Social networking sites, such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter, are being used by nearly all of the internet users of the world. They are an integral part of many people and even impact how they think, move, and communicate. These sites are also being experimented upon to find out unique and innovative ways to exploit it for various purposes and many of these ongoing experiments are in the field of education.
Because of their wide reach, social networking sites are an ideal source to spread knowledge. And with millions of hands participating in the process of creating and spreading knowledge by both experts of the fields and common people, the field of education has suddenly gained a new dimension.
With this article we will discuss about some of the most popular social networking sites that have educational benefits. We will also highlight some of the major benefits and some demerits of social networking sites on the field of education as a whole.
Top 10 Social networking sites that have educational benefits
Perhaps the largest social networking platform dedicated to education, Edmodo has more than 13 million users worldwide. Having a design similar to Facebook, Edmodo was made to encourage communication between teachers, students, and parents from all over the world. The site is also focuses on security. In order to prevent people from outside the targeted audience, Edmodo provide special codes to institutions that they can share with their students and their parents. Only those with the code can enter that specific group. The site can be used for posting assignments, conduct surveys, share educational videos and images, and most importantly communicate with each other.
Preview of Edmodo
A social network used by more than 1.5 million users, it focuses primarily on teaching conversational English to its users. Mostly popular in China, it also has user base in India, Brazil, Japan, Turkey, Egypt, the United States, and Taiwan. However much content is available only to premium members.
Preview of English Baby
Another site that focuses on teaching languages; however Livemocha has a collection of course material in more than 38 different languages. The users of the site can review each other’s content and can post their content for review. The content can range from an article to an mp3 or video clip. Both spoken and written material is reviewed on the basis of word selection, grammar, pronunciation, proficiency, and spellings. It has more than 12 million registered users from all over the globe, who active participate and help each other in learning new languages. Founded in 2007, Livemocha was included in the list of best 50 sites by Times magazine in 2010.
Preview of Livemocha
Acadmia.edu was launched in September 2008 as a platform for academic researchers and enthusiasts to share research papers and research material of other users. With over 1.9 million users it is hugely popular among scientists and college student alike. Users can share their research papers with other member of the same field, get in touch with experts of a field, and sought their help in a research. They can also see the analatics of their research paper, i.e., they can see how many people accessed their paper, and what were there reviews on it.
Preview of Acadmia.edu
Epernicus is also a social networking website targeted at researchers and scientists, but it does not have a feature to specifically allow sharing of research material or papers, focusing more on the social network aspect. So why we have chosen it for our list, well you can post questions on this site and will get suitable answers about them from established experts. You can start or participate in a discussion on any topic related to science and most of these discussions are research based and quite informative.
Preview of Epernicus
Course Cracker is social networking platform that allows teachers, students, and parents to connect with each other and collaborate to refine the process of learning. It aims at improving educational experience using latest web tools and applications. Users can access and post course material, assignments, quizzes, and other resources to education. They can also create groups to organize and share their material with a targeted audience. The site provide some additional services such as a discussion board, email notifications, photo and video album sharing, group chat, and document sharing.
Preview of Course Cracker
Students Circle Network
Founded in 2010, social circle network is one of the latest editions to the social networking website club. It is an educational social networking site that targets student and teachers. It also aims at providing free course material to students and facilitates student teacher communication especially related to a course material. The site has indexed more than 10,000 academic courses, all from more than 200 OpenCourseWare (OCW) member universities across the globe. The course material is available on all types of subjects such as engineering, science, computing, humanities and business.
Preview of Students Circle Network
A new social networking site that is focuses on online tools and application for promoting and facilitating learning using internet. It is an online social networking platform targeted at universities, tutors, and students. School Solutions, a product available on 9th period for universities and schools, facilitates building a custom online network for the school or university for secure content sharing and online learning. The site also allows individual users to interact with other students, teachers, and parents that have interest in a specific course, from all over the world.
Preview of 9th Period
Made on the Ning platform, the synapse is a social network that targets biology students, teachers, and researchers all over the globe. It encourages users to both read and write what they know. It also a great source of latest news and development in biology.
Preview of The synapse
The Molecular Forces
Another site that is made on Ning platform, the molecular forces is focused on chemistry and physics teachers students and researchers. It aims at creating an interconnected network of teachers so that they can share and discuss course material and learning strategies. It is also a great platform to ask questions and share new and innovative ideas.
Preview of The Molecular Forces
Some Other Special Entries To This List
Now with all that said I wish to include some special entries to this list. These social networking sites were not stated as an educational social network, but because of their extreme popularity, they can be used as a great source for spreading knowledge.
Now before you go on and say that dude Wikipedia is not a social networking site, I want you to check the discussion page of any article in Wikipedia. Hundreds of people who are interested in that topic chat in a forum based setting on the discussion page. They edit, review, cite references, ask additional questions, give feedbacks on the article, and share what they have learned from the article. Also in our opinion, if a site facilitate the gathering and serious discussion of hundreds of users, it could be classified as a social networking site. Besides, no one can dispute that Wikipedia is the greatest single repository of informative articles and is used by millions of net users every hour.
Preview of Wikipedia
There is no need to mention what is Facebook. Now because of its user base of nearly a billion users worldwide, it is one of the best sources to promote education. Nearly every student of an institution (atleast those that are 13 years or older) has a Facebook account. The present generation is very tech savvy and you will find that they have already created a group of their class and school in the Facebook. Teachers just have to join the group, or if the group is not already there then make a group, and then can post questions and their answers, reminders about events, and other informative videos and images, and it would be shared to the whole class, and if needed, to the whole world. Some notable Facebook groups for education are:
- Wikieducators It aims at providing a free education curriculum for all sectors and grades by 2015. It can be used to teach and learn online.
- E-Learning in developing and developed countries: This group was created to spread awareness about e-learning. Very informative discussions related to education could be found in this group along with some research papers and surveys.
- Teaching Critical Thinking: As the name suggests it aims at teaching and developing high level critical thing in students, through Facebook.
- Active Learning: A very informative discussion group that focuses on building class room concentration of students though innovative methods that could be used to engage students in learning.
Preview of Facebook
Another hugely popular site that is used my millions of professionals and companies all over the globe. Build mainly to promote business relations and networking, LinkedIn has evolved into a very large and popular social network. But it has still retained its original functionality and is still the most advantageous tool available to the job seekers and employers. Going on this approach, people have created several groups exclusively for educators. Some of them with spreading knowledge as their main target include:
- Visual Mapping in Education : It is a discussion forum that is focuses on finding and reviewing new methods of advancing visual mapping in education.
- Teachers Lounge : This group, formed exclusively for education professionals, is a haven for sharing new ideas and discussing existing problems of the education system.
- Higher Education Teaching and Learning : A global community of higher education professionals who have gathered together to improve educational outputs in higher education and to find innovative ways of teaching and learning.
Preview of Linkedin
Now the list of social networking sites is endless. So here is a list of social networking and bookmarking sites . These websites can be used to remain up to date with recent events and news and can be effectively used by teachers and students alike to learn about the views of the global community.
Advantages of social networking sites and how can we use them
Now that we have talked about different social networking websites that focus on promoting educations, let’s take a look at what other benefits one can observe from the social networking revolution.
A major aspect of nearly all social networking sites is their encouragement for creativity. If you want to become really popular in cyber space or in your friends circle, you have to be creative and original. There are many areas in which you can be original. You can be an interesting writer, or you can be an amazing photographer. Even if you don’t have those types of skills you can easily become an interesting internet surfer with an eye for new and unique content.
How to promote creativity
A very good way of promoting creativity through these sites is by encouraging your students to upload images or videos related to your course. Some teachers even ask their students to upload their essays and assignments on the net, analyze the feedback, and write a better one for the final class essay.
The most important feature of the social networking site is the ability to give and receive feedbacks. If this feature was not there, the world of social networking would not what it is today. Any content that you post instantly starts receiving comments, likes, reviews, opinions, and additional information on that topic.
How to use ‘Comment’
Now if you have asked your students to upload a write up on the site, and if it is excellently written, it will automatically starts to get positive reviews from other students and parents. Also a positive comment from a teacher is always a huge encouragement to work harder and better. And those, whose write up is not upto the mark, can be motivated to write better. You can point out the possible areas of improvement and additional data that could make his/her essay better.
Enhances communication skills
When told to speak correct and professional English, students face many problems. Some are not able to form correct sentences on the spot and after making a mistake, the whole flow of the sentence and conversation breaks apart. This highly discourages them to speak up. However when they have to converse using a written media, such as online chatting, they have all the time to form a correct sentence. And with practice, this correct sentence formation starts to show in spoken language.
How to enhance communication skills using internet
Online chatting or online posting can be a very effective tool in teaching a language to students whose mother tongue is different. You can ask student to converse in English, or any language of focus, and correct their shortcomings in class or online (online mistake finding have some drawbacks which is discussed later). Also it could be a great tool to encourage shy students to socialize and have conversations.
Develop teamwork and collaboration
When talking about social networking sites we often forget that it is on the internet and it offers mindboggling connectivity irrespective of boundaries of distance and time. It can be used to connect at great distance at non physical levels and thus can be used to form collaborate and form teams without worrying about locations.
How to develop team work using social network
Just said above, internet based social networks blur the boundaries of location. Now students can collaborate on school projects while sitting in their home and you can mentor them on any difficulties they face. Also you can encourage them to search about content on the internet themselves effectively promoting self education also. And the best part is that you can do all that while sitting in home watching football.
Access to information and Increased Awareness
Internet is extremely vast today. It contains a mind boggling amount of information all accessible right from your home. Social networking site is just another dimension of internet and thus are a great source of information. But the best aspect of social networking sites is that the automatically increase general awareness of dedicated users. Every recent political or social issue I deeply discussed on social media sites. Users get attracted to these discussion and willing or unknowingly gain great amounts of insight into a issue.
How to benefit from social media and internet
The best way to promote self education is to ask students to use internet for all types of projects. Nowadays many schools have encouraged students to do their work using computers and internet, so teachers can ask students to research about a topic on internet and write down external references (apart from standard textbook) that they have used for their project. This naturally increases the workload of students and they will not be that much happy with you but it gives some remarkable benefits.
Now the core reason for every social networking site is to promote connection. Everyone can remain in touch with their friends and loved ones from anywhere in the world using these sites. Just like that teachers can remain in touch with their students from anywhere in the city. They can help the students in their homework and can recommend them to additional sources of information.
Disadvantages of social networking sites in the field of education
After reading all those merits you would be rejoicing at the wonderful boon to mankind known as social networking. But it has its drawbacks that can’t be ignored.
Real knowledge or a giant rumor mill
The biggest problem with the social networking site is that there are very few experts who actually know what they are saying and some of them are ignored in the tide of more followed but inaccurate comments. The social network can become an enemy of itself. If a highly followed user forms an inaccurate rumor, it gets endlessly echoed by other until it starts to feel like truth. Often information is presented without any credible evidence or reference and some people who don’t know any better starts assuming it to be an established fact. There is no control on the quality that is posted on the net. It’s the sole responsibility of the reader to properly analyze and search about a fact.
While we were talking about feedback earlier, we mentioned that finding mistakes and commenting about it online can be dangerous. Students are very sensitive beings and thus have to be handled with care. Insensitive feedback on an online source can be devastating for a student and can make him/her a laughing stock among his or her peers. It may lead to bullying, social reclusion, and can give a permanent scar to the memories of the youth that will negatively shape his personality.
Although this may seem rather dramatic and it is as most of the students are not that fragile, but there is no harm in being supportive, encouraging and loving rather than being nagging and insensitive.
A learning source or a distraction
Well it’s in the nature of kids and in humans as a whole, to be distracted by more interesting aspects of a thing rather that the boring part that they have to do anyway. So after spending 6-7 hours a day in the school no kid will want to spend hours for searching the net about the same thing. The only thing they will use the computer in their school work would be for ctrl+c’ing and ctrl+v’ing from the first link they find on Google. In addition all the social networking site offer different types of schemes and applications to keep the users hooked to the screen. Facebook itself has mafia wars, Farmville, Cityville and numberous other games to keep the users distracted from the school work.
Also social gossip and other social discussion that usually ended in school can now be continued on the social network and internet.
But all is not lost
But everything has a negative aspect thus it is not wise to discard the positive aspects of the social networking websites. With proper conditioning and monitoring, these websites can be a very useful tool for the holistic development of a student.