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Teachers' Comprehensive Guide to The Use of Social Networking in Education

                                                                        Part One

Update : Part Two has been posted. Click here to read it

It is a fact universally ackowledged that Internet has  radically changed the way we percieve of the world. Reality has been supplanted by virtual reality and geographical borders have dissolved to give birth to a highly interwired world where the information travels both poles in a matter of a click. This drastic change brought about by Internet has touched upon every facet of our life and most important of all on education.

Education has exponentially developed over the past two decades to engulf new forms and methods that no one would have ever anticipated before. Gone are the days when students used to attend school with backpacks full of weighty books, pens, and pads. Now a single laptop can hold in its memory what the whole school library has of books and documents. Free writing and drawing software are availabe on every gadget and with just the use of ones finger , students can draw intuitively and share their productions in real time. This educational revolution has transformed the old traditional ways of teaching and learning and before we know it there emerged a second revolution that started with the introduction of web 2.0 tools in 2004. Now we started talking about social computing and social learning.

social networking in education

"When Tim Berners-Lee developed the original software for World Wide Web in 1990, his aim was simply to help academics research each other's documents. He could not have forseen the mushrooming expansion of the Internet and the viral growth of social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, with their profound effects on culture and commerce. One of the consequences on students minds is that they become constantly engaged with the digital world: they are multitasking, connecting and creating content at a precipitous rate. For previous generations, one of the only ways to connect with the wider world of culture and ideas was to go to school. That's simply not true any more. The pervasiveness of digital technology changes the whole equation for education and for the roles of teachers" ( excerpt from Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative ).

Yes it is true that social media has already made a huge impact on education in just less than five years of its existence. It has definitely revolutionised the way students communicate today and has further connected more and more teachers together. Unfortunately, decision makers do not seem reluctant enough to embrace a thorough approach to the use of these tools inside schools for fear that they might cause more harm to students than good. Repeated reports of sexual predators have raised the alarm and prompted parents and legislators to question the potential of using social media for education. but let us look at it this way:  everything in this universe has two sides one is postive and one is negative and if humanity has just focused on the negative sides we would have never been where we are now. Here are some examples to prove this :

 Created in the mid 19th century, the potential of the internal combustion engine was initially under-estimated. It struck many people as an interesting innovation, but some struggled to see why it would replace horses and carriages, which seemed to do a perfectly good job of getting people around at that time. And even though there was some relucance from people to accept this new invention you can tell now in the 21st century how life would be with no motorcars.

social networking in education

The second example is of television.When the first black and white telivision appeared in 1929, an article in New York Times stated that " Television will never be a serious  competitor for radio " ( Page 38 Out of Our Minds: Learning to be Creative ) if you are listening to the radio you can get on and do other things. To experience television, The Times argued  " People must sit and keep their eyes glued on a screen ." Ironically, of course, this was to become the very attraction of the whole system. Nonetheless it seemed clear to the writer that, " The average American family does not have time for it." Well , they found time. On average, the average American family went on to squeeze about 25 hours a week from their busy schedules to sit and keep their eyes glued on the television.

The fault line in the Times' assessment of telvision was to judge it in terms of contemporary cultural values where there seemed to be no place for it. In fact telivision was not  squeezed into existing  American culture; it changed the culture forever.After the arrival of televisiom, the world was never the same place again. Television proved to be transformative technology, just as print, electricity, the motorcar and now social networking. We can apply Sir Ken Robinson logic in reasoning these transformative technologies to social networking and who knows probably in 2020 social networking will be one of the fundamentals of schooling and only then would we think back about these days when schools are discussing the overall potential of these tools in education.

social networking in education

Social networking presents a huge opportunity for schools, universties and other educational organisations to reach out and connect with students and prospective students. But how can schools and universities go about using social media in a pedagogical way and what are its benefits on both students and teachers ? To answer these questions we need to divide our discussion into two parts one for students and the other for teachers. But before that let us go through some of the reasons why we should use social networking in education.

Reasons why we should embrace social networking in education.

There are several reasons why educators and school authorities need to seriously ponder about an effective policy of integrating social networking into the classroom. Here are in brief some of these reasons as stated in Mashable's  " The Case for Social Media in Schools' :

1- Social Media is not going away
2- When Kids are engaged they learn better
3- Safe Social Media Tools are Available and for free
4- Replace Online procrastination with social education
5- Social Media encourages collaboration instead of cliques
Please read the Mahsabe article for more details about these reasons.

Benefits of social networking on students :

The positive effects of social networking sites in education are profound. According to a study conducted by the University of Minnesota on student use of social media, students who are already engaging in social networking could benefit from incorporating it into curriculum.

Christine Greenhow, who was the principal investigator in a study, elaborated on the impact social networking could have on education.

"By understanding how students may be positively using these networking technologies in their daily lives and where the as-yet-unrecognized educational opportunities are, we can help make schools even more relevant, connected, and meaningful to kids."

social networking in education

Accordingly students benefit from social networking in several ways such as :

  • They develop the 21st century skills needed for a successful career after school
  • They nurture a positive attitude towards the use of technology not only in their education but in their life as a whole
  • It allows them to share and exchange school assignments and projects
  • It lets them stay updated about their schools news
  • It gives a quick instant access to their classroom updates
  • It teaches them responsibility
  • It creates engagement which helps students learn better
  • It encourages collaboration and team work for students
  • It fosters communicative skills and develops inter-personal relationships
  • It helps students develop critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, and global participation

Another study, which analyzed how students performed when asked to use twitter to do assignments, found that students who were asked to "contribute to class discussions and complete assignments using Twitter increased their engagement over a semester more than twice as much as a control group."

Benefits of social networking on Teachers:

Social networking benefits not only students but also provides new opportunities for communication amongst teachers and educators. According to a report featured in The Journal of Educational Technology Systems : " Tech savvy administrators are using blogs as a tool to keep parents, teachers, and students informed of the things going on in their schools".

Here are more benefits social networking offers for teachers and educators :

1- Social networking helps teachers huddle professionally
2- It provides them with their own " voice "
3- It also encourages collaboration in dealing with everyday issues that teachers face in their work
4-It allows for sharing of content and best practice in a friendly environement
5-  It exposes teachers to the possibilities offered by web 2.0 technologies
6- It helps teachers develop a solid life-long learning policy
7- It offers a great space for sharing experiences, collaborating, researching and updating one knowledge
8- From a cultural perspective, social networking  can be a vehicle for world peace and inter-cultural understanding through the promotion of cross-cultural dialogue.
9- Social networking helps teachers stay engaged in education

These are just some of the benefits of social networking for teachers. I might have missed some other ideas but I would love to get your suggestions and additions if you have some just drop them in the comment box below. I will stop for now but stay tuned because part 2 of this article will probably be posted tomorrow or the day after. I will be providing a must have list of social networls and teacher online communities that you need to join to develop professionaly and meet other teachers from all around the world.

Update : Part Two has been posted. Click here to read it

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