Impacts of Digital Social Networks on Learning
Consumption of social media networks has experienced tremendous growth over the last few years, with about 3 billion people using one or more social media platforms in the world (Williams). In the United States, the percentage of people using one or more social networking sites has increased from seven to sixty-five percent over a span of ten years. In addition, young people are the biggest consumers of social media networks all over the world (Chaffey). Apparently, the importance of digital social networks cannot be underestimated. For instance, the former president of the United States, Barrack Obama, widely utilized social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to campaign for presidency (Clark). Nonetheless, despite clear importance and widespread of digital social networks, there exist a few drawbacks that make such platforms unsuitable for learning.
One of the primary issues with the use of digital social networks among young people especially students arises from the ability of the platforms to enhance learning apart from assisting students to make new friends. For instance, the National Literacy Trust has established that blogs and networking sites assist students to acquire positive attitudes towards writing and their improved confidence in this academic skill. According to one of the studies conducted by the National Literacy Trust, forty-nine percent of young people indicated that writing was boring; however, a big number of students pointed out that text-based technologies had assisted them to develop a positive attitude towards writing (Alberta Teachers’ Association). Therefore, digital social network, by encouraging young people to get involved in writing, boosts their ability to learn as compared to conventional methods of teaching writing.
Further, writing on such platforms can contribute to development of students’ overall communication skills. According to Dr Spencer Jordan, a teacher in creative writing at the Wales University, web technologies assist students to write confidently about the things that they enjoy. He argues that knowing that a certain content will be read by a huge community online, young people perceive the writing activity as more interactive and appealing (Alberta Teachers’ Association). Therefore, students should be encouraged and guided on writing on digital social networks to ensure that they improve their writing capabilities. While improving writing skills, students will be able to write meaningful content on social media platforms; hence, they can improve communication.
Regarding the social media sites as tools of enhancing learning among young people, especially the students, their role is still unknown. People are yet to decide whether Taylor Swift’s tweets will replace Shakespeare materials in the classroom. Previous studies reveal that a big percentage of young people never borrow a book outside school and at least one out of five students only read magazines and blogs (Clark). However, such findings should not be taken to mean that young people do not read; the only thing that has shifted is the manner in which the activity is undertaken. Therefore, parents who need their children to improve literacy should understand that spending time on social media and blogging lead to increased reading and confidence in writing.
Despite digital social networks possessing immense potential in improving learning among young people, a number of scholars including those in the field of education have pointed out numerous areas of concerns regarding the modern technologies. For example, Nicholas Carr, the author of the book The Shallows, in an interview with PBS noted that the use of digital technology has the capability of interfering with concentration hence learning (PBS). According to the scholar, apart from digital technologies stealing most of the young people time that can be used for reading and writing practices, they also interfere with the students’ concentration when they are not using them. For instance, the students may keep remembering their last stories and conversations on the platform while the urge to login to those sites may also be disturbing. Carr argues that although the benefits of social media platforms verses drawbacks is a conundrum that is yet to find a solution, the demerits might take the day according to all the indications. Moreover, Google is believed to affect people’s memory because they tend to forget everything they think they can find online later (PBS NewsHour). Therefore, the use of social media and other digital social network platforms will require in depth studies before being recommended as reliable alternative learning tools.
The aspect of delivering the intended meaning in communication is also another source of concern when it comes to the use of digital social network platforms. In many occurrences, social media users communicate in coded languages that are only understandable to specific groups of people. For instance, young people in the United Sates will use phrases such as YOLO to mean “you only leave once”, which may not be outright to people from various locations in the world. On the other hand, academic platforms such as libraries emphasize standards that enhance understandability of information to a wide range audience (Chun et al. 66). Therefore, digital social networks may be a source of interference as far as delivery of meaning is concerned.
Apparently, digital social networks possess tremendous educational benefits to young people. Considering that the use of books has become unpopular among students and the digital platforms have become the order of the day among the youth, the technologies should be utilized to enhance students’ writing skills, improve their reading, and develop communication skills. However, such technologies have also been identified as a major source of interference as far as concentration and meaning delivery are concerned. Therefore, unless various adaptations are adopted, digital social networks might continue to be a puzzle pending solution regarding their applicability in learning for the young people.
Alberta Teachers’ Association. “Can Social Networking Boost Literacy Skills?.” Teachers.ab.ca. 8 Oct. 2010, www.teachers.ab.ca/Publications/The%20Learning%20Team/Volume-14/Number-1/Pages/Can-social-networking-boost-literacy-skills.aspx. Accessed 23 Oct. 2017.
Carr, Nicholas. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” The Atlantic, 2008, www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2008/07/is-google-making-us-stupid/306868/. Accessed 18 Oct. 2017.
Chun, Dorothy, et al. “Technology in Language Use, Language Teaching, and Language Learning.” The Modern Language Journal, vol. 100, no. S1, 2016, pp. 64-80.
Clark, Laura. “Books Left on the Shelf: A Fifth of Pupils Only Read Blogs and Magazines.” Daily Mail, 4 Apr. 2009, www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1167284/Books-left-shelf-A-fifth-pupils-read-blogs-magazines.html. Accessed18 Oct. 2017.
Chaffey, Dave. “Global Social Media Research Summary 2017.” Smart Insights, 27 Apr. 2017, www.smartinsights.com/social-media-marketing/social-media-strategy/new-global-social-media-research/. Accessed18 Oct. 2017.
PBS NewsHour. “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” YouTube, 13 July 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7R2jE7VAzC8. Accessed17 Oct. 2017.
Williams, Brett. “There Are Now over 3 Billion Social Media Users in the World – about 40 Percent of the Global Population.” Mashable, 7 Aug. 2017, mashable.com/2017/08/07/3-billion-global-social-media-users/#uakpQvWCOaqS. Accessed 17 Oct. 2017.