In a 1995 testimony to Congress, Professor Chris Dede stated, “The global marketplace and the communications and entertainment industries are driving the rapid evolution of high performance computing and communications.” (Dede, 1995, Web) Part blog, part, wiki, part social bookmarking tool, a prominent use of social networking software in the classroom has occurred with the online application Ning. Launched in October 2005, the platform functions to allow users to create their own social network.com) Ning is differentiated from other SNS software as the networks are grouped around a common interest, making Ning particularly applicable for educational purposes, however the software has been implemented in a number of professional environments. Ning offers professionals the option of making the created network opened or closed, and allows participants to post pictures, and videos with very little technical complications.While other SNS software, such as Facebook and Myspace, have been increasingly viewed by educators are the private domain of students’, Ning offers teachers a means of co-opting the popularity of these platforms for the use of shared education. The possible use of Ning is many-varied, but one can consider the functional benefits of allowing students to debate and share information through computer mediated communication: students may be more willing to express ideas, and through the use of videos, links, or photos, they are now able to do so in more comprehensive and creative ways. Indeed, one political science professor had his students develop individual Ning networks based on community action issues that were pertinent to classroom discussions, such as proposed tax increased to fund new firehouses in the community; a number of these networks proved to be highly successful as a broad network of community members, including a group of firefighters, joined to discuss the relative merits of such actions.There are a number of challenges in implementing such collaborative mechanisms in the professional environment. One of the concerns is that employees or students will implement the network as a social tool, just as they implement Facebook. In these instances, it’s necessary for supervisors to develop clearly defined expectations for participation and even consider a rubric that outlines necessary and appropriate
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