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This should be interesting to all of us, be it people who study capabilities of online education or people who study teen online behavior. It also appears to be a part of gradual shift from media scares about “online predators” to a more serious look at what the Web is bringing to the new generations and how it changed the world:

Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered:

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered the educational benefits of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. The same study found that low-income students are in many ways just as technologically proficient as their counterparts, going against what results from previous studies have suggested.

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.

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“What we found was that students using social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of 21st century skills we want them to develop to be successful today,” said Christine Greenhow, a learning technologies researcher in the university’s College of Education and Human Development and principal investigator of the study. “Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout. They’re also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology. The Web sites offer tremendous educational potential.”

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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.