for learning is relatively new but today hundreds of thousands of educators are connected through various social networking sites and hundreds are joining everyday.
What is a social network?
It's a website which allows you to connect with other users and share information, activities, interests, news, photographs, and ideas or viewpoints.
Chances are, you already belong to one. According to Wikipedia, at the time of creating this video, 46% of the world population belonged to some social network or other.
But why should we use social networks for professional development? How do social networks respond to the way we learn and the way we hope to develop as foreign language educators?
Perhaps the answer lies in social groups theory which tells us that people learn best in social groups, beginning with the family as the first social unit or group we belong to; school later, university, teachers' associations. This is an idea that was carried forward into the digital age and expressed by George Siemens in his theory of connectivism.
All this points to networked learning as a great way to keep up with our professional development in a free and autonomous way. And this is where social networks can help you.
Language teachers, always amongst the first to embrace innovative ideas, have started using these social networks to communicate with colleagues all over the world, creating their own personal learning networks, PLNs for short, exchanging ideas and resources as well as discussing issues of interest to educators, putting connectivist theory into their daily lives.

Facebook

Let us begin with Facebook, which is perhaps the most popular social networking site amongst teachers. Many have started using it already to connect with friends and family.
It's very easy to join and use, and perhaps that's why it's so popular. Once you get started, it's very easy to share links, photographs, videos, and even documents with your friends.
You can also join Facebook groups created by other teachers, by educational institutions or any other group you share a common interest with. And of course you can create your own pages and groups for your own students or for sharing ideas with your colleagues.
On Facebook, teachers can join open as well as closed or even secret groups: something which is very popular amongst educators who use it with their students.
One suggestion we would make is that if you plan to use Facebook as a teacher for your professional development, it is a very good idea to create a separate teacher account and keep your personal account only for family and friends private and separate from your teacher account.

Ning

Nings are also very popular amongst educators especially because they are standalone networks, with a very sharp focus on a common goal within each online community. Nings are also highly user-friendly.
They are professional-looking platforms that allow sharing resources and organizing online content and events. Each Ning is separate and it can be made public or private, allowing anyone or just invited individuals access to its content.
Once you are a member you get your own personal page where you can upload documents, photographs and videos, write blog posts, organize or participate in events, take part in forum discussions and easily invite your contacts.
You can even create special interest groups within the Ning, or join existing ones created by colleagues and share ideas and content or specific interests with them.

Twitter

Last but not least: twitter, a major tool for continuous professional development. Twitter is excellent for the immediate sharing of ideas and opinions as well as links to interesting resources.
Since it's only allows you 140 characters per tweet, as status updates are called, what you write has to be brief and to the point. This is what makes it ideal for the busy professional. You can ask your colleagues a brief question and get a dozen answers within minutes.
Many users follow twitter in their browser and you can also follow it on your mobile phone but by using an application like tweetdeck, you can easily monitor different threads of discussion usually beginning with the hashtag.
You can check your direct messages and even share photographs, videos and documents with just a couple of clicks. All you have to do is find teachers to follow - something which will be an important focus of the mentoring process of the aPlaNet project.

Benefits of social networks

Through participating in one or more of these social networks, you will be able to learn when and where free online events are happening, access useful links on language teaching, find great resources for your lessons which are tweeted around the clock, follow blog posts written by teachers for teachers, connect with inspiring and passionate educators who are keen on sharing, find out about the latest web tools, make your lessons more motivating, connect your classes with students from around the world, manage your professional development in an autonomous way.
To be in charge of your and professional development is the major goal of aPlaNet, an EU-funded project whose ambition is to give you the tools and knowledge to participate in all these exciting and informative conversations, in order to become a connected teacher.
It is up to each individual teacher to decide whether to use 1, 2 or all these social networking tools, exercising choice and autonomy in their own development.

Further info

You can find more information about all three social networks in our teacher guide as well as through joining our Ning and connecting with a mentor who will help and guide you on hpw to use each too. both for your own professional development as well as a teaching tool with your own foreign language students.
Thank you very much for listening and we look forward to meeting you in the aPlaNet Ning.

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