First-of-Its-Kind Study at the University of Minnesota Uncovers the Educational Benefits of Social Networking Sites
University of Minnesota News (06/19/08) Badaracco, Luisa
University of Minnesota researchers have determined the educational benefits of social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook and also found that low-income students are in many ways just as technologically proficient as their more advantaged counterparts. The researchers found that 94 percent of students in the study used the Internet, 82 percent used the Internet at home, and 77 percent have a profile on a social networking site. Students said social networking sites taught them technology skills, creativity, being open to new or diverse views, and communication skills. Data was collected over six months from students in 13 urban high schools in the Midwest. In addition to the initial surveyed students, a follow-up, randomly selected subset were asked questions on their Internet activity while they used MySpace. University of Minnesota learning technologies researcher Christine Greenhow says students that use social networking sites learn and practice the kinds of 21st century skills that educators say are needed to be successful. “Students are developing a positive attitude towards using technology systems, editing and customizing content, and thinking about online design and layout,” Greenhow says. The results show that social networking sites provide more than just social fulfillment or professional networking and have implications for educators, who have an opportunity to support what students are learning on the Web, Greenhow says. The study contradicts a 2005 study from Pew that suggests a digital divide is forming in which low-income students are technologically impoverished.