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Thinking back to the definition I gave for social media in the initial learning survey and quiz for the start-up of OLTD 506 I believe it was very simplistic along the lines of: the interactions among people engaging in various social media. After completing the readings for this component the question of defining the difference between Social Media and Social Networks initially forces a deeper analysis of the topic.
In our introduction to the course Julia Hengstler defines Social Media as:
Basically social networks are focussed (sic) on the creation of a community
as the central aim while social media sites build a 'social' community based
on an interest, activity, item, etc.(Hengstler, 2013)
In her article Welcome to the Social Web she further explains that:
A social media site is identified by a few characteristics:
- Participants are “members”
- Members create profiles with personal/professional details
- Members build a network within the larger network of all users
- Members interact and share information with their network (Hengstler, 2013, p.1)
Wikipedia explains that:
Social media refers to the means of interactions among people in which they create,
share, and exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. (Wikipedia, 2013, Social Media)
Wikipedia then defines Social Networks as follows:
A social networking service is a platform to build social networks or social relations
among people who, for example, share interests, activities, backgrounds, or real-life
connections. Social networking sites allow users to share ideas, pictures, posts, activities,
events, and interests with people in their network. (Wikipedia, 2013, Social Networking Services)
What I initially found confusing is that social media sites are social networking sites are not necessarily mutually exclusive. For example Facebook could easily be categorized as a social networking service, but also as a location to create and/or share social media. The same applies for Twitter. Once I was able to differentiate the two ideas and understand their overlap, it was easier to tackle the readings.
My readings also reinforced what I already suspected, being the growing importance of Social Networking sites to North American life:
Recent trends indicate that 47% of American adults use a social network. A national
survey in 2009 found that 73% of online teenagers use SNS, which is an increase from 55%
three years earlier. (Wikipedia, 2013, Social Networking Service)
While it was no shock to me that almost half of American adults use a social network, the figure that we can't ignore as educators is that almost three quarters of online teens ares using SNSs and both of these numbers are trending upwards.
In my 15 years as an educator I have always tried to keep my practice current. My participation in this program is further evidence of this. In the last 5 years I have experimented with iPods/podcasts, wikis, Facebook and Twitter in my classes. I have had mixed success with their implementation, however parents and students have expressed they are pleased with my enthusiasm and fresh approach. What I find frustrating as an educator who acknowledges the importance of incorporating social media and social networking sites into the curriculum is the lack of guidance and understanding from district leadership. Questions like, "What is our school districts policy concerning Facebook?" have not been adequately answered or defined. In truth I have always approached my experimentation with SNSs guided by common sense and relative caution, and I have fortunately never run into any problems. What I find concerning however is that my knowledge and understanding of SNS is incomplete and in many ways my experiments with them in classroom are not unlike stumbling around the dark with a lit match.
As I start this course and the reading in Foundation, I hope that not only will I become more confident, but that I will be able to implement social media and social networking sites in a more educationally focused and purposeful manner.
Justin Mark currently works at Cedar Secondary School in SD68. He teaches French FSL and History 12 and he is the Modern Language and Networks Technology Department Heads. When he is not working, being a being a dad to his 3 and 5 years olds, you'll probably find him riding a bike, or trail running (when its super ugly out, or his bike is broken.)