Therefore, managing texting threads and system security will be a major concern. User comfort must be ensured. Social networking administrators must be trained and designated.
In her book on online teaching, Tisha Bender explores this challenge. Discussion -- based online interaction is primarily textual. It can be synchronous or asynchronous. The key is adapting ourselves to the online environment. We need to be able to function without the visual cues that we normally get in person regarding boredom, etc. (such as yawning) (Bender, 2003, xvi).
Now, we have to look briefly to see how social networks are being used to structure organizations. With regard to this task, this author has consulted the dissertation of Jennifer Ann Golbeck which raises many of the pertinent questions that will lead us to answers. As her title indicates, the question boils down to one of trust (Golbeck, 2005, 31). Trust is based upon a system which the users have faith in and feel comfortable, safe and secure in using. Competent administration is key to this trust. It is reassuring to this author that at least some of the academic community is on the forefront of using social networking. The University of Maryland has for many years been a leader in embedding technology, the web, and user platforms into its organization to benefit both students and staff. The University of Maryland continues in this tradition with social networking.
Due to the short nature of this essay, this author will summarize why they feel the core of the problem is the need for a social network administrator in any organization that builds social networking. Since the technology is so new, the position of social network administrator is as well. Not much information has been documented on the subject. It is well represented in want ads on web venues such as Craigslist or Yahoo Hot Jobs. However, logical speculation would be that this position will involve many of the duties of a network or database administrator in any large organization who has to facilitate access, provide security and function as an ombudsman in case of disputes. While the technology is wonderful, the human end of this must be dealt with as well. Certainly, the post of social network administrator will help to sort out many of the problems that occur in social networking within the educational environment just as it does in the business environment.
Beyond this, we have to function in the present. This author would like to share a few guidelines that an online instructor uses to manage their online teaching. First of all, drop the linear thinking. Realize that you have to engage this person in a virtual environment. You will not have any visual or audio clues to aid in this communication. Patience will be necessary to facilitate this type of communication. Secondly, managing a textual thread is the key to success. Make sure that the conversation is polite, considerate and that bullies do not dominate the thread. Make sure that the communications (especially one's own) are short and to the point. Thirdly, managing security is an issue. You should not just depend upon the network administrator to handle this. The social network administrator will have to have an eye on these issues as well.
The above suggestions are all things that a single person can do. However, one person can only do so much. At some point the organizational leadership has to get involved. Then they need to appoint or hire social network administrators who can manage the text messaging to protect the institution from lawsuit, hackers and other threats. Eventually, a professional has to come in to do a specialized job, especially one that involves managing the nuances of the human animal. Until this is done, social networking will be chaotic and non-focused and will only be of limited use to the educational institution.
To review, in this essay, the author drew parallels between the issues of online learning and computer networking with social networking. As computer networking has revolutionized organizational communicating and the facilitation of decision-making, the author feels this will likewise happen in the field of social networking. The challenge for the administrator and community members is to seamlessly integrate these different social networking platforms so that group decision making and other group work is essential to the development of well-conceived, school policies and practices can be facilitated to the benefit of the organization. This author feels that logically the recently created job position of social network administrator should be adapted to the educational environment to iron out issues of trust, text messaging management and selection of appropriate platforms for social networking.
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