SNS Ethnography: Classroom 2.0
Numerous social networking sites have appeared since the Internet evolved from Web 1.0 to Web 2.0. A quick search will turn up sites that appeal to a wide variety of interests. I am a member of two social networking sites, MySpace and Classroom 2.0 (CR20). Although, for entertainment, I enjoy hanging out on MySpace with friends and family, I chose CR20 for an ethnographic study because its focus on education, web tools, and all pertinent factors is important to me and my professional growth as a teacher. CR20 was created and is maintained by Steve Hargadon, and is supported by educators all over the world. The onus is on educators to get discussions up and running. Subjects represented on CR20 are:
- Biliteracy-Bilingual Education
- English as a Foreign Language
- English as a Second Language
- Foreign Languages
- Physical Education
- Social Studies
Membership is free. Personalized web pages to which pictures, blogs, video, and music may be added are included as well as a message wall. Members also have the option of setting up a Ning for classes, projects, groups, or events. One of more of the many threaded discussions can be joined or initiated at any time. The same is true for groups. Hosts to CR20 are located on the main page, a very nice touch for directing traffic and alleviating confusion. Members may also invite friends to join. I have added a couple of friends whom I have met in person and others that I have met online to my friends’ list. Recently, I invited six more colleagues.
CR20 participates in the Ning ID authentication system (easily identified with a special symbol) which allows people to use the same email address and password to access any other social network that takes part in the Ning ID system. Ning IDs can include basic information and a picture, which is transferred to other participating social networking sites.
Based on my observations, I have reached the conclusion that relationships on CR20 range from basically professional to friendship building. Some of the discussions that I followed involved people who seemed to have a kinship, even if, for example, one lives in Australia and the other in the United States. Every post has a date and time stamp as well as the name of who said what and hot links on their names to respond to them so communication can be synchronous or asynchronous. On the main page one can easily see who has been talking to whom about what and when. After viewing these threaded discussions for some time, I started to recognize names and figure out some of their individual interests. I sort of had the feeling that I was observing my neighbors.
The list of new and ongoing discussions is long and extensive. While many members seem to be well practiced in the use of Web 2.0 tools, others have little experience with their use – a factor that accounts for fact that tools form the topic of a large number of discussions. Some people need help or want to use tools to collaborate with other teachers. There are other topics as well such as that of a discussion in which I am currently involved about what everyone’s opinion is on the idea that Spanish language instruction is sometimes the only language offered for students to learn in middle and high school. As a foreign language teacher, this is interesting to me because as the only foreign language – Spanish – teacher in our school, I have some input. Another discussion that I am taking part in involves the differences between Portuguese spoken in Brazil and that in Portugal as well as its commonalities to Spanish.
Groups of diverse sizes and varieties are found on CR20. Three groups that I belong to are AP 2.0, Green Schools, and iPod Educators. Some groups are more active than others; some have as few as four members and others have over 300. Like other features of the site, it is up to members to keep their groups alive and flourishing. While perusing the groups, I noticed that membership often leads to collaboration with others in other groups, all resulting in the creation of one big workplace. Also, I noted that participants are very supportive of one another and willing to offer advice, help, or opinions. In a couple of instances, opinions were offered that were contrary to the main stream of conversation, but the discussion turned a different direction and widened to include previously unstated ideas.
In addition, members may congregate and work on the resources wiki for CR20. Here, notices of important upcoming events can be posted, changed, and updated as needed. It serves as a multipurpose adjustable bulletin board.
After emailing Mr. Hargadon with questions about rules on CR20, I initiated a discussion with his urging. Specifically, my question was: Are there any kinds of implicit rules or mores that one learns as he or she becomes fully immersed in the Classroom 2.0 community? He suggested that I post the question to the forum because his experience as the founder of the site would be different from the others. He also indicated that there weren’t actually any rules except for those regarding commercial organizations and, to date, no reasons had arisen to establish any. His first response to my inquiry was to ask whether I had encountered a problem. I had not, but his swift response and apparent concern was evidence to me that someone was available to field troublesome issues in the event that any arose.
The only type of advertising that is allowed on CR20 must be related to common discussions. Any type of service that violates that rule will be banned. Paid ads are not accepted, but sponsorships for selected activities are welcome. To report a suspected violation, members submit links to problematic material to a designated link. The offender is given one warning. If the warning goes unheeded, the account is deleted. Businesses that sell products made for uses related to common discussions on CR20 are permitted to chat about their wares because they are created by educators who have seen a need for and can answer questions about their product, and are interested in improving education. People selling these products must first become members and use their real names. They are forbidden from discussing their products in blogs or any other place besides a special site created especially for promoting their goods.
The feature of CR20 that allows teachers to post questions about anything that they are having trouble with and receive timely responses from other members is another feature that endears me to this site. The first time that I asked for help (I posted some questions for this ethnography) I pondered whether anyone would actually respond and how long it would take, but within hours I had two replies. Eventually, I hope to have more to contribute than questions and the occasional, “I have had a similar problem” because the environment should be interactive. At the present time, most of my time is spent reading discussions and making the occasional benign comment. Live conversations held at a set time are also a feature of CR20. Numerous programs such as Eluminate, Adobe Connect, Skype and others are used to meet in this forum.
There are amazing happenings taking place on CR20 that serve as great examples of ways educators can open the world up to their students. A case in point involves a blog posting by a teacher in Australia who writes about a 9-year-old boy carrying an indigenous lizard down the hallway after recess. The teacher arranged for the little boy to use Skype to show the lizard to high school students at a school near Seoul, Korea. That is a prime example of a possible use of Web 2.0 technology and CR20 is the place to learn how. All of the web tools known to humankind and matching discussions have links on CR20 making it a fountain of resources for teachers who are ready to spend a little time learning.
Tags for blogs related to this ethnography are: Classroom 2.0 ethnography and they are filed under the category entitled ethnography – EDUC 628 at Remonzer’s Weblog.