Articles on Professional Development

Downsizing in CyberSpace: In Search of a Social Networking Diet

Originally published April 2008 in District Administration Magazine

By Dr. Yvonne Marie Andrés, President & Co-Founder, Global SchoolNet Foundation

I MUST downsize the time I spend in CyberSpace. As wonderful as it is to connect with like-minded and amazing folks from around the world, I have officially run out of real time minutes to support these relationships. My virtual world has become obese and bursting at the seams. My only hope is to go on a radical social-networking diet.

Here is what I mean. I started writing this article TWO months ago!

But, every day -- by the time I browse through my personal email, review the news lists that I subscribe to, peek at my blog subscriptions, download new podcasts from iTunes, upload or view recent photos and videos, and approve or disapprove requests from LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, MySpace, YouTube, Plaxo, Meet-Up, Craigslist, Digital Divide, FreeCycle, NetFlix, Ning, YackPack, Yahoo Groups, Google Groups (yadda, yadda, yadda.), - when the day is over, my article is STILL not completed. Not to mention all the other tasks which have been left undone!

Do you get the irony?

But, this is definitely a case of "be careful of what you ask for." My colleagues know that I have been "screaming" about the benefits collaborative learning since 1984, when Al Rogers and I started the Free Educational Mail Network (FrEdMail) to connect classrooms around the world.

So, HAVE we gotten what we asked for?

In the recent best seller, "Wikinomics: How Mass Collaboration Changes Everything," authors Donald Tapscott and Anthony Williams talk about the growing significance of intelligent collaborative networks. They say three forces have come together to create the perfect storm that facilitates Wikinomics: (1) technology (Web 2.0 where anyone can contribute to anything), (2) the Net Gen -- the generation who grew up collaborating (kids who view email as something their parents do), and (3) the global economy, where companies are required to collaborate to produce additional value (The World is Flat).

For educators, the important message is that these critical Wikinomic forces will FUNDAMENTALLY change the way we learn - forever! Individuals can no longer independently learn all they need to know. In a globally connected world, there is enormous value in using technology to collaboratively connect and learn with others. But, while mass collaboration has many benefits, without some structure it can lead to chaos and frustration. Youth need to learn collaborative, 21st century learning skills, through safe, structured, supervised, educational projects. Teachers need guidance in transitioning from traditional learning -- to new learning tools and experiences (i.e. Flexbooks, blended learning environments, collaborative projects, co-created content, global exhibitions and competitions, virtual field trips, etc.)

Yes - I am in TOTAL agreement with the Wikinomics message. But, how can we reap the potential benefits of collaboration and social networking, without being overwhelmed? According to LinkedIn statistics, my 200 personal connections link me directly to 4,171,400 professionals. Add the thousands of connections from my other networks - and well, you get the picture. Even my five pound Chihuahua, Wanda Star, has 300 MySpace friends and her own blog!

This brings me back to the need to downsize.

At the end of August I will be traveling to Black Rock City, Nevada, with a group of adventurous, creative and geeky friends -- mostly comprised of scientists, journalists, and educators -- to participate in a LIVE social networking event called Burning Man. Burning Man is community in which a temporary city is created for one week, for 40,000 participants who are devoted to personal expression, self-expression, radical self-reliance and creativity - in technology, art, music and spirituality.

I will have the entire week without cell phone or internet access in which to ponder the best way to downsize my CyberSpace. How do I get rid of my networking clutter? Should I exercise more social networking control? Consume smaller portions? Or, make healthier and more nutritious CyberSpace menu choices?

Of course, if you already know the miracle social networking diet, please don't hesitate to become my new friend!

Comments should be directed to:

Dr. Yvonne Marie Andrés,
President & Co-Founder, Global SchoolNet Foundation



Dr. Yvonne Marie Andres is President of the (not-for-profit) Global SchoolNet Foundation. An educator for two decades, Andres has taught pre-school through university and is dedicated to demonstrating and documenting the power of global collaborative learning. She is co-founder of Global SchoolNet, producer of the Global Schoolhouse website, Doors to Diplomacy, the International Schools CyberFair program, and has provided leadership at conferences and workshops throughout the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe, Australia, South America and Africa. Dr. Andres was most recently named one of the 25 most influential people, worldwide, in education technology.


Global SchoolNet Foundation (GSN) is the original online resource for global project-based learning, problem-based learning, and online collaborative learning. Global SchoolNet partners with schools, communities and businesses in 194 countries to provide collaborative educational, scientific and cultural learning activities -- that prepare youth for the workforce and help them to become literate and responsible global citizens. GSN, a not-for-profit, has 90,000 members and has been linking classrooms around the world since 1984.