Online social networking for learning

Christine Greenhow explores the potential value of social networking sites  

IN JUST 15 YEARS, internet-connectivity in schools, homes, neighborhoods, and communities has become increasingly pervasive. Since the mid-1990s, the percentage of public schools connected to the internet exploded from 35% to 100%. Public instructional classrooms with internet access grew to 94%, up from 14% a decade earlier. Outside schools, about 62% of all U.S. households have internet access, many of which are broadband. For U.S. families with children under 18, the percentage of internet-connected households is even higher (70% to 80% by some estimates). Indeed, the vast majority of young people are going online from a variety of locations, mostly from home, with adolescents aged 12 to 17 representing the largest and fastest-growing group of internet users.

What we know
● Online social networking is the dominant out-of-school, computer-using leisure activity among U.S. teenagers.
● Research suggests that social networking applications hold tremendous potential for learning and teaching.
● Students reported that regular use of their social network site was developing their creativity, communication skills, technology skills, and openness to divergent viewpoints.

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October 2010