Eureka! – a study just published tells us that Facebook (and other social networking sites) have a significant educational benefit. The crux of the findings are that low decile students, those formerly found to be at the lower end of the digital divide (statistically speaking) are leveraging their quality time spent Facebook-ing and are thus equalizing with their more fortunate peers.

Sorry – but this sounds like namby pamby, bleeding hearted liberal speak here and yet another retreat from effective education. Specific questions I have;

  • If there is any educational benefit to be gained from the use of social media – surely all users gain the same benefit thus the technological chasm between higher and lower deciles (if it exists) should remain the same?
  • Apparently respondents mentioned a creativity gain to be achieved from using Facebook – sorry but FunPoke does not equate to War and Peace and neither does DrawWall (or whatever it is mindlessly called) equate to DaVinci’s Mona Lisa
  • Teachers are being encouraged to increase students use of social media in order to extend these gains – in a time constrained educational system does this mean they’ll no longer be taught to read (oops they’re not anymore anyway)?

These researchers seem to confuse using technology with learning how to create technology. Sorry but using Facebook doth not another Zuckerberg create. And in the same vein listening to Eminem ad nauseum is hardly likely to create Le Quattro Stagioni for our times.

Or is it?

And then again, conflicting reports out of Scotland say that the reasons students are failing (!) is because they are relying too much on a Wikipedia resource which is “riddled with inaccuracies”. The Scotsman is somewhat more realistic when it says;

(it is) easier to blame Wikipedia than the fact that you’re poor parents and your children are out partying or playing video games.
Inaccuracies are found in standard encyclopedias (and newspapers) too. And besides, don’t your schools provide textbooks?

So… a few things here;

  • Wikipedia is just one resource among many, it’s defining attribute however, that of citizen creation, arguably makes it a candidate for more inaccuracy than traditional encyclopedias (more here)
  • Any teacher or parent who relies on only one resource is crazy (or stupid or both)
  • Just as Facebook doth not a Neanderthal create, Wikipedia doth not an Einstein make
  • Test scores fall, test scores rise – chief among the reasons are parental guidance and values, and the presence or otherwise of good educationalists
Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

  • All good – signed up, got the invite and … no venue!
    Apart from “in Wellington”, WHERE is this event?

  • Hmmm – you’re in Wellington Mike I thought you’d be in the no…..

  • Falafulu Fisi |

    This is one of those useless study I’ve seen recently. The study, I noted is not peer reviewed, because if that is the case, then there will be a citation from the ScienceDaily website which says, the working paper where that is based on this study was submitted to journal X, Y, Z for possible publication. There is not such citation at all and this means the study can be dismissed as bollocks, not because it is non-peer reviewed but because one could see the faults in their study which is quite obvious. An example:

    “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.

    No, one can learn how to use Words, Photoshop and all these consumer-based software without joining a social networking site. Learners can join a specialized discussion group, forums, newsgroups and other related mailing lists. Since those who joined such specific discussion groups all have the same aims or goals and that is to share information about a specific topic. If it is Facebook, one could raise a question about programming in C#, but it is unlikely that there will be a single person in one’s own network of friends has any knowledge of the subject. Such question like this is best addressed in a specific/specialize forum.

    “Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content and thinking about online design and layout.

    They can do this via Yahoo free services by opening an account there, where they can practice the art of writing their own pages. Besides, positive attitudes is not a good metric for defining the success of education. They should have measured the outcome of students school tests at the end of the year to see if those who joined a social networkings had performed better compared to those who aren’t in a social networking sites in say, tests for maths, science, physics, chemistry, literatures, etc… Measuring a positive attitude is useless.

    They’re also sharing creative original work like poetry and film and practicing safe and responsible use of information and technology.

    You can be creative without joining a social networking site. Anyone who claims to be creative only if he/she joins a social networking site, is not creative, since the very definition of being creative is to be self-driven rather being inspired (or driven) by others (ie, ideas or methods).

    The Web sites offer tremendous educational potential.

    Yeah, the web site offers none that is useful but time-wasting. Instead of joining a forum, say, high school discussion group in maths/science/history/literature, etc… to learn real knowledge that is vital for higher achievement in education, they joined Facebook and the likes to just sent useless email messages (mostly teen age crap talk) to each other (back & forth) wasting their time and not learning anything useful that perhaps related to the school curriculum on a specific subject.

    Social Networking sites are useless, and school children (junior or senior) should be discouraged from being seduced to join, because all Facebook and other social networking sites are doing is wasting student’s valuable time that could have been spent discussing something important related to the school curriculum.

    And here is the biggest flaw of all in that study:

    Beyond the surveyed students, a follow-up, randomly selected subset were asked questions about their Internet activity as they navigated MySpace, an online forum that provides users with e-mail, web communities and audio and video capabilities.

    As far as I read about the study, there was never mention of any control group at all, so without a control group, the study’s findings has to be thrown out completely, no ifs no buts , because it is a waste of time to even start reading a study that is flawed. The second point, the data collected in the follow up, even they (participants) were selected randomly, it would change the fact that these subjects had visited MySpace, so bias was not eliminated in the first place. Again this study should have been dismissed as crap.

  • Falafulu Fisi |


    it would change the fact that these subjects had visited MySpace

    is supposed to read as:

    it wouldn’t change the fact that these subjects had visited MySpace

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