by Guest Author, Joel Josephson

Why Not Use Social Networks?

Educators that are not using Facebook often use the arguments that they are concerned for their:

  1. Privacy
  2. Time

Although there are other arguments used I will try to answer these two in this article.

Privacy

At the root of Social networks is the personalisation of your online character through your contributions to the networks. This can be restricted to your professional character but your personal character, your private life, can be kept separately off the network.

I would strongly recommend using your real identity on the networks. To gain the maximum benefit professionally other users need to see who and what you do, and evaluate you as a worthy, professional friend. They need to see the synergies with their own professional area. It must be remembered that these are personal networks, and limiting your exposure as a business or institution limits the personalisation of your involvement.

On Facebook I place all my contacts in to Friend lists, (I have about 30 now). These can be broadly categorized by:

  • Professional
  • Family & Friends
  • Social Game players (I own up, I play games, although this, of course is about my research in to the use of games in education … cough cough)

Using the ‘Custom’ privacy settings Facebook allows me to select which list of friends I permit to view all the various areas of information about me, including posting to my wall. So Family see/do everything. Some Professional, for example, do not see photos of my children. Game players see nothing at all.

It does take some effort to set up the groups and privacy settings but once they are done, you don’t have to think about it again. When you ‘Add a new friend’ you just assign the person to one of your lists. As an additional measure I do look at the privacy settings periodically to see if Facebook have changed anything.

Time

Social networking has saved me years of work. I will repeat that: Social networking has saved me years of work

What I gain in information and understanding, arguments and knowledge have infinitely expanded on core areas of my professional life and led me to new ideas, better, smarter ways of doing things and a group of people that I can always turn to for answers.

The web tools that I have been led to by my network have infinitely raised the quality and effectiveness of my work and the information flow takes me in directions and synergies that could only be achieved through weeks of effort.

So are SNs time consuming or wasteful? Everything can be diverting, TV, newspapers, radio, books it is all better then sitting working (sometimes).

We bring discipline to our work, or we would not be were we are, and we bring the same discipline to our use of Social Networks. We control the time we spend on them by evaluating the importance of the information or network and its value to our work. We know when we are wasting time and when we are being productive and it is exactly the same when using a social network.

Of course, when you first create a public profile on Facebook all the friends and acquaintances that you have made over the years will come knocking on the door, wanting to ‘Friend’ you. I have found that after a very short while and you have caught up, this reduces to the very occasional trickle. You can also control the flow using the privacy controls described above.

Summary:

In my opinion, the advantages of being ‘personally’ involved far outweigh any negatives. There is nothing to fear on a privacy level or time. So take the plunge, the water is warm, mainly clean and you get to swim with some of the most interesting and uplifting professionals on the planet.

Of course the aPLaNet EuropeAN project, Aplanet-project.eu, and aPLaNet Ning community, Aplanet-project.eu, will be providing answers and practical help on how to build your own personal network for your professional development. If you are an experienced user of the networks and have your own PLN then we also invite you to become an aPLaNet mentor (join the Ning).

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Joel Josephson is the initiator/partner in 17 innovative European language projects. Joel is well known for his exciting and effective approaches to motivate language learners. Joel runs the EU_Educators Facebook group, that is sharing EU projects globally. He also founded the Kindersite Project early learning website, one of the first effective sites for schools. Formerly involved in high tech at the start of the Internet, he had 2 successful start-ups and consulted to technology companies. He has brought his understanding of technology into education by initiating many interesting projects with innovative uses of ICT. His Twitter handle is @acerview54.

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What are your favorite ways to learn online? Did I miss any other great professional development opportunities?