According to a recent US study
by the National Schools Board Association, 96% of students aged 9-17 years, who have internet access, use social networking tools. The study was comprised of 3 surveys, an online survey involving 1277 students, an online survey of 1039 parents, and phone interviews with 250 school district leaders who make internet policy decisions. The study identified that students spend on average 9 hours per week posting messages; sharing audio, video and pictures; site building; blogging; and creating content. Moreover, 59% of students who use social networking discuss education-related topics such as future study; learning outside school; careers or jobs; politics, ideas, religion or morals; and school work. It was also stated that "...students and parents report fewer current or recent problems, such as cyberstalking, cyberbullying and unwelcome personal encounters than schools fear and policies imply".
This study has significant implications for learning in all schools, particularly within a social constructivist framework. Social constructivist theory asserts that we learn well from the act of creating or expressing something for others. Over time, a social group constructs knowledge for one another and establishes a culture of shared meaning. Similarly, social networking empowers users to produce information and construct knowledge for peers through activities such as message posting, blogging, file sharing and site building. The proliferation of social networking highlights the potential value of social networking in education. To put this growth in perspective, if all users of popular social networking sites, My Space and Facebook combined to form a country, this would represent the world's 10th most populous nation at 134 million people.
I believe that we as educators, must harness social networking technologies to optimise the achievement of learning outcomes for our students. Evidently, a good blend of acceptable use policy and online safety education for students are required to successfully implement social networking in schools. What are your thoughts?...