In this digital world, opportunities for education are available like never before. Though teachers using online tools are empowering students take part in their education, they may also expose them to inappropriate material, sexual predators, and bullying and harassment by peers.
Teachers who are not careful with their use of the sites can fall into inappropriate relationships with students or publicize photos and information they believed were kept private. For these reasons, critics are calling for regulation and for removing social networking from classrooms -- despite the positive affects they have on students and the essential tools they provide for education in today's digital climate.
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."
Through utilizing teaching techniques that incorporate social media, teachers are able to increase students' engagement in their education, increase technological proficiency, contribute to a greater sense of collaboration in the classroom, and build better communication skills.
A Mashable article titled, The Case For Social Media in Schools, also details several reasons for advocating the use of social networking in the classroom and provides a real example of how it is affecting education in a positive way.
"A year after seventh grade teacher Elizabeth Delmatoff started a pilot social media program in her Portland, Oregon classroom, 20 percent of students school-wide were completing extra assignments for no credit, grades had gone up more than 50 percent, and chronic absenteeism was reduced by more than a third."
Karen Cator, from the U.S. Dept. of Education, in an online question and answer series featured on edutopia.org also commented on the potential of social networking to improve the American education system. As calls for education reform resonate across the country and looming budget cuts indicate a grim future for many public schools, online tools are becoming valuable resources. Some say, however, they come with too great a risk.
"Think about not only incorporating technology into your lessons, but creating more and more compelling assignments so that 21st century skills, the kinds of things students will have to develop in terms of critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, global participation -- that these are incorporated into assignments. The best spaces will incorporate social media, and interacting with others. "
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."
Use of social networking not only benefits students, but also provides new opportunities for communication amongst teachers and administrators. 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."
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