social media

Failure to Connect – Social Media in Class Might Not Work

The Bandwagon

If you are thinking of using social media in a class to help build useful collaborative connections, retire the fears of shy students and introduce the same engagement you see in sites like Facebook, think again.  A recent study by the Lab for Social Computing at Rochester Institute of Technology suggests that the use of social media in classrooms might yield little effect in improved communications and enhanced connections between students. The study into the effects of social media was conducted as part of a course on the use of social media and tools. It included contributions from online learning and course management systems and discussion groups that were proposed to enhance instruction, improve communication and facilitate connections between the students and course content. The results indicate that poor social acumen in the face-to-face interactions might be mirrored in the (more) virtual social medium. What’s more, echoing teacher and educational social media researcher Michael Wesch, the RIT study suggests that the educational use of social media may have to be learned:

“…the educational use of social media may not counteract poor social connections that are seen in face-to-face communication or elicit the same impacts seen in the use of social media sites such as MySpace and FaceBook.”

Researcher and team leader Susan Barnes comments on the hopes and goals of social media in the educational environment relative to her team’s findings:

“Many social media advocates have argued that the use of these tools in classroom settings could greatly enhance interaction and learning and assist shyer, more reserved students in becoming more involved, as has been seen in other online environments. However, our findings show that the incorporation of social media had no measurable impact on social connections, to the point that students did not consider other members of the class to be part of their social network.”

The RIT research team plans to expand the study to consider different educational formats and additional social media applications in an effort to determine the effects and differences of social media from traditional classrooms. The intent is to help educational planners and instructional designers better use social media in course development and delivery.

“The issues surrounding poor social network construction within online educational environments points to greater opportunities to examine how technology and mediated software can be better designed to suit the types of communication and interactions desired by our students.”  – Christopher Egert, co-author

Jacobs, Stephen, Egert, Christopher A., Barnes, Susan B., “Social Media Theory and Practice: Lessons Learned for a Pioneering Course,” 39th ASEE/IEEE Frontiers in Education Conference, T4J-1, October 18 – 21, 2009, San Antonio, TX.

Study Examines Use of Social Media in the Classroom

Social Networking Sites Good for Learning

A recent research effort from scholars at the University of Minnesota concludes that social networking sites like MySpace and Facebook do have a positive effect on learning and can foster creativity:

The study found that, of the students observed, 94 percent used the Internet, 82 percent go online at home and 77 percent had a profile on a social networking site. When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills.

The study supports findings by teachers using Web 2.0 technologies in class who report that often students do not know how to use social media for educational purposes:

Interestingly, researchers found that very few students in the study were actually aware of the academic and professional networking opportunities that the Web sites provide. Making this opportunity more known to students, Greenhow said, is just one way that educators can work with students and their experiences on social networking sites.

The report goes on to cite that findings of a “digital divide” between low-income students and others might be overstated:

The study also goes against previous research from Pew in 2005 that suggests a “digital divide” where low-income students are technologically impoverished. That study found that Internet usage of teenagers from families earning $30,000 or below was limited to 73 percent, which is 21 percentage points below what the U of M research shows.

Further information on the findings can be found here.