Sunday, April 13, 2008

Social Networks in Education?

Social networking sites are become increasingly popular. Teens are increasingly becoming involved in these social networks. Should these networks be allowed in the classroom? Maybe more importantly are these socials networks an appropriate teaching tool? MySpace is a site that is known by virtually all teenagers, regardless of whether or not they participate. According to the article Identity Production in a Networked Culture: Why Youth Heart MySpace "Over 50 million accounts have been created and the majority of participants are what would be labeled youth - ages 14-24." To them the benefits outweigh the risks. The majority of adults and teens do not interact. Just look at the numbers teens are on these sites? Why not take the opportunity and use social networking sites? But can and will teens learn on these sites?

It is through these social networking communities that teens create an identity. This might be considered an introduction to marketing themselves as written in the article
Thoughts on Facebooks. Teens are given freedoms but are expected to take on responsibilities. As a general rule they don't say anything about someone else that they would not want said about themselves. The majority of teens are learning and practicing social responsibility. It is important that teens learn how interact on these networks. Students learn critical thinking skills and how to work collaboratively on these sites. But students think they are invincible. (Thoughts on Facebooks) It only takes one instance of poor judgment can ruin a students chances of getting into a college or getting a job.

The article Safe" Social Networking Sites Emerge describes Whyville, a social network for teens. This site seeks to teach educate its users about online safety. Members must pass a test and get parental approval before participating in this network. This is a good example of what can be done in the schools. But can an educational social network compete with the likes of MySpace or Facebook? In the article MySpace in College Admission Judy Oberlander said;“I’ve been on MySpace and I can see that for kids it’s like their hangout place, their place to vent, their place to maintain instant contact—it’s hard for them to give it up.” Students spend so much time on these social networking sites that it interferes with school work. Can we as educators use social networking sites to encourage academic achievement?

Instead of looking for the positive benefits of social networks school just ban them. "Social networking sites, positively used, offer young people a simple means of publishing their work and engaging in online discussion and debate" according to the article
Missed Opportunity. In this same article "Social networking can be a godsend to the child who does not shine in the classroom, finding face-to-face communication daunting," says Sally-Ann Griffiths, education adviser for Securus, a company specialising in providing IT risk-management "solutions". Social evident for students that have had difficulty in the traditional classroom setting. Students have always learned when they socialized as illustrated in the comic strip Frazz.

Today's Comic
What do you think? Can students learn from social networking sites?

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