Christian Dalsgaard, in his papers Supporting Transparency between Students (4 pages) and Social Networking Sites: Transparency in Online Education (6 pages), (retrieved January 8, 2010) is interested in showing how social software/web 2.0 has a role in the relations between students: "the basis of this case was to empower students by providing them with tools for individual use and social interaction". We may know these tools (weblogs, social bookmarks, socail networking) and that students have no difficulty to use them to contact their colleagues and friends. But how far do students know each other while using these social tools in collaborative working? The author explores this question (increasing of transparency between students) through the results of a case study in a university course.
Dalsgaard says that transparency "implies that the doings of students and teachers are made visible within a learning environment." He's main concern is not to understand how students collaborate to achieve the activities within the LMS. Instead, the author wishes to prove that these sharing and communication in this environment might not mean that students create a personal relation. For example, in discussion forums, does one need to see other's personal profile? However, if the students communicate through social software, that may be different... As thinks Dalsgaard, "communication within social networks is a matter of transparency", even social networking do not necessary involve communication, dialogue or collaboration similar to discussion forums (send messages or documents). In a site of that kind, for example, Facebook or Myspace, there is a personal page with a profile, wich the owner develops and modifies. The second paper mentioned above argues that a central characteristic of these social networking sites is "a combination of personalization and socialization." In opposition to a discussion forum, where you are "visible" only when you post a message, there are the personal page - the owner can chose the look and content of the page - that can be viewed or the activities that can be followed by others, this means that all the actions are transparent. On the other hand, communicate and sharing is possible in those sites because people uptade their profiles, add pictures or texts which their "friends" follow and comment. Their pedagogical potential is that student's own work interact with his personal page. As the author clarifies, a profile page is not personal in the sense that it is private; it can be made public."
So, education might profit if students in a course are aware not only of each other's work, activities and thoughts, but also be each other's resources. This is possible when transparency exists between students: if my colleague is visible to me, I may be more confident to see how we may help each other to improve our learning.
Some author's conclusions are:
a) It's possible to make students visible through their writings and questions (colaborative working, discussion forums, weblogs, social bookmarking).
b) Weblogs encourage empowerment, because they are open to individual or personal writing of students.
c) From the point of view of transparency, the problem with the employment of social bookmarking in this case study was that they were not read very much by other students.
d) Although the weblogs supported tansparency, they did not fully support the collaborative work of the students.
e) The personal page provides a basis and a starting point for social networking. On the other hand, the starting point for social interaction in discussion forums is the forum itself.
Online educators and education institutions might, in my opinion, profit from these study cases, because the author discussed important questions related to the sucess of the online students learning. The way how these interact while developping activities may depend on the awareness of each others' thoughts and opinions. So, I believe that the educational use of digital media should support the transparency between students. Thus, the discussion forum, for example, created within the LMS may not be sufficient. The personal nature of weblogs and social networkings showed that they are an useful educational ressource too. Another important issue is that the information and resources to be shared are developed by the students and made available to others, with a positive control by themselves over their activities.