Practical Theory - The Origin
The Scholars in CyberEnglish
ToDaY's MeNu - Ted

Monday, June 23, 2008

And the Research says

Educational Benefits Of Social Networking Sites Uncovered

I've been in a conversation about the importance or not of research as opposed to anecdotal evidence. It is always a tough conversation. As educators we live by anecdotal evidence and understand it so well. Yet it doesn't convince the policy makers one iota. They want research and that of course takes time, valuable time away from us and from those we serve, our scholars. While the research is being conducted too many scholars have to wait for the results to come in before it benefits them.

I have just come across a piece of research that proves what many of us who use technology or not already knew from our anecdotal evidence. In a study about social networking programs like MySpace and FaceBook, "The 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."

Now when I read this most recent research on the value of social networks and that it was classless, I responded with a big DUH!!

Gosh I wish I were more research oriented sometimes. When I started using technology in 1983, I was saying things and telling people things about the effects of technology that I observed. Their response in too many cases was "that would be a good research project, Ted." Over the years, many of the things I had observed eventually were researched and the anecdotal evidence I had written about was found to be valid. It is very frustrating for too many teachers who have tons of anecdotal evidence to support their practice to be ignored. Teachers have choices, either work the classroom or do research. I don't know too many who can do both. I'm not sure I need a researcher to tell me how these scholars are using the social networks in my school. First they find a proxy buster and get to their social network, which a teacher cannot get to because of the filter. That is the first lesson I learned. We have filters and these students get around them without any problem. They get to sites teachers can't get to to use in the classroom. They are ready for the 21st Century and their teachers are not. I don't need a researcher to tell me this. I then observe what they do on these sites. Oh I wish I could use these sites in my classroom to teach English, but I can't they are blocked to me, but not to my scholars. I could go on, but I won't it is too depressing.

When we want to do something, we are told we need to do the research. And when we do or get the research, we don't see the necessary change occur. So let's see what happens in schools with this first of a kind research on the positive affects of social networking.
I appreciate what these researchers have done, because now I can take this research to some of the people in charge of our network and hopefully get the filter lifted on some of these sites so we can use them in the classroom. I appreciate the researchers because they did for the first time, prove that social network sites actually have a beneficial affect on students. Of course, not to sound ungrateful, there are many of us who have used technology for years and many more who have been using technology for a short period who discovered this knowledge on their own and without formal research. It is what they observed in their classrooms and then shared on a social network with colleagues who verified that they, too, had observed and discovered this phenomenon. Maybe social networks will become the new platform for research. Since this is the first of the research projects on the positive affects of social networks in teaching, I'm still stunned and disingenuous as to its effect on our educational system and policy. I'm ecstatic about this research because it is a major breakthrough for technology use in the classroom. Thank you, Christine Greenhow and the University of Minnesota team of researchers for this ground breaking research.


TeachMoore said...

Thanks for this great post and the link to the research. I've been an admirer of your classroom work for many years (I believe the first time I heard you was at Carnegie). Are you familiar with my friend Bill Ferriter, at the Tempered Radical blog? He has written much along the same line as you have in this post from his vantage point in middle school.

Ted Nellen said...

Hello Renee,

How great to hear from you. You were in the cohort after ours at Carnegie as I remember. Great to hear from and thank you for the kind words. Yes, I know Bill's work, brilliant.

I hope this research is useful for those of us using technology.