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Social networking – contacts or content?

The rise and rise of Twitter (a micro-blogging tool) has brought into sharp focus a division or shift in the social networking or web 2.0 landscape.

If web 2.0 can be categorised as online conversation, whether that be through the written word, images, video or a mix of the three, do we join these conversations based on who they’re with or what they’re about?

Contacts or content?

The difference is most notable when comparing a service such as Facebook and something like Twitter. Facebook replicates real world friendship and contact groups, whether professional or personal. Although some people gather ‘friends’ as those they’re life depended on it, the convention seems to be that I need to know you before I allow you to be my ‘friend’.

Conversely with Twitter, the friendship aspect is taken away. I can become a ‘follower’ of someone’s Twitter feed (the list of short comments or ‘tweets’ that are made and posted online). Becoming a follower of their feed does not make me their friend. It means that what they are saying is interesting and I would like to know what they have to say. It may be that I know this person in the real world and know that they are interesting, but there is much more opportunity to take the ‘contact’ aspect out of Twitter and keep your relations based on your interest in the conversation.

NEW Geo-blogging for gappers

Digital Explorer has developed a new course specifically designed for Gap year students on overseas projects and expeditions.

The course focuses on the use of free services such as blogger, youtube (or schooltube and teachertube), flickr and google maps, but takes these further and looks at how these can be used more effectively for creating a professional record of a gap expedition or project that can then be used for a variety of purposes, as well as looking at the use of technology in remote locations.

The course is ideal if you are looking to:

  • Create a multimedia record of your Gap Year
  • Involve family, friends and sponsors in your project or expedition
  • Have an online project or expedition CV for future funders
  • Use your Gap Year as an educational opportunity and share it with pupils and teachers at your former school

The course runs for a half-day on Wednesday 28 January 2009 and costs £55 (incl VAT) and can be booked with the Royal Geographical Society.

Young Lebanon online

As part of the preparations for the HSBC Offscreen Student Expedition 2008, Jamie Buchanan-Dunlop travelled to Lebanon to investigate how to galvanise a massive online audience for the expedition to the UK in July 2008.

The Offscreen Education Programme used the Digital Explorer model on the joint expedition in February 2007, giving it a design edge inconceivable a year ago.

The next collaboration sees 8 students and 4 teachers from Lebanon, Bahrain, the UAE and Oman come to the UK in July 2008. Whilst in Beirut Injaz Lebanon and the British Council organised a Youth focus group to look at technology and web trends amongst teenagers in Beirut and beyond (download the full report – pdf 44k).

There were a couple of interesting points. The first that Facebook has complete dominance as the social networking platform amongst young people. The second was that call rates on mobiles are prohibitively high and so there is a large text and bluetooth culture. Interestingly, the dominance of Facebook made RSS an anathema and Flickr obsolete. Some still used YouTube, but again the video functionality of Facebook was a big factor.

If you would like to discuss these matters, please join the Offscreen in Lebanon Facebook group.

Why are schools so afraid of web 2.0?

Something that has been bugging me for a long time is the inability of forming any educational programme that involves social networking tools such as YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, blogging tools or most other web 2.0 tools and sites in a formal educational context.

Young people are using these outside of school and then have to “power down” as soon as they enter the school gates. This experience is well described in a Guardian article ‘In class, I have to power down’.

Who are the blockers? Who is holding back young people accessing the social web for positive means in schools?

Services such as rafi.ki replicate MySpace or Bebo type communities in a better moderated environment, thus allaying some child protection concerns. The Child Exploitation & Online Protection Centre is doing good work, especially with the Thinkuknow campaign for young people.

The real losers are going to be young people. Organisations looking to create positive educational materials and projects for pupils will be held back as the most attractive and cheapest web communications methods are banned from the classroom, leaving fashion, music, gaming and trends to dominate pupils’ online time.

Wouldn’t it be great, if teachers could create meaningful multimedia blogs about projects and educational visits in the UK and overseas and use the open source and free web technologies available to engage young people in creating a better world?

Any answers or suggestion greatfully received!

How can ‘world changing’ organisations harness the social web?

Preparing for a talk at Earthwatch, I had a look at their Myspace site. Earthwatch has 132 friends. In comparison Lily Allen is listed as having 405,900 friends on Myspace.

What can we do to help ‘world changing’ organisations such as Earthwatch harness the developments in the social web? Or is it a deeper issue of making saving the world ‘cool’ or as the teenager might say ‘sick’, ‘chung’, ‘buff’ or ‘nang’?

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