Monday, 20 August 2012

I like it social

I often say I'm a very social person. Which means I truly enjoy the company of other people - and I'm not thinking of such a rare thing as friendship now - I just like talking, listening, having fun, laughing together. You don't need to be friends to have a good and fruitful time with someone.
My mother says she can remember me as a child chatting up people from my pushchair. And no surprise, I grew up as a friendly extrovert, always looking for like-minded people (and also for opposites - after all they're supposed to attract each other, aren't they?).
But as for technology, that's another story. As a young girl, I found it "unpoetic" and just kept away. At university I wrote my dissertation with a pc, but only because I had to. I was trapped in something between a posh pose and a religion: ice-cold technology didn't look artistic enough for a student of  literature and poetry, and what's more, all of the teachers made sure to tell us technology would be the end of human creativity.
But I was curious, and once out of school & University (i.e., thinking with my own head only) I cautiously began my make-friend-process with the web. Eventually, I couldn't resist the social aspect of Web 2.0.

I started by chance, with the easyest place to exchange ideas: a forum. One day I googled the name of my favourite singer and there it was, a fantastic fan-forum with plenty of info, pics, lyrics, people and discussions. I was vowed and joined in. I quickly learned about profile pic, nickname, avatar, customize your page and stuff like that. I liked it. I liked reading and posting. Unfortunately, I also quickly learned that lots of people = frequent flames. Now, there's enough of squabbles we can't avoid in everyday life, but we surely can avoid those online. So when the place got too noisy for me, I did what I would in any noisy room: I left.
Anyway, that was a great start. I made true friends there (those who go from online to offline!), had a very good time, and learned a lot about interacting online. I was then - and still am - convinced there's no need of any special "netiquette": common sense and good manners are enough. You're dealing with real people, despite their nicknames and funny avatars, so just act as you would in real life. I know, it's not that simple. Some people are addicted to the "no name / no face" status, and they feel free to do their worst. Still, I wonder how it's possible to fight when talking of a common passion.

Since then, I've been here and there in different forums about my different passions. I definitely think a forum is the perfect place to exchange ideas. I like it better than the chat - too fast and too ephemeral for me :)
What I like in forums is that they are like rooms with a door constantly open - which means that you can come and go as you like, that you'll hopefully find "old friends" and also new faces (= new ideas), that you'll be free to leave for good if you feel so (but please, do it without drama!).

Now, can you see what a great resource a forum can be in education?
It took a while for me to realize it, but once I did, I got involved in all kind of communities about school / education / edu tech / professional development... you name it. Most educational websites provide a forum for professionals of the sector, and it can be very useful when you're dealing with specific needs.
Of course, if you're planning to create your own forum, there are lots of free forum hosts that can be useful. Just google it, and you'll find plenty. Anyway, remember it can be hard work, both for the setting up and the moderating. What's more, lots of free forum hosts keep your data from you, so if you grow and want to move, you'll have to start anew.
So, for working with students, I suggest either creating a simple blog (blogger and wordpress are excellent) or exploiting the eTwinning platform, setting a project and using the pupils' corner (nice forum & chat tools there).
True, blog and forum are two completely different philosophies: but you'll have to try for yourself and find out!

Going on with my story, from the forum experience I quickly went on to myspace and then to Facebook and Twitter. I found Twitter to be a great tool to keep you up to date about the subjects you're interested in (just be careful with whom you're following!), so I keep it for professional use only.
As for Facebook, I know it can be controversial, but I like it a lot. I'm struggling to keep it for friends only (I've been living and studing here and there in Europe a lot, and fb is a great place to keep in contact with distant friends) but of course it's difficult. What are you supposed to do with your colleagues asking you for friendship in fb? say "no thanks"? So it's a mix of the two, personal and professional. And it works.
Note: for students, I follow my personal rule "no fb friendship while you're in one of my classes". It saves me lots of trouble. Anyway, I know of colleagues who created a specific fb profile as a teacher, set fb pages for their classes and find them quite motivating for students. I would still prefer dedicated spaces, safe for children as well (i.e., eTwinning again!) but it's up to you.
Don't underestimate the power of Facebook as a professional development space, though: some of the specific pages can be very interesting.
Anyway, when particularly dealing with my profession, I use LinkedIn and I find it the perfect place to look for and exchange information. If you've never tried the LinkedIn groups, I think you should: lots of committed people, lots of ideas, lots of opportunities in the fields you like.

I'm at the moment exploring Google+ (I love Google!) but that's work in progress for me!

And if you're really brave (or a bit crazy, just like me), you may want to have a look at the new growing socials, like LetsLunch, the social dining, where you set up a profile explaining what you do, what fields and people you're interested in and when you are free to get together... and you eventually arrange a meal I suppose! Or you can try Pinterest , a virtual pinboard where you can organize and share images, videos and other web materials, or travel with CouchSurfing or... well, you should just explore the web on your own, you'll have much fun. What's for sure, is that lots of websites are widening today their "social" aspect. Getting together online is something we appearently like a lot.

Bottom line: believe it or not, I still have time for going out with friends & family and enjoying quality face2face time with those I love !!!


  1. Laura, do you know ?
    I think it could be interesting for you and other teachers, it's a nice social dealing with books. Have a try and tell me!

  2. My students also like friendster and Bebo (from UK, but growing in the States as well).
    The world of socials is defintely wide!

  3. Thank you both! Already had a look & registered to all of them :) I think I'm addicted to socials!

  4. I know you're a very social person and I'm looking forward to working together again this year!
    Meanwhile, I'll try out some of these links and have fun...