Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook are already ubiquitous in our social lives, and according to a study from the Educational Forum, it can be an inseparable part of our academic lives as well.
A new study from The Educational Forum, a University of Illinois-based organization of educators, recently reported on the use of social networking sites in colleges and universities around the country.
Focusing on the use of Twitter, the study found that of the more than 200 million active users a third of all young adults between 18 and 29 were included.
“Young people’s varied use of Twitter in learning settings was found to support a number of positive educational outcomes, including increased student engagement, active learning, improved relationship between students and instructors, and higher grades,” the report outlined.
Among professors, however, views toward social networking are mixed.
NYU Sociology of Education professor Floyd Hammack admitted that he has not yet considered using social media sites in class, preferring instead to use older forms of online communication such as email and online course management systems.
“I use Blackboard … extensively, creating groups students use to communicate on projects and I email to class members often with news articles or other material relevant to the class.”
The director of the journalism program at the City College of New York, Professor Linda Villarosa, was more adamant about using social media in the classroom.
“Social networking is an excellent tool for students,” she said “I encourage students to use social media like Facebook and Twitter to find story ideas and sources…insist[ing] that they create about.me and linkedin profiles to show their work, network, and make connections that will be helpful for finding internships and after graduation.”
Villarosa recognizes social networking’s ability to distract students. “Facebook, especially, is a huge time suck. But I try not to fight against it because it’s also an excellent source of news and information.”
Peter J. McAliney, a doctoral candidate in Steinhardt’s higher education program, did research on social networking for his dissertation.
“Findings recognized that instructors who use social media technology to share timely, discipline-related news via Blackboard announcements, Tweeting, or posting on class Facebook pages … can increase student engagement,” McAliney said.
Steinhardt professor of higher education Teboho Moja concurred with that conclusion. “Operating in a global world and with so much mobility across borders, social media has become part of our teaching strategies in higher education.”
“I take into consideration the fact that students use social media for a whole range of stuff and therefore take advantage of that to link with them, connect them and continue to relate to them beyond the class through social media,” she said. “Its informal structure … lets even the reserved students open up and participate.”
Madeleine Overturf, a junior in Tisch, supports the use of social networking in classrooms to connect classmates.
“Having a Facebook group for a class [would] allow for everyone in the class to communicate with each other openly,” she said. “In the future, I see social networking as a supplement to college education. I don’t think it can ever replace an actual class, but it allows for continued learning and connections with your classmates long after the semester ends.”
GLS sophomore Ivy McCall disagrees.
“I feel like classrooms are a place where students can get away from the calling of social networking websites,” she said, “Besides, not everyone even has a Facebook or a Twitter. I don’t think classes should try to force or even push students to use social networking sites that they might have already decided not to use.”
A version of this article appeared in the Monday, Feb. 4 print edition. Andrew Karpan is deputy city/state editor. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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