Noelene Callaghan           

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Social Networking Sites

Social Networking Sites are considered to be sophisticated web-based services that allow individuals to construct a profile, form a list of users with whom they share a connection, and view and traverse information with others (Boyd & Ellison, 2007). They are no longer regarded as simply as a communication tool that “allows one to make new friends, renew or maintain old acquaintances, establish romantic relationships, and network amongst business peers” (Beckenham, 2008, p. 2). 

They can be used for a large range of age groups (over the age of 13 years), and can productively connect a diverse group of students whilst creating multiliteracies and developing cognitive capabilities (Healy, 2007). This is achieved by their capabilities to create online groups that enable users to ‘Chat’ in addition to search for and critique information as well as post and withdraw data, audio and video files (Sale & Sims, 2008).

SNS’s create synergistic opportunities of learning by supporting all levels of cognitive abilities, peer-based learning and the creation of new media literacy (Beckenham, 2008). This permits taxonomies such as that by Anderson & Krathwohl (aka the new Blooms) (Wilson, 2006) to be of reference within the classroom.

This study elucidates that the use of SNS’s in high school classes may lead to varying learning outcomes that may not depend on the SNS itself. The vast differences between the two classes which used identical instruments is essential to this study as this depicts that the level of success of SNS learning activities will vary between high school classes depending on the way it is implemented.

Social Networking Sites permit:

  • Connectivity and social rapport
  • Collaborative information discovery and sharing
  • Content creation
  • Knowledge and information aggregation, and
  • Content modification

Research Findings: Both initially and throughout the study, teacher observations indicated that students were excited to be using Ning. Students did not encounter any problems locating the Ning Network, creating an account or navigating around the SNS. Immediately, students showed signs of past SNS use.

Factors such as teacher-student relationships, social rapport and online teacher intervention facilitated a positive classroom climate which enhanced overall student engagement.  
The full report on this research study can be downloaded at http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09523987.2012.662621

This research study won the Teachers Guild Research Award Prize in 2014