What is a Social Network:?
According to the Wikipedia it is a social structure made up of individuals or organizations called "nodes"which are tied or connected by one or more specific types of interdependency, such as friendship,kinship,common interest, financial exchange, dislike, sexual relationships, or relationships of beliefs, knowledge or prestige.
How do they work? They function like an online community that share common interest. Once you are accepted into these community you can begin to socialize which may include reading the profiles of other people who are members as well and it also offers the possibility of contacting them.
What are the Advantages of these Social Networks?
Among the benefits you can obtain by registering into one of these social networks is that you can make new friend, contact old ones and even search for some people you have long forgotten.It also offers the possibility of reaching out to some individuals from all around the world and learn about new cultures or new languages.
How do Social Networks benefit the EFL?
Since our students spend so much time on line it can be a great opportunity for them to meet native English speakers and can help them improve their English. It also offers unlimited opportunities to write in English.
Some EFL teachers are going further by using it for reading strategy lessons and writing practices. Social Networks additionally offer the alternative of getting inmediate feedback, or to ask questions and get answers quickly.You can ask questions and receive answers in near-real-time, if your students know the answer. Disscussion may be encouraged and sharing different points of view which will help in learning to look at things from different angles and be more tolerant of other people's opinions.
Although I have known Face book for some time, thanks to my students constantly referring to it, I never saw a real purpose on it, nevertheless I created an account but since I saw no real benefit, I soon forgot my users name. Then I started this course on ICTs and I had to renew my account and I must say that thanks to this I have learned all the benefits it has to offer as a social network in EFL. As a consequence of this I created a group in which I included all my masters group and I named it the “Takamajaka Group in EFL” There we share, as a private group, all sorts of information referring our Masters program, books, interesting articles, web sites and any kind of relevant information to our professional development.
I can’t deny that now, I enjoy the possibilities this social network has to offer in order to contact old friends and even family members long lost. It additional serves as a link to meet other people from other countries who are willing to share their professional experience and a most valuable opportunity to interact in English. So, from being an skeptic, in the use of the social networks I have become a constant user and participant in such a powerful tool.
Communities of Practice
Are groups of people who share the same interest, interact regularly and learn from and with each other (Wegner’s 2006) CoPs are everywhere: at home, at school, in our hobbies, in our lives (Wegner, 2006)
CoPs not only share interests in different areas, they also allow people to participate in communal activities and they could also enjoy through them the experience of getting together due to their interests, being able to create new wonderful things.
This is especially important and represents a great advantage for EFL teachers who are willing to share their experiences and benefit from other teachers knowledge.
As an EFL teacher I have already joined some of the most known communities of practice which I didn’t even knew existed before, let alone, known what they were good for. Thankfully, by being able to get surrounded with Digital literate people in my ICT course, at the Masters program at UPEL, I am slowly getting to know more. Now my next step will be to get more active and involved in. Some of the most known communities of practices related to the educational field are Avealmec, Ventesol, Ventesol, Venelt, Elnet, Wikieducator, Edtech, etc.