Exploring the Role of Social Software in Higher Education

Exploring the Role of Social Software in Higher Education

Yoni Ryan (Australian Catholic University, Australia) and Robert Fitzgerald (University of Canberra, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-208-4.ch012
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This chapter considers the potential of social software to support learning in higher education. It outlines a current project funded by the then Australian Carrick Institute for Learning and Teaching in Higher Education, now the Australian Learning and Teaching COuncil (ALTC) (http://www.altc.edu. au/carrick/go) to explore the role of social software in supporting peer engagement and group learning. The project has established a series of pilot projects that examine ways in which social software can provide students with opportunities to engage with their peers in a discourse that explores, interrogates and provides a supplementary social ground for their in-class learning. Finding creative ways of using technology to expand and enrich the social base of learning in higher education will become increasingly important to lecturers and instructional designers alike. This project represents one small step in testing the applicability of social software to these contexts. While many of our students are already using various technologies to maintain and develop their personal networks, it remains to be seen if these offer viable uses in more scholarly settings.
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The evolution of the Web in the 1990s saw a parallel development of commercial Learning Management Systems (LMS) and, by 2001, the widespread adoption of the latter in Australian universities, in response to growing demands for flexibility or convenience for students. Yet much of the research indicates that in the main, LMS have been used more for administrative purposes (Dalsgaard, 2006; Hedberg, 2006; OECD, 2005; Reeves, Herrington & Oliver, 2004) and educators themselves most frequently use LMS as a content management system rather than exploiting the interactive potential of digital media (Boezerooy, 2003; Fiedler et al., 2007). With the official emergence of Web 2.0 in 2004 (O’Reilly, 2005), and the explosion of activity in social networking applications afforded by the technology, it is timely to consider whether the LMS, and the static learning environments they have typically modelled, should at least be complemented by (and perhaps even give way to) more interactive applications.

The original intention of Berners-Lee ‘was all about connecting people’ (Anderson, 2007). However, the Web was quickly colonised by vendors intent on using it for education purposes as a tradeable global commodity (Cunningham et al., 1998). LMS vendors promised a universal ‘Economics 101’ subject developed by the best professors in the world, and accessible - at a price - to all (Cunningham et al., 1998). Educators and the instructional designers who developed online materials were paradoxically complicit in this static model, recreating in their online materials the transmission model of pedagogy they inherited as ‘the university teaching model’ (Laurillard, 2002). Berners-Lee was not alone in his vision for a different technological future. In his book Mindstorms, Seymour Papert (1980) developed a compelling case for the potential of technology to mediate thinking in ways that reveal, enrich and expand learning. The prominent educator Paulo Freire (1985) argued that transformative education can only be achieved through a pedagogy that values learning as a process of asking questions not just receiving answers. The dominance of the administrative functions of e-learning has already been noted, with its preference for content over process most frequently achieved through one-way (vs. two-way) models of interaction. In these applications the answer seems much more important than the question. Papert (2000) argued that transformative shifts in the way we use technology will only be possible when educators have time to rethink both the why and how of its use. Given the widening gap between formal education and Internet culture, and the rise of the millennial learner, it is clear that we can no longer afford not to take time to reconceptualise technology-mediated learning. This will involve the design of a pedagogy that connects and engages learners in activities that value the question as much as the answer. Finding creative ways of using technology to expand and enrich the social base of learning in higher education will become increasingly important to academics and instructional designers alike. However, it is not clear that even the experts in higher education and e-learning can envisage such a pedagogy, with Guess (2007) assessing discussion at the Seattle Educause conference as producing ‘more questions than answers’ about capitalising on the contemporary enthusiasm for social networking in educational settings.

The project reported in this chapter represents one small step towards testing the applicability of different technologies to higher education contexts. While many of our students are already using various technologies to maintain and develop their social networks, it remains to be seen if these offer viable uses in more scholarly settings.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Facebook: A popular social networking site launched in 2004 and originally designed for university and college students.

Firefox: A Web browser developed by the Mozilla Foundation that features numerous add-ons and extensions.

Google Groups: A free groups and mailing list service from Google that includes access a searchable archive of Usenet.

MyToons: A social networking site designed for animators.

CMS: Content management system. A general description for a database-driven Web site that allows web-publishing.

GPL: General public licence. A popular license for free software.

Drupal: A popular opensource content management system that allows both individual and community web publishing whose functionality can be extended with an extensive range of add-on modules.

Web 2.0: A term coined by Tim O’Reilly to refer to the shift from static web pages to more interactive web applications controlled by the user.

MediaWiki: The opensource software that runs Wikipedia and its related projects.

YouTube: A popular video sharing Website.

MySpace: A popular social networking site launched in 2003 and owned by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp.

Complete Chapter List

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Editorial Advisory Board
Table of Contents
Jennifer Preece
Stylianos Hatzipanagos, Steven Warburton
Chapter 1
Jon Dron, Terry Anderson
Understanding the affordances, effectiveness and applicability of new media in multiple contexts is usually a slow and evolving process with many... Sample PDF
How the Crowd Can Teach
Chapter 2
Chris Abbott, William Alder
Although social networking has been enthusiastically embraced by large numbers of children and young people, their schools and colleges have been... Sample PDF
Social Networking and Schools: Early Responses and Implications for Practice
Chapter 3
Eleni Berki, Mikko Jäkälä
Information and communication technology gradually transform virtual communities to active meeting places for sharing information and for supporting... Sample PDF
Cyber-Identities and Social Life in Cyberspace
Chapter 4
Werner Beuschel
Weblogs are a popular form of Social Software, supporting personal Web authoring as well as innovative forms of social interaction via internet. The... Sample PDF
Weblogs in Higher Education
Chapter 5
Mark Bilandzic, Marcus Foth
Web services such as wikis, blogs, podcasting, file sharing and social networking are frequently referred to by the term Web 2.0. The innovation of... Sample PDF
Social Navigation and Local Folksonomies: Technical and Design Considerations for a Mobile Information System
Chapter 6
Rakesh Biswas, Carmel M. Martin, Joachim Sturmberg, Kamalika Mukherji, Edwin Wen Huo Lee, Shashikiran Umakanth
The chapter starts from the premise that illness and healthcare are predominantly social phenomena that shape the perspectives of key stakeholders... Sample PDF
Social Cognitive Ontology and User Driven Healthcare
Chapter 7
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Central to research in social psychology is the means in which communities form, attract new members, and develop over time. Research has found that... Sample PDF
Social Identities, Group Formation, and the Analysis of Online Communities
Chapter 8
Jillianne R. Code, Nicholas E. Zaparyniuk
Social and group interactions in online and virtual communities develop and evolve from expressions of human agency. The exploration of the... Sample PDF
The Emergence of Agency in Online Social Networks
Chapter 9
A. Malizia, A. De Angeli, S. Levialdi, I. Aedo Cuevas
The User Experience (UX) is a crucial factor for designing and enhancing the user satisfaction when interacting with a computational tool or with a... Sample PDF
Exploiting Collaborative Tagging Systems to Unveil the User-Experience of Web Contents: An Operative Proposal
Chapter 10
Utpal M. Dholakia, Richard Baraniuk
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The Roles of Social Networks and Communities in Open Education Programs
Chapter 11
Sebastian Fiedler, Kai Pata
This chapter discusses how the construction of an adequate design and intervention framework for distributed learning environments might be... Sample PDF
Distributed Learning Environments and Social Software: In Search for a Framework of Design
Chapter 12
Yoni Ryan, Robert Fitzgerald
This chapter considers the potential of social software to support learning in higher education. It outlines a current project funded by the then... Sample PDF
Exploring the Role of Social Software in Higher Education
Chapter 13
Kathryn Gow
This chapter focuses on the identification of a range of competencies that entry level workers, and thus graduating students, will need to acquire... Sample PDF
Identifying New Virtual Competencies for the Digital Age: Essential Tools for Entry Level Workers
Chapter 14
Jerald Hughes, Scott Robinson
This chapter examines interaction-oriented virtual religious communities online in the light of sociological theory of religious communities. The... Sample PDF
Social Structures of Online Religious Communities
Chapter 15
Helen Keegan, Bernard Lisewski
This chapter explores emergent behaviours in the use of social software across multiple online communities of practice where informal learning... Sample PDF
Living, Working, Teaching and Learning by Social Software
Chapter 16
Lucinda Kerawalla, Shailey Minocha, Gill Kirkup, Gráinne Conole
With a variety of asynchronous communication and collaboration tools and environments such as Wikis, blogs, and forums, it can be increasingly... Sample PDF
Supporting Student Blogging in Higher Education
Chapter 17
Lisa Kervin, Jessica Mantei, Anthony Herrington
This chapter examines blogging as a social networking tool to engage final year preservice teachers in reflective processes. Using a developed Web... Sample PDF
Blogs as a Social Networking Tool to Build Community
Chapter 18
Jennifer Ann Linder-VanBerschot
The objective of this chapter is to introduce a model that outlines the evolution of knowledge and sustainable innovation of community through the... Sample PDF
A Model for Knowledge and Innovation in Online Education
Chapter 19
Petros Lameras, Iraklis Paraskakis, Philipa Levy
This chapter focuses on discussing the use of social software from a social constructivist perspective. In particular, the chapter explains how... Sample PDF
Using Social Software for Teaching and Learning in Higher Education
Chapter 20
Dimitris Bibikas, Iraklis Paraskakis, Alexandros G. Psychogios, Ana C. Vasconcelos
The aim of this chapter is to investigate the potential role of social software inside business settings in integrating knowledge exploitation and... Sample PDF
The Potential of Enterprise Social Software in Integrating Exploitative and Explorative Knowledge Strategies
Chapter 21
M. C. Pettenati, M. E. Cigognini, E. M.C. Guerin, G. R. Mangione
In this chapter the authors identify the Personal Knowledge Management (PKM) pre-dispositions, skills and competences of the current effective... Sample PDF
Personal Knowledge Management Skills for Lifelong-Learners 2.0
Chapter 22
Sharon Markless, David Streatfield
This chapter questions whether the shift from the Web as a vehicle for storing and transmitting information to the new Web as a series of social... Sample PDF
Reconceptualising Information Literacy for the Web 2.0 Environment?
Chapter 23
Catherine McLoughlin, Mark J.W. Lee
Learning management systems (LMS’s) that cater for geographically dispersed learners have been widely available for a number of years, but many... Sample PDF
Pedagogical Responses to Social Software in Universities
Chapter 24
Alexandra Okada, Simon Buckingham Shum, Michelle Bachler, Eleftheria Tomadaki, Peter Scott, Alex Little, Marc Eisenstadt
The aim of this chapter is to overview the ways in which knowledge media technologies create opportunities for social learning. The Open Content... Sample PDF
Knowledge Media Tools to Foster Social Learning
Chapter 25
Luc Pauwels, Patricia Hellriegel
This chapter looks into YouTube as one of the most popular Social Software platforms, challenging the dominant discourse with its focus on community... Sample PDF
A Critical Cultural Reading of "YouTube"
Chapter 26
Ismael Peña-López
The author of this chapter proposes the concept of the Personal Research Portal (PRP) – a mesh of social software applications to manage knowledge... Sample PDF
The Personal Research Portal
Chapter 27
Andrew Ravenscroft, Musbah Sagar, Enzian Baur, Peter Oriogun
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Ambient Pedagogies, Meaningful Learning and Social Software
Chapter 28
V. Sachdev, S. Nerur, J. T.C. Teng
With the trend towards social interaction over the Internet and the mushrooming of Web sites such as MySpace, Facebook and YouTube in the social... Sample PDF
Interactivity Redefined for the Social Web
Chapter 29
Sue Thomas, Chris Joseph, Jess Laccetti, Bruce Mason, Simon Perril, Kate Pullinger
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Transliteracy as a Unifying Perspective
Chapter 30
Martin Weller, James Dalziel
This chapter looks at some of the areas of tension between the new social networking, Web 2.0 communities and the values of higher education. It... Sample PDF
Bridging the Gap Between Web 2.0 and Higher Education
Chapter 31
Steve Wheeler
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Destructive Creativity on the Social Web: Learning through Wikis in Higher Education
Chapter 32
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Presence in Social Networks
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