The Web is increasingly populated by online social networks. So, what role can a social network play in education?

Social networks are a great opportunity for educators to expand their Personal Learning Networks and to focus student enthusiasm for online interaction towards academic goals. They also provide classroom context where teachers can teach their students how to behave responsibly in this environment. When motivated, students are willing to extend classroom discussion beyond the four walls and share their creations.

Twitter

Twitter is an extremely popular social network for educators. In 140 characters, educators and students can communicate in a public forum. Teachers can also engage in a number of Twitter "chats" during the week. These synchronous, text-based conversations occur on a number of topics at regular intervals. Jerry Blumengarten (@cybraryman) has a comprehensive list of chats. Schools and classes have been embracing Twitter as a means to connect students with others around the world.

Facebook

One of the best known social network, Facebook is a hugely popular online community where people and organizations share information across the world with friends, colleagues, and organizations. Students might use Facebook to organize study groups, and teachers can use it to connect with other professional organizations and publications.

LinkedIn

LinkedIn describes itself as the professionals social network. Use this to build your connections with other professionals, share your resume, and join online professional groups.

Google+

Google's social networking platform, Google+ lets teachers and students join communities. Whether a teacher joins a broader professional community or creates one to support their class, these groups can be either private, public, or by invitation. Within a Google+ community, it is possible to share resources, engage in chats, and even hold Google Hangouts (video calls with up to 10 people at a time).