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Report: 46% of Students Use Facebook For Education Collaboration

A report released last week by Project Tomorrow, a national education nonprofit group, shows that social media use among students for educational research is on the rise. This seems to follow a trend among almost all demographic groups where product development is driven by consumer preferences rather than industry offerings. Students are moving away from the paradigm of accepting only what is taught to them in school. Increasingly, students are shifting toward social media and crowd sourcing to learn about topics that interest them. 67% of students responded in the Speak Up 2011 Survey that success is defined by "achievement of their own personal learning goals". 73% of parents said that "learning the right skills to be successful in the future" is their biggest concern regarding their child's future. Parents expect that their child's school will prepare their child for 21st skills. As a result, more parents are choosing to provide home technology access for their child. 87% of parents in the survey responded "that the effective use of technology at school has an important impact on their child's success".

The report states:

"While education leaders at all levels debate the potential of personalized learning in the classroom to be the silver bullet for transforming the education process, today’s students are already realizing the benefits of such personalization... outside of school. For today’s students in our highly connected, information intensive world, learning is a 24/7 enterprise and the traditional school day of 8 to 2:30 is only one small segment of their personal learning day. Students’ access to the Internet, whether at home, at the public library, at Starbucks or at school, has in fact broken the monopoly that traditional education systems have on learning. As we have discussed in past Speak Up reports, many of today’s students are exhibiting the characteristics of what we define as Free Agent Learners."

The report goes on to define Free Agent Learners as "students who do not feel that they need to be tethered to traditional education institutions and have confidence in their ability to drive their own educational destiny". Because many school administrators do not understand the concept of a Free Agent Learner, there is a "persistence and expansion of a digital disconnect between students and educators, the gap between how today’s students want to use technology for learning and how technology is served up to them in school". For example, consider these three key findings:

  • 46% of high school students have used Facebook as a collaborative learning tool
  • 30 percent of middle school students and 46 percent of high school students have used Facebook as an impromptu collaboration tool for classroom projects
  • Almost half of the high school students have sought out information online to help them better understand a topic that is being studied in class

Those figures stand in stark contrast to the fact that over half of responding high school students say that they cannot access social media from school.
The report makes this interesting observation:

"In 2003 we documented how students were effectively using email not only for communications but also as a file storage vehicle for school work documents so that they could have ready access to them whether they were at home or at school. Once teachers gained an appreciation for the potential efficacy of using email for that purpose for their own documents, both personally and professionally, teachers’ email use increased significantly. Now, many teachers not only regularly communicate with their students via email, but they also accept homework through email as well as school portals."

What was once an instrument used only by "tech savvy" people, email is now an ubiquitous tool used by many educators. For educators and school administrators who consider social media to be non-educational tools, sooner rather than later, (just as with email,) they will have to come to terms with the fact that providing in-school access to social media will provide greater education collaboration.

Read More: Speak Up 2011 National Findings Report