Advances in technology have always transformed the way people are educated. From the abacus that made teaching math easier millennia ago, to the word processor that changed the way research papers are written and presented, humanity’s technological progress has impacted education.
The growth of social media - from Facebook to Twitter, from Flickr to Youtube - has provided a host of new opportunities for collaborative learning and, at the same time, raised questions about access. What influence do social media have on the nature of learning and how can education best join forces with them to support learners?
Executive SummaryI. Making Sense of the Digital WorldDan SutchWe need to recognise the opportunities provided by the use of social software, both in shared creation of content and wider access to audiences. However, these technologies fundamentally change the way we interact with knowledge. Education has moved from a broadcast model to one where we understand and make sense of information. We might need to rethink school organisation to provide a balance between providing information and supporting young people in creating knowledge.
This means that there is a shift from a supply-led to a demand-led approach to learning. We know that it is possible for people to come together through social media to create more appropriate learning activities. The question is what that means for younger learners and schools. II. The Limitations and Potential of Social NetworksProf. Ellen WartellaThe limitations of social networks must be noted as well as their potential. Social networking sites are better utilised by older high school and college students, as younger children are less likely to be reached by them. Secondly, research has shown that people use social networking for expressing identity and managing social life, not necessarily for education. Thirdly, research suggests that users can enter multiple communities of friends and manage relationships so that the online world of social groups tends to mirror the offline one. Fourthly, there are recurring examples of the negative consequences of using social networking sites. There are also great educational opportunities, such as the growing use of Facebook and Twitter by teachers to communicate with students outside the classroom. Secondly, education-oriented action groups use social media to extend their informational and educational outreach. Thirdly, there is remarkable opportunity to create educational networks. Earlier technologies rarely met the educational potential expected of them and in this respect social networks are likely to resemble them. Their potential is in our hands, and we should create it thoughtfully and in collaboration. III. Learning through Social MediaAbdalla AbdallaThe advantages of social media are ease of access, portability of technology, simplicity, and freedom of speech and expression. Using social platforms and other networking sites can help people reach their career goals more easily, while also educating people who may not know much about a particular field. Education can take place informally merely through the fact that people are interested in a subject. Social media are entering into the employment sphere. Soon the blog will replace the CV. Students are already using social media to improve their educational skills. The question is how educational institutions can join in this process.
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