During October a small group of YALSA bloggers are posting ideas and information about positive uses of social networking tools in schools and libraries. Here’s positive use #19.

Social networking software that promotes collaboration has special significance in the school setting. Students who learn collaboration skills at school are likely to be more valuable contributors to today’s workplace, which generally values collaboration and team work.

Linda has written about some of Google’s newer collaborative tools, such as Google Docs and Spreadsheets and Google Calendar. Wikis and blogs are naturals for classroom collaboration. Joyce Valenza tells us about some of the classroom wiki collaborations going on at her school. English classes are using a wiki to create podcasting scripts which they will use to report “on the spot” breaking events in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible. And AP U.S. History is using a wiki to build collaborative answers to critical study questions. Helpful design patterns for education-focused wikis have been developed by Bernie Dodge and Karl Richter at San Diego State University.

For our computer literacy semester projects, we are using phpBB bulletin board software for student groups to post their weekly progress reports. Teachers and other students in the class then post feedback on the reports. These interactions are not visible to the world at large, but teachers and students in the class have full read/write access. This semi-public forum encourages sharing among students and creates a sense of accountability that goes beyond the typical closed teacher-student interaction.

Other tools that, on the surface just look like lots of fun, can be adapted for classroom use. A Ta Da list is a simple way for groups to keep track of tasks. As each task is finished, it can be checked off the list. Students can use Flagrant Disregard’s Flickr toys to create movie posters, magazine covers, photo mosaics, motivational posters, trading cards, and photos with comic book captions.

Social networking software clearly has much to offer to the classroom learning experience. Legislation like DOPA would stymie the potential positive contribution it could make in this area.

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