- When does the Internet help your learning? When does it distract from good learning for you?
Just last year, I completed a graduate certificate in Administration and Supervision through a program that is a collaboration between Johns Hopkins University and the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). The program was conducted almost entirely online and members of my cohort were from all over the United States. The program required participants to communicate and collaborate frequently, and through the progression of courses we developed a PLN using the course LMS and other Web 2.0 tools. This experience pushed me to investigate more online communities and resources to expand my PLNs.
I also use social networks to connect (or re-connect) and communicate with friends and family. This has been important and helpful to me since I had moved 2000 miles away from most of my family and long-term friends. I do use Facebook regularly and I also use video-conferencing tools such as Skype and Facetime to communicate with family and friends.
I also found that with the proliferation of social and professional networks and online interfaces, I have had to become selective - there are so many online communities and tools that I cannot possibly have time to keep up with all of them, much less actively participate and contribute. It can take up too much time and can distract me from other responsibilities. Another issue is that although I do find gems of information posted in some communities and it is nice to see what is new with friends and family, there are also a lot of posts that are trivial or gratuitous, annoying, or irrelevant to my needs. I subscribe to the philosophy that "just because you can, does not mean that you should."
Here are screenshots of Facebook, the JHU Electronic Learning Community, Google +, and Blogger.
For many of our students social media is an integral part of their lives and they use it on a daily basis. The downside to this and the challenge for teachers is that it is too easy for our students to get so caught up in and distracted by their virtual worlds and relationships that they neglect their other responsibilities. Students need guidance in managing their time and allocating time for both social networks and learning environments and tools. Teachers can help provide models and resources for students to build learning communities and can give students the structures and norms for effective online communication and collaboration.