unfortunately not. But I sure will keep my eyes open.
Is social networking good for education? The National School Boards Association (USA) in partnership with research firm Grunwald Associates LLC, and the support of Microsoft, Newscorp and >Verizon has just published a data-rich survey dissecting social and education related activity patterns by American students. ...And the results are more than interesting.
Photo credit: Niserin and Miodrag Gajic - mashed up by Robin Good
As you may expect traditional academic institutions have generally resisted the influence and increasingly pervasive presence of social networking activities in the life of their students, but recently, the same institutions have had to look with new eyes at all of the aspects and consequences of this new modes of technological socialization sweeping the younger generations.
The data that has emerged from the NSBA survey leaves no doubt as to how important social networking is today for young adults and how potentially effective this could be if there was a synergy, rather than a friction, between the online social interaction drivers of the new generations and the goals that schools in general are trying to achieve.
by NSBA - National School Boards Association
Online social networking is now so deeply embedded in the lifestyles of tweens and teens that it rivals television for their attention, according to a new study from Grunwald Associates LLC conducted in cooperation with the National School Boards Association.
Nine-to-17-year-olds report spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they spend watching television. Among teens, that amounts to about 9 hours a week on social networking activities, compared to about 10 hours a week watching TV.
Students are hardly passive couch potatoes online. Beyond basic communications, many students engage in highly creative activities on social networking sites -- and a sizeable proportion of them are adventurous nonconformists who set the pace for their peers.
Overall, an astonishing 96 percent of students with online access report that they have ever used any social networking technologies, such as chatting, text messaging, blogging and visiting online communities, such as Facebook, MySpace and services designed specifically for younger children, such as Webkins and the chat sections of Nick.com. Eighty-one percent say they have visited a social networking Web site within the past three months and 71 percent say they use social networking tools at least weekly.
Further, students report that one of the most common topics of conversation on the social networking scene is education.
Almost 60 percent of students who use social networking talk about education topics online and, surprisingly, more than 50 percent talk specifically about schoolwork. Yet the vast majority of school districts have stringent rules against nearly all forms of social networking during the school day -- even though students and parents report few problem behaviors online.
Indeed, both district leaders and parents believe that social networking could play a positive role in students' lives and they recognize opportunities for using it in education -- at a time when teachers now routinely assign homework that requires Internet use to complete.
In light of the study findings, school districts may want to consider reexamining
their policies and practices and explore ways in which they could use social networking for educational purposes.
Photo credit: Stephen Aaron Rees
There has been explosive growth in creative and authoring activities by students on social networking sites in recent years. With words, music, photos and videos, students are expressing themselves by creating, manipulating and sharing content online.
This is how they're spending time:
Source: Grunwald Associates LLC
Nonconformists -- students who step outside of online safety and behavior rules -- are on the cutting edge of social networking, with online behaviors and skills that indicate leadership among their peers.
Source: Grunwald Associates LLC
About one in five (22 percent) of all students surveyed, and about one in three teens (31 percent), are nonconformists, students who report breaking one or more online safety or behavior rules, such as using inappropriate language, posting inappropriate pictures, sharing personal information with strangers or pretending to be someone they are not.
Nonconformists are significantly heavier users of social networking sites than other students, participating in every single type of social networking activity surveyed (28 in all) significantly more frequently than other students both at home and at school -- which likely means that they break school rules to do so. For example, 50 percent of nonconformists are producers and 38 percent are editors of online content, compared to just 21 percent and 16 percent, respectively, of other students.
But they are significantly more likely to prefer new media to old.
They also are disproportionately likely to learn about new sites and features online, through the "chat vine" or other online mechanisms, while other students are more likely to hear about them from parents or teachers. Ironically, nonconformists also are more in touch with their parents as well, communicating significantly more frequently with their parents in every way except in person -- online or by cell phone, for example -- than other students.
These students seem to have an extraordinary set of traditional and 21st century skills, including communication, creativity, collaboration and leadership skills and technology proficiency. Yet they are significantly more likely than other students to have lower grades, which they report as "a mix of Bs and Cs," or lower, than other students.
However, previous research with both parents and children has shown that enhanced Internet access is associated with improvements in grades and school attitudes, including a 2003 survey by Grunwald Associates LLC.
In any event, these findings suggest that schools need to find ways to engage nonconformists in more creative activities for academic learning.
Photo credit: Gudella
While social networking seems omnipresent in the lives of most tweens and teens outside of school, most school districts are cautious about its use in school. Most schools have rules against social networking activities:
Still, despite the rules, there is some officially sanctioned, educationally packaged social networking occurring in schools.
Almost seven in 10 districts (69 percent) say they have student Web site programs. Nearly half (49 percent) say their schools participate in online collaborative projects with other schools, and almost as many (46 percent) say their students participate in online pen pal or other international programs.
More than a third (35 percent) say their schools and/or students run blogs, either officially or in the context of instruction. More than one in five districts (22 percent) say their classrooms are involved in creating or maintaining wikis, Web sites that allow visitors to add, remove or edit content.
Many school districts also use social networking for professional purposes. For example, more than one in four districts (27 percent) say their schools participate in a structured teacher/principal online community.
Interestingly, districts that report that their parents are influential in technology decision making are more active in social networking (71 percent vs. 59 percent in districts with low parental influence). Further, large, urban and Western districts are typically more active users of social networking than other districts.
Only a minority of students has had any kind of negative experience with social networking in the last three months; even fewer parents report that their children have had a negative experience over a longer, six-month period.
Most problems students and parents report are similar to the types of problems typically associated with any other media (television or popular music) or encountered in everyday life:
The vast majority of students, then, seem to be living by the online safety behaviors they learn at home and at school.
Teachers Requiring Internet Use for Homework.
School district leaders report that teachers are now routinely assigning homework that requires Internet use to complete, no longer allowing equity concerns to be a barrier:
Photo credit: Shapiso
While a significant percentage of educators require their students to use the Internet for homework, school policies indicate that many are not yet convinced about the value of social networking as a useful educational tool or even as an effective communications tool. This may indicate that their experience with social networking is limited. However, they are curious about its potential -- a sign that there may be some shifts in attitudes, policies and practices in the future.
Both schools and especially parents have strong expectations about the positive roles that social networking could play in students' lives. District leaders say they hope social networking will help students "get outside the box" in some way or another. Nearly half of them (48 percent) expect social networking to introduce students to "new and different kinds of students." More than four in 10 (43 percent) hope social networking will help students "learn to express themselves better creatively" and "develop global relationships".
But district leaders are skeptical at this point about the educational value of social networking.
Fewer than one in three (29 percent) believe that social networking could help students improve their reading or writing or express themselves more clearly (28 percent). Somewhat more of them (36 percent) hope that social networking will help students learn to work together to solve academic problems.
Parents, on the other hand, have higher expectations. More than three in four (76 percent) expect social networking to help their children improve their reading and writing skills or express themselves more clearly; three out of four (75 percent) also expect social networking to improve children's ability to resolve conflicts. Almost as many (72 percent) expect social networking to improve their children's social skills as well.
Both schools and parents are interested in social networking as an educational tool. Both also demand an educational value and purpose as a requirement for social networking in school.
Nearly nine in 10 district leaders (87 percent) say "strong educational value and purpose" will be a requirement for them to permit student access to any social networking site. Urban (89 percent) and rural (96 percent) districts feel particularly strongly about this, compared to their peers. More than seven in 10 parents (72 percent) agree that educational value and purpose are "important" or "very important."
Large proportions of district leaders say that a strong emphasis on collaborative and planned activities (81 percent), strong tools for students to express themselves (70 percent) and an emphasis on bringing different kinds of students together (69 percent) would be required for them to buy into social networking for school use. But most also would insist on adult monitoring (85 percent) and would continue to prohibit chat and instant messaging (71 percent) as conditions of social networking use in school.
Photo credit: Andres Rodriguez
Parents and communities place faith in school board members and educators to protect students during the school day -- and that means securing their safety when they're online. It is appropriate, then, for school boards to approach social networking with thoughtful policies that maintain their parents' and communities' trust.
At the same time, parents and communities also expect schools to take advantage of potentially powerful educational tools, including new technology. Clearly, both district leaders and parents are open to believing that social networking could be such a tool -- as long as there are reasonable parameters of use in place.
Moreover, social networking is increasingly used as a communications and collaboration tool of choice in businesses and higher education. As such, it would be wise for schools, whose responsibility it is to prepare students to transition to adult life with the skills they need to succeed in both arenas, to reckon with it.
Finally, despite the large majorities of students who seem to be highly active social butterflies online, equitable access is still a critical consideration for schools. It is incumbent on schools to recognize the silent minority of students who do not have easy access to computers, cell phones and other devices commonly used for social networking.
Here are some ways that school board members could strike the appropriate balance between protecting their students and providing a 21st century education:
This survey was originally published by NSBA on October 2007 and titled "Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social - and Educational - Networking". You'll find analytics data here.
The study was comprised of three surveys:
Grunwald Associates LLC
Grunwald Associates LLC, an independent research and consulting firm that has conducted highly respected surveys on educator and family technology use since 1995, formulated and directed the study. Hypothesis Group managed the field research. Tom de Boor and Li Kramer Halpern of Grunwald Associates LLC provided guidance throughout the study and led the analysis. A more detailed market research report based on this survey, including findings of interest to industry, is available commercially from Grunwald Associates. The study was carried out with support from Microsoft, News Corporation and Verizon. The views of the study do not necessarily represent the views of the underwriters.
The National School Boards Association
The National School Boards Association is a not-for-profit federation of state associations of school boards across the United States. Our mission is to foster excellence and equity in public education through school board leadership. NSBA represents the nation's 95,000 school board members that govern 14,890 local school districts serving more than 47 million public school students.
The Technology Leadership Network
The Technology Leadership Network (TLN) is NSBA's district membership program designed for education leaders who establish policies and implement technology decisions that enhance teaching and learning, operations, and community outreach efforts.NSBA - National School Boards Association -
unfortunately not. But I sure will keep my eyes open.
Robin, I was fascinated by the paragraph about the Nonconformists students.
I was wondering, do you happen to know if there there is more research about these types of students?