January 18 2008

Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?

Classroom networking

As part of a series of debates on education, the Economist website held an “Oxford-style” online debate this week on the subject of
“Social Networking: does it bring positive change to education?”
.

Ewan McIntosh, of edublogger fame, spoke for the proposition and Michael Bugeja, Director of Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication, ISU, spoke against it.

The result? Well, the audience is voting strongly in favour of the proposition (around a two-thirds majority are in favour) but, given the medium used for the debate, this is hardly a surprise.

Perhaps more interesting than the debate on the Economist website itself has been the informal debate stirred up online around the subject. Ewan, of course, has been actively blogging about the issue, and has been providing further depth to the debate by discussing issues raised by others such as uber-blogger Danah Boyd. Danah’s argument is interesting, as she has no vested interest in either side of the argument, and provides a good neutral perspective:

“In their current incarnation, social network sites (SNSs) like Facebook and MySpace should not be integrated directly into the classroom. That said, they provide youth with a valuable networked public space to gather with their peers. Depending on the role of school in their lives, youth leverage these structures for educational purposes - asking questions about homework, sharing links and resources, and even in some cases asking their teachers for information outside of the classroom.

“SNSs do not make youth engage educationally; they allow educationally-motivated youth with a structure to engage educationally… “their value is about the kinds of informal social learning that is required for maturation - understanding your community, learning the [sic] communicate with others, working through status games, building and maintaining friendships, working through personal values, etc.

“Given how regulated youth are, any open space where socializing is possible will be taken up by socializing; it’s often the only place they can see their friends. This isn’t something that the schools can fix, but they also shouldn’t be surprised when group time turns into gossip time.”


The debate continues…

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