This project aims to bring some of the affordances of consumer social networks to teaching and learning, and will deliver applications within CamTools, our Sakai-based VLE. This is an informal blog by the project team at CARET, University of Cambridge.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Looking at other social networking sites

One thing that the team's been keen on all along is that our social networking tool shouldn't aim to replace face-to-face interaction at the University. We want to promote 'idea moments', what a team from another University called 'Rolos'*, and we think that getting people physically together is a great way for these moments to happen. As far as we're concerned, if our tool introduces people to each other who go on to meet up occasionally, it's done its job - they don't have to regularly communicate via the tool as well.

So I was excited to hear about www.meetup.com - a site which helps facilitate face to face communication using the web. The whole point is that you meet real people, living near you, to talk about shared interests. Yes, there are message boards and photo albums for those groups, but the emphasis throughout is on meeting face to face. I think it's a brave concept. I'll have to report back on the quality of discussion at a meeting, though!

* Random Opportunities for Learning Outcomes, apparently! Would you give someone your last ROLO?

2 comments:

Miriam said...

Harriet Truscott makes a good point about the need for in-person interaction. Alfred P. Miller of FEGS NY addressed a JVS board retreat years ago...on the subject of integrating new technologies into his organization. As I remember it, Miller stated that throughout his organization people had access to one another's files. This caused a great degree of familiarity with the workings of the organization and a tremendous amount of sharing of information and ideas. Staff members also found that fewer formal meetings were needed. However, management then realized that the amount of in-person interaction was lower and this affected relationship building. Therefore, some in-person meetings to facilitate the forging and maintaining of relationships were added to the schedule.
Miriam Steinhouse, MSW
Miriam Steinhouse & Associates
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Harriet Truscott said...

Very interesting, Miriam. Thanks very much.

It's a great example of how sometimes our technological solutions can have unexpected negative effects. As you say, 'the tremendous amount of sharing of information and ideas' is potentially a wonderful thing for the company, but it's important to maintain those opportunities to forget true relationships.