Saturday, April 26, 2008

Social Networking for Innovative Educators

When innovative educator Will Richardson speaks to audiences he often asks how many people belong to social networks (aside from dating sites*)? About 10% of hands go up depending on the audience. He follows that with how many people teach MySpace or Facebook? Usually no hands are raised. These are good questions and when I’ve been in the audience I put my hand up only half way because while I do have a MySpace account, I don’t really use it at all, so I almost feel like I’m cheating. MySpace just isn’t a place for me, even though I want it to be if for no reason other than to be more in touch with the digital natives. The reality for innovative educators though, is if we don’t quickly find value in what we are doing, we don’t pay it much attention. Although I see myself as an innovative educator, and wish I was more active in MySpace, and even taught it...I wasn't more active and don’t teach it because I wasn’t a deeply involved or experienced online social networker.

And, then came Ning…

I love Ning and think it is one of the greatest tech tools to come around. Ning ( is the only online service where you can create, customize, and share your own Social Network for FREE in seconds. Since October I have joined Classroom 2.0 and EduBloggerWorld. These are real social networks that I have become involved and connected in and after participating for several months I can confidently raise my hand that I belong to and participate in a social network. And...not only am I a participant, today, I am excited to share that I launched my own social network called The Innovative Educator. Please join my network where I hope we will focus on educating innovatively through the lens of content areas i.e. literacy, science, social studies, etc. etc. There are many reasons this is important to me. Below are five of them.

Five Reasons Innovative Educators Should Participate in Social Networks

1-Connecting to Digital Natives: Will Richardson is right. We need to be deeply knowledgeable about the power of tools such as these that our students are using without us. If we know and can talk from experience about how we use social networks responsibly and effectively we gain credibility with our students.

2-Modeling for Digital Natives: As a social network participant innovative educators can share their site and refer to how it affects their learning often with students. This enables students to know that they do have something in common with their teachers and see smart ways their teachers are using their networks.

3-Interacting with Digital Natives: One of my favorite quotes is we need to replicate in the classroom the world in which our students are living. After getting some experience innovative educators can create social networks for their students to participate in and can then actually “teach” social networks and help students make connections between what they are doing in an educational social network and how these lessons can be transferred to their personal social network interactions.

4-Developing Your Personal Learning Network: A social network is a great place to begin and develop your own personal learning network of colleagues with whom you can connect, share, and learn from anytime and anywhere.

5-Share Your Own Reason: How do you see social networking being used to enhance innovative educating? Share your ideas by commenting on this post.

Are you convinced? If so, please come on over and join my network. Membership free. Just click on The Innovative Educator Social Network. And if you have a network or have experience using social networking to educate innovatively please share by commenting on this post.

More information
* Join my social network.
* Create a Ning Network for your own class, group, project, or event
* Discover how to use Ning in Education
* Trial program details - free networks for educators (ad-free)
* Social Networks in Education - A listing of Social Networks in Education and Articles
* Embrace MySpace: Safe Uses of Social Networking Tools - An AP/Teacher's advice for using social networking with students.
*Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking,”
is a report based on three surveys: an online survey of nearly 1,300 9- to 17-year-olds, an online survey of more than 1,000 parents, and telephone interviews with 250 school districts leaders who make decisions on Internet policy. The complete NSBA report, is available on NSBA’s Web site at
*Facebook and Education - A library media specialists peak into how their district is using Facebook.


  1. Interestings that he said that dating sites didn't count. Why can't a dating site be a social networking site? I am a former educator myself who created a social networking and dating site all in one if your will that is called It has elements from the dating and social networking generas if you will. It is a place where gay and bisexual men can meet, make connecitons, network, date, etc. I think If we talk about social networking, we must include dating.

  2. I agree with you 100%. Dating sites are popular and effective social networks, but the answer we are trying to get at was social networks more closely aligned to ones that could be used and modeled with and for digital native students. While I'm sure a case can be made for doing so with a dating site, I think other social networking sites may be used more comfortably as educational models.

  3. Did I say no dating sites? ;0)

    Thanks for the thoughts, Lisa.