Based on my reading of the NSBA report, research by Grunwald and Associates LLC shows that social networking rivals television based on time spent on both activities and 96% of students surveyed have used online services such as chatting, social networking, blogging, messaging, etc. Social networking tools are used weekly by 71% of students. Education is a major source of discussion in this medium, with 60% of students using the tools to discuss education, and 50% using it specifically for discussion of school work.
Although schools are concerned with the use of these tools, students and parents reported few behavioral problems based on their use.
Creating and Connecting the Positives
Students use web 2.0 tools weekly to express themselves in a variety of ways.
Posting messages - 41%
Download music - 32%
Download videos - 30%
Upload music - 29%
Update personal web sites or online profiles - 25%
Post photos - 24%
Blogging - 17%
Creating and sharing virtual objects - 16%
Creating new characters - 14%
Participating in collaborative projects - 10%
Sending messages or ideas to web sites - 10%
Submitting articles to web sites - 9%
Creating polls, online quizzes or surveys - 9%
A subset of students engaged in online social networking are labeled an "Nonconformists" by teh NSBA research. Such students, though on the cutting edge of technology and who seem to possess leadership among their peers, have at times stepped outside the bounds of online safety and behavior.
Nonconformists have high levels of skills using 21st century tools, but reports lower grades than other students. Previous research (citation?) shows that enhanced use of the Internet is associated with higher grades. (I am not sure if this correlation means higher access to the Internet in an educational setting leads to higher grades or any increased internet access).
Creating and Connecting the Gaps
92% of schools require internet use policy agreements
84% of schools prohibit chatting
81% prohibit text messaging
62% have rules about participating in bulletin boards or blogs
60% prohibit sending and receiving email in school
52%specifically prohibit any use of social networking
Despite these probations, significant numbers of districts do allow online participation, with 69% having web site programs, 49% participating in online collaboration projects, and 22% who say their classrooms are involved in creating or maintaining wikis and web sites. In addition, 27% use online communities for professional development. (My district does this as well)
Parental involvement in technology decision making are more active in social networking (71%) and larger urban school districts are more active users.
Students and parents report fewer incidents of cyber stalking, bullying, unwelcome personal encounters, etc than most schools imply. I noted that some of the more disturbing behaviors noted have somewhat high numbers of incidents, although the report seems to indicate these are lower than expected, with 7% experiencing cyber bullying, 4% reporting discussions online that made them uncomfortable, 3% saying unwelcome strangers repeatedly tried to contact them, 2% said someone tried to meet them in person, but only .08% said they actually met someone. Is this a concerning number or not?
Creating and Connecting Expectations and Interests
Large numbers of districts require the use of the Internet at home for school work, yet are not convinced of the usefulness of social networking. Despite this, schools and parents are very hopeful and positive about its potential impact. Only 29% of schools believe that social networking can help students improve reading, writing, or expressing themselves more clearly. Parents, on the other hand, have much high expectations, with 76% expecting the reading, writing, and expression gains of students.
Districts reported that demonstrating a "strong educational value and purpose" would encourage them to use social networking. Other incentive to allow social networking are a strong emphasis on collaboration, providing tools for students to express themselves, and bringing different kinds of students together. Most (85%) would continue to prohibit instant messaging and chatting though.
Most schools and parents see the potential benefits of social networking, as long as reasonable precautions are put in place. Equity regarding access to the Internet is a concern as well. District leaders and board members should consider exploring social networking for themselves and consider using social networking for their own staff communications. They should find ways to harness the value of it, and ensure equitable access.
Question to everyone about this:
• Do the figures presented hold true in your unique situations?
• Are the numbers reported for student safety reasonable, too high, seem to low, etc?
• What is the real benefit of social networking in education? What studies have you seen or heard of to support these tools to improve skills?
Any feedback would be appreciated.