Taxonomy for application of social-networking applications to education

In my previous post, I discussed a project where I was asked to prepare a training workshop introducing educators to Second Life and provide them with skills to be able to navigate this virtual world. Skills they could then use to explore and learn more about how this technology can assist their teaching and students’ learning.

One of the tasks I assigned myself was to look at some literature around the application of virtual worlds to education in the hope of finding some classification or taxonomy. So I set out with google at hand searching when I came across a blog post by Intellagirl. Intellagirl writes:

I’m working on a book chapter entitled “’CVE, MUVE, MMOE, MMORPG…What’s the difference?’: Virtual Environments as Compositional Models.” In the chapter I attempt to delineate between different types of digital environments in which communication/composition can happen. In effect, what I’m doing is laying out the qualities that an instructor may be looking for in an online environment for a specific educational goal. Because the audience is largely readers who have never explored such environments, I’m hoping to lay out the most important differences to help light the way to informed pedagogical decisions.

So, of course, the first major task is to define what the differences really are…the differences that will matter to instructors choosing an environment to use for composition instruction, anyway. I’ve wrestled with the list for several weeks now and I’ve narrowed it down to nine important elements.

The focus as I understand it appears to relate to composition – using these tools to learn how to create something in a collaborative way. For example, using these technologies to help teach how to write a report, or create a company logo. I hope that I understand this correctly Intellagirl. 🙂

I am looking more broadly in terms of the context in which these tools are applied. As a different example, the use of online/social-networking applications assisting students to reflect on what they are learning, and sharing that reflection with others. What they create isn’t the learning objective, but a means to help them better understand what it is they are learning. A concrete example could be students learning System Administration and developing problem solving skills. Blogging the processes they have used in trying to solve problems would help them reflect on the approach they may have used and how appropriate it may have been after knowing the solution. The communication/social aspect would allow for advice and feedback in terms of where they may have gone wrong, or in identifying clever or innovative approaches they used in solving the problem.

I’m still thinking through Intellagirls comments and classification of attributes for various social-networking applications, to see how well this can inform an educator in selecting the appropriate application to suit the learning needs of their students. There are 9 elements that Intellagirl has identified, plus a couple others contributed to the article through comments. The 9 elements are:

  1. Number of users
  2. Dominant content form
  3. Network
  4. Persistence
  5. Stigmergic
  6. Object Ownership
  7. Public Access
  8. User’s relationship with other users
  9. User’s relationship with the environment

Other contributions include:

  1. Synchronous/Asynchronous communication
  2. Weapons/Non-Weapons
  3. Technology type – proprietary vs open source/standard

Aha, I have found subsequent work from Intellagirl on this topic with a more refined characteristic/attribute matrix. Didn’t notice this the first time I read the piece.

Well exceeded my post writing time, so need to wrap it up. Will think some more about this work and how it might inform educators from our context at CQUniversity in the use of this technology.