Social Networking as LMS: Problems and OpportunitiesAugust 18, 2007
I do want to clarify what my Facebook as LMS? post was and was not. I think Stephen’s summary made it sound like I’ve come to conclusions, and I haven’t. This was a post where I saw an interesting idea and used my blog to “think out loud” about it. Besides, I know that realistically our organization is not going to stop using a traditional LMS, so this is a thought exercise for me.
The point, for me, is to imagine what it would be like if you could use Facebook. I wanted to think about what the possible advantages might be, then see if there’s any of those advantages that we might be able to integrate into how we set up courses in a traditional LMS. I do think it’s a valid concept that the technology we use in our courses affects the structure of the learning, in good ways and in bad. Blackboard affects structure in one way, Facebook in another. Maybe we can look at the advantages for learning and come up with a way to take some elements from the best of both, or at least “mitigate the disadvantages,” as Stephen put it recently.
Lest anyone think that I’m jumping on an imagined bandwagon for Facebook all willy-nilly without thought to the disadvantages, I’ll list some of them here. (Not a complete list, but some problems.)
- Privacy: I touched on this briefly in my previous post about making public mistakes, but there’s more to the privacy concerns than just that. How would something like Facebook work with FERPA or other guidelines?
- Intellectual Property: It appears that the TOS for Facebook mean that everything you post on their site gives Facebook a license to use it.
- Student Desire: Both Sarah Robbins and George Siemens have pointed out in comments that maybe students don’t even want to have this blending of personal and school life.
- Managing Learning: Stephen asked, “But are you going to manage learning in such an environment?” At the moment, my answer is, “I haven’t got a clue.”
What would the potential advantages be of using a social networking space (not necessarily Facebook)? I see several possibilities:
In my previous post, I didn’t really separate community and collaboration; I used them interchangeably. As I’m refining my ideas here, I wonder if I should draw a distinction. Community seems to be the connections and dialog between learners. The dialog doesn’t necessarily have to be direct; it could be parallel dialog in blogs or a similar format. A community means you have somewhere to reach out for help, even if you aren’t going for the same goals. Community also implies some sense of shared identity as a group, even if it’s a pretty loose identity. When I think of collaboration, I’m thinking more of a group moving towards the same goal and working together to achieve it. Collaboration implies more consensus to me than community does. Stephen criticized me for emphasizing collaboration too much and not looking for something “more subtle,” and I think that’s a legitimate critique of my previous post. Maybe this is moving in the right direction though.
Context is the idea that having learning out in the “real world” is more valuable than restricting learning to the “privileged spaces” of school. Creating lifelong learners is one of my goals, and helping people learn to use tools that they can take with them after the end of the class and continue learning is part of that. This kind of context doesn’t have to be with something like Facebook though; many tools fall into this category. One of the outcomes for a course I developed is “Integrate the use of social bookmarking and networking sites into daily practice.” The idea of integrating these tools into daily practice so learners would continue to use them was a big part of what we wanted to do; we didn’t want people to simply stop applying this skills at the end of the course.
In a traditional LMS, the power structure between the teacher and student generally has a pretty clear hierarchy. The provided content and the teacher are the givers of knowledge, and the value of students’ experience and contributions is de-emphasized. In a social space, I think that hierarchy could change to focus more on the contributions of individual learners. You might be able to create an environment where it isn’t so much about the “official teacher” but about everyone helping each other learn.
Can we create these advantages within a traditional LMS? I think that at least to some extent we should be able to—I’m going to try at least. What do you think? Have I missed any big advantages or opportunities that I should be striving for? Is my list here even headed in the right direction?