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Webs, wires, and wi-fi in the classroom Weaving info tech into new modes of learning
Six cyber-ideas that matter—and sell Alumni start businesses in and of the wired world
Making friends with the Web Skidmore and social networks
Wiring the muse Technology's a stage—and canvas and score—for some Skidmore artists



Making friends with the Web
By Dan Forbush

Facebook, MySpace, YouTube, and similar social networks were started by and for the young, but people of all ages are catching on fast. And given the cost of gas and the difficulty of reaching busy people by phone or e-mail, connecting with friends, family, and even institutions through digital communities is making more and more sense.

For Skidmore, the signs of change can be seen most clearly in Facebook, where thousands of Skidmore students and alumni are creating “friend networks,” “walls,” “groups,” and “discussion topics” that enable them to interact online in ways that were never before possible.

The power of Facebook to support spontaneous group-creation is no better illustrated than by Skidmore’s incoming Class of 2012. Within days of receiving her early-admission acceptance letter last November, Annie Tibbets, a senior at Andover (Mass.) High School, created a Class of 2012 group in Facebook. Within just a few weeks of general-acceptance letters being mailed in May, the group had attracted hundreds of members of the first-year class.

By the beginning of the fall term, these freshmen had:
• made 1,350 “wall” posts
• launched 137 group discussions
• posted 67 photos
• shared 29 Web links

Dina Silver Pokedoff ’93 found a similar response when—having rekindled many old friendships upon joining Facebook—she de­cided she especially wanted to connect with fellow members of the Skidmore Accents, the women’s a cappella group with which she sang in all four years of her Skidmore career. Within days, fifteen former Accents joined the new group she created. “I’m awed by how quickly folks found the group on their own,” she says.

Such bottom-up community-building is leading college communications and alumni
professionals to view Facebook as a powerful medium that’s rapidly evolving beyond its initial youth audience and entering the mainstream culture. Just as colleges realized in the 1990s that they would have to build Web sites, they’re seeing now that they must be engaging students and alumni in social networks—either through commercial sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, and YouTube, or in private networks that they control.

Skidmore’s approach was to create a new section of its Web site—”Skidmore Interactive”—that serves as a stepping-off point to online communities where Skidmore students and alumni congregate. (Find it here.) The college also has created a Social Networking Task Force to study the advisability of creating a social network that’s controlled entirely by the college.

Here’s a brief survey created by the task force to explore ways the college might improve its com­munications through the use of social networks and other “new media.” Please take a minute to give us your thoughts. We’ll report the results in our winter issue.

Skidmore Interactive: A Brief Guide to Skidmore’s Online Communities
Recognizing that alumni, students, and parents are increasingly connecting in online
communities beyond its own Web site, the college has designated this section of its site—click here —to serve as a guide to Skidmore-relevant points of interest in the new-media environment. You’ll find links to blogs, videos, photographic archives, and online communities where Skidmore students and alumni are gathering, including the following:

More than 5,000 Skidmore alumni and students have joined Facebook, which—with 100 million registrants worldwide—describes itself simply as a “social utility that connects people with friends and others who work, study and live around them.” In Facebook, you may exchange messages with friends, upload an unlimited number of photos, share links and videos, and learn more about the people you meet. Although membership in Facebook originally was restricted to college students, anyone may now join, and members are increasingly using the space for professional networking. Among the Skidmore-oriented groups you may join in Facebook are Skidmore College Alumni, Skidmore International, and Skidmore Alums in Saratoga. You’ll also find groups created by classes, student organizations, and sports teams.

LinkedIn. More than 500 Skidmore alumni have joined LinkedIn, which now counts a membership of 25 million professionals around the world representing 150 industries. Creating a profile in LinkedIn makes it easy to connect with other professionals in the Skidmore community, and also to connect with colleagues with whom you’ve worked in previous jobs. When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional accomplishments. You can add more connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Any Skidmore alum may join the college’s alumni network in LinkedIn. Members of the Skidmore Business Network may also join an SBN LinkedIn group.

YouTube. One of the most popular repositories of video on the Internet today, YouTube includes a rich array of clips that are related to Skidmore or of interest to the Skidmore community. The college has created its own “official” channel in YouTube, and you may also view a wide assortment of videos that are continually being posted by students and alumni.

SkidNet. This is Skidmore’s own password-access community, in which alumni can find contact information for classmates, up­date their contact information and profiles, register for college events, and make contributions online. SkidNet does not currently offer the full range of networking functions of Facebook or LinkedIn, but the college is exploring a major upgrade that would provide many powerful new features, to create a Skidmore-only environment where you could create online groups and personal “friend” networks, submit electronic class notes, and post photographs and video.

The Social Networking Task Force

Skidmore has created a Social Networking Task Force to explore ways the college might use social networks and other new media to better serve alumni and parents. As part of our analysis, we need to get a clear sense of the extent to which alumni and parents already are using such tools and the degree to which they are interested in engaging with Skidmore in them.

To link to these online communities, visit Skidmore Interactive, or click
on the logos below:

Skidmore and Social Networks

Skidmore has created a Social Networking Task Force to explore ways the college might use social networks and other new media to better serve alumni and parents. As part of our analysis, we need to get a clear sense of the extent to which alumni and parents already are using such tools and the degree to which they are interested in engaging with Skidmore in them.

Please take a moment to respond to this survey by clicking here, please do so before November 15, 2008. We’ll report the results in the winter Scope Quarterly. You could be a winner! Just fill in your name and class year on the survey card if you'd like to enter our prize pool to win a classy Skidmore sweatshirt.

Note: If you have already responded to this survey, please don’t respond here.

The Social Networking Task Force