Social networking sites provide educational benefits

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Washington, Jun 22 (UNI) Have profile on a social networking site? Researchers at the University of Minnesota have discovered the educational benefits of social networking sites.

The study found that, of the students observed, 94 per cent used the Internet, 82 per cent go online at home and 77 per cent had a profile on a social networking site. When asked what they learn from using social networking sites, the students listed technology skills as the top lesson, followed by creativity, being open to new or diverse views and communication skills.

"The 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.

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

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

The websites offer tremendous educational potential." Greenhow said that the study's results, while proving that social networking sites offer more than just social fulfillment or professional networking, also have implications for educators, who now have a vast opportunity to support what students are learning on the Websites.

"Now that we know what skills students are learning and what experiences they're being exposed to, we can help foster and extend those skills," said Greenhow. "As educators, we always want to know where our students are coming from and what they're interested in so we can build on that in our teaching. By understanding how students may be positively using these networking technologies in their daily lives and where the as yet unrecognised educational opportunities are, we can help make schools even more relevant, connected and meaningful to kids." Interestingly, researchers found that very few students in the study were actually aware of the academic and professional networking opportunities that the Websites provide. Making this opportunity more known to students, Greenhow said, is just one way that educators can work with students and their experiences on social networking sites.

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