Social Networking for those with special needs
This is the social networking site created on Ning for a group of special needs students I work with. It was created in specific response to need. We had tried to use various options supplied on the managed learning environment but there was a lack of visual imput and most of the students need a high level of support for literacy. This group of students are working at a level well below GCSE but are adults. They want to contact friends but often parents and carers are not happy for them to use mainstream networking sites. I found Ning, the host of our site, by accident but it seemed to suit our students. Ning will host our site for free and looks just like any other networking site. I can keep our area private and ring-fenced as it is invitation only and I manage the site. Students can leave short messages, add photos and upload from youtube. One student has uploaded Mr Bean and is happy to share this with others. As a tool in the classroom I can work on basic social skills. Many of these students find a parent child, or teacher student relationship easier than peer relationships. How do you respond to a basic ‘Hi’ message. How do you keep a conversation going on line. In a teacher student relationship we tend to prompt a response to keep the dialogue going. Without the prompt peer to peer discussions tend to be brief. Unfortunately the use of the network is limited by the the signing in process. I cannot express the frustration that is produced by the continued need to sign in to access any network. We may accept it as a nuisance but for special needs students it stops progress. There may be technology that could change this, fingerprint access, but there is no funding or mainstream understanding that change is needed.