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TIES Day 2:Do Sites Like MySpace and Facebook Help Students Learn

U of MN College of Education and Human Development researcher Christine Greenhow presented a 6 month Lit review of the use of social network sites in education. She maintains an emerging site called socialnetresearch.org.

She defined Social Networks to Web based services that allow individuals to a)construct a public or semi-public profile, b) articulate a list of other users with whom they share a connection, c) view and traverse their list of connections or others connections within the system. For today's talk, she will focus on MySpace and Facebook.(Boyd and Ellison, 2007)

Common Features
  • Public Profile
  • Privacy Settings (Privacy paradox among teens-How much info to share?)
  • Share Prompts (Face book just started a movie preference option, to create groups of like minded users)
  • List of Connections(Public/Semi-Public; "Friends"-some may be "fakesters", researchers see the term "friends" as a problem.)
  • Messaging (Public comments or private mail messages)
  • Unique Features/Activities (Photo sharing, video sharing, movie annotation, blogging, IM, suport of mobile features)
  • Default Networks (Geography, linguistics groups)

History
Social Networking sites started in 1997. MySpace explosion in 2003-2004, Facebook 2005 opened to HS students.
Trends
  • 55% of US Teens use social networks
  • 66% say they limit their profile
  • 50% use it at least once a day
  • Use it to stay in touch with friends they know, not to meet new people. Many use it to stay in touch with friends they rarely see.
  • 49% use it to make new friends- 2007 survey. Other studies don't show this
  • Older boys are more likely than girls to make new friends and "flirt"

Relevance for Educators
  • Encourage Community and self-expression (U of Penn-Pennster for incoming freshman)
  • Offer immersion for foreign language students
  • Extent impact and life span of educational conferences (Facebook groups, Classroom 2.0 on Ning)
  • Students tend to cluster in groups with homogeneous GPA
  • Very High performing students are on the social fringe-May help red flag kids who need help
  • Only 10 relevent studies regarding SN in Education
  • Themes of Research
    • Self-presentation and Friendship

    • Network Analysis
    • Online/Offline connectionns and social capital-biggest implecation for educators
    • Privacy issues (Must have a conversation regarding privacy and employment, police investigations, friends' privacy settings...)

Do Social Networks help kids learn?

There is evidence that students in transition, or with low self-esteem may gain social capital by being involved in social networks. The new NETS standards emphasize skills that are demonstrated on SN sites. Media Literacy skills are being demonstrated when students use SN sites. Students who may not be leaders in a face to face environment, could become one on a Social Networking site, and then become one in the "real" world. Cho, 2007 found that the more connected you are the higher final grades students achieved. Students expect to share their work with their peers and getting feedback from them as well.

The U of MN will be conducting a study of 1200 K-12 students this winter using surveys and focus groups looking at the implications of SN.

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