Pedagogy, Assessment, and Research of Social Networks

Recently I presented with Jonathan Bartels, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill  and  Joan Rhodes, Virginia Commonwealth University on the literacy practices of social networks. Below is  a summary of that presentation.

Social Networks are becoming a powerful tool to transform the classroom. Instead of learning about a discipline we can utilize the affordances of social networks to have students learn to be a discipline.

At this point, Mendeley offers a great product…just having the ability
to clean up your files and save them in a sensical pattern is an
invaluable tool for most researchers.

What really sets Mendeley apart from
all the other options for saving and indexing your PDFs is their online
presence. The desktop version of Mendeley you can download and it will
clean up, organize, and index the files on your machine. When you sync
your library to their servers, you can then log in to your dashboard on

What follows is part social network, part shared library, part
remote access to your library files. You can share your
collections…and grow your collections…with other researchers.

can also search to see what others are reading about, or what they may
have published. Mendeley offers a small amount of free space to host
your files online…this usually is enough to host your own materials.
They also offer more space for a relatively small fee.

Social Networks in the Classroom

Role Play:

a social network to teach argumentative writing. Part of the challenge
of teaching academic discourse and writing practices is contextualize
writing. Rick Beach has done some great work using social networks to support argumentative writing.

you were exploring climate literacy you could have students play as
three characters: a coal conglomerate, an environmentalist, and a
chamber of commerce member. Each character could then build a page on a
social network. They could critique a source that does not support their
position and then add sources that support their position.

Moving beyond Discussion Boards

networks allow us to create online or blended classroom that capture
identity in a way that simple discussion boards do not. In fact many
literacy and teacher educators use social networks to create a community
of practice that continues beyond one semester.

As students add profiles, videos, and status updates you build a classroom not just a Q and A Discussion.


often our eportfolios are becoming a tool for simply showcasing and
caegorizing student work. We can use social networks like Mahara

to use portfolios to truly look at the residue of learning that comes through participating.

Researching Social Networks

  Netnography the online practice
of anthropology — could be helpful to advertisers and copywriters as they
seek this enhanced understanding. Netnography is faster, simpler, timelier,
and much less expensive than traditional ethnography
(Kozinets, 2006)

Content Analysis Protocol Document
the frequency and types of personal, identifying, and contact
information they included (e.g., identification of real name, hometown,
gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, interests, and identifying
image). Examine the use of various technical features, such frequency of
blog use (if applicable) and blog topics as well as the presence of
various visual media (e.g., videos, photos, music player). Note  others’
comments on their pages, including the number of comments, topics
commented on, and number of friends in their network. (Greenhowe and Robeila, 2006)

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