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Social Networks and Education

Many articles have been written about social networks and education and how teachers can leverage websites such as Facebook and MySpace to help educate their students. We’ve seen some good examples of using these sites to support classroom teaching and believe there can be some crossover. However, the reason students are using these sites isn’t to learn – it’s to network with their peers, and that’s what they’ll do.

This doesn’t mean that social networking doesn’t have its place in education. We actually believe that using the core concepts of interactivity and user-generated content can produce a highly educational environment. Students and teachers agree that some of the best learning happens when students have the ability to practice the skills they’re learning with their peers, which is exactly what can happen in a social network.

To make a social network educational, it should start out with that goal in mind. The early adopters will quickly start building a culture of their own and set the pace, but they need the correct foundation to build from. And the beauty of a social network is that a site doesn’t need fancy features to accomplish its goal – it simply needs the right people contributing content.

There should be social networks for every educational topic imaginable. Students of English, math, science, history, economics, psychology and computers would benefit from an online environment where they can learn, practice what they’re learning, and meet other like-minded individuals. The markets will vary in size, but where there’s passion for learning, there’s a website waiting to be built.

If you’re considering building your own educational social network, check out Ning. Lots of interesting sites are popping up, as shown by Steve Hargadon in his blog about education and social networking.

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