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Social Networks in Education

Internet plays a progressively greater role in human life. Now it is difficult to imagine a person who has not heard of such things as “search engine”, “site” or “Web Page”. Every year the number of Internet users is increasing. Normal viewing of static text and multimedia in the browser is no longer satisfied people: such sites, where visitors can interact with other visitors by means of this site gradually enter into the fashion.

Social Network is an interactive multi-user site, the content of which is filled by the members of the network. The site is an automated social environment that allows group of users united by a common interest to communicate with each other.

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Under the virtual educational environment we mean a set of information resources, providing a comprehensive methodological and technological support of distant educational process, including education, management of the educational process and its quality. Virtual education is the process and the result of communication between participants involved in the educational process in a virtual environment.

A virtual educational environment needs to be program-methodological platform, which should:

–   provide a wide range of interaction forms between virtual team members (students and teachers), including the means of collective work;

–   provide the possibility to extract knowledge from information sources on the Internet, organize and process information, store and apply received knowledge in practice;

–   provide with tools for creating new knowledge that is available for other members of the band;

–   ensure that the participants of the educational process have an access to the educational content (data and software) at any time regardless of location;

–   motivate students to acquire knowledge and creativity.

The solution of these problems contributes to the use of social software within the concept of Web 2.0, the basic ideas of which are:

–     focus on the use of web services (social networks, blogs, forums, wiki-pages, tags, bookmarks, etc.) and distributed resources;

–      socialization, which involves the formation of community, support of communication and new acquaintances, the use of “collective intelligence” to the development of a social service;

–      the user’s role is transformed from a passive reader into the creator of content (knowledge);

–      “folksonomy” is the information ordering by keywords (tags);

–      use of specialized hardware (content syndication (RSS, Atom), AJAX and mash-up technology).

Nowadays, there is an experience of using social networking in education (http://www.educationalnetworking.com/List+of+Networks). The term eLearning 2.0, associated with the use of social services for performing educational issues in a virtual environment, appeared.

Effectiveness of the educational process is determined by the possibility of careful monitoring and analysis of social networks’ processes. In order to control a mechanism of visualization and analyze, which enables to visualize the structure of the network and analyze the nature of the interaction of its participants, is needed primarily. In the case of an educational social network, such a mechanism will allow the teacher to lead the work of the virtual student team immediately and to take appropriate pedagogical decisions timely. Social network analysis can be performed using the method of SNA (Social Network Analysis), which allows you to identify key indicators of social networks, which characterize the intensity, density and direction of relationships between network members, and representation of the social network as a graph allows you to see the network and to draw conclusions on the nature of the network interaction. There are a number of software products to construct graphical models and network analysis. Condor package is applied for visualization of experimental educational social network.

The concept of «just-in-time learning» most accurately describes the social education. That is the whole trend in E-Learning, which involves training in a particular subject at a time when an employee needs knowledge on a particular issue. Only at this point, experts of education must provide the necessary information and to answer his request.

Companies’ departments of education must realize that today they are expected to more than just a classic transfer of knowledge within the organization. Today, they cannot simply remain a source of corporate information and thus be effective. To be relevant and useful to their organization, departments of education must apply to the Social Learning, and create an environment for informal learning.

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Be not only sources of information, but also act as a coordinator, to bind employees together for sharing knowledge and offering them handy tools. Today, during the rapid development of Internet and the golden age of social networks, you should use the advanced developments in the useful purposes that Social Learning suggests to do for the training of staff and sharing knowledge.

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