How to engage students via social networking

A lot is talked about how students are addicted to social networking; why can't they show that same enthusiasm for their academic work?

Well, academic Rosie Miles claims her students were addicted to posting in her Fin de Siecle literature course via Twitter-like activity.

Students took on characters' identities to bring their learning alive. (I particularly liked Dorian Grey as @PrettyBoy and "Dracula", who tweeted the hashtag #freshmeat.)

Admittedly, this took place within the closed boundaries of a Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) discussion forum, not on Twitter, thus preventing students from being distracted by its endless connectivity. But true to the spirit of Twitter, comments were succinct (140 character), in turn generating many witty comments, and the collaboration was student-led.

As she points out, social networking tools are not designed for learning; it's how creatively teachers can use them to effect collaborative learning.

What do you think: Is it safer to use the 'walled garden' of a VLE? How have you used or do you use social networking?

We'd love to hear.

Read more on how social networking can contribute to learning