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Does social networking result in poor grades?

Pete Bell gives his view. 

Does social networking result in poor grades?

Teachers think social networkers get poor grades

According to a recent (Nov-10) BBC report one in four teachers in the UK say children with the poorest grades are those who do the most online social networking and two-thirds of teachers questioned said homework was poor as it was being rushed so children could chat online. The report also indicated that 58% of teachers believe that spelling was suffering in the digital age.

Is social networking a waste of time?

So what does this mean? Are ‘low-achieving’ children opting out of education, ‘wasting their time’ on social networking sites (SNS)? Is the ‘average’ child being distracted because the curriculum is not engaging enough for them, especially as it has to compete with a multitude of new and exciting distractions elsewhere? This came to mind when I read the article, but then, so did “Oh no! Not this old chestnut, again!”… so I decided to investigate the claims made as a result of the survey.

How do teachers know which students use social networking sites?

First off then… How do teachers know? I don’t believe that teachers (myself included) are in any position to comment on how much (or little) time their students spend using SNS, or other ‘distracters’. Therefore, I am not sure their opinion really provides much in the way of reliability.

I don’t believe that teachers are in any position to comment on how much time their students spend using social networking sites

Is social networking really the cause of rushed homework?

Secondly, even if they do know that their children with the poorest grades do the most social networking, have they established that it is the online social networking that is causing the poor grades, or that homework is poor because children are rushing off to communicate with friends? To help look at that, I’ll point you to a group of people who (perhaps) spend a proportionately large amount of time interacting with social networking technology. I call them my PLN (personal learning network). I have been blown away by their endeavours to provide children with opportunities to use social networking technology in their education, encouraging the development of skills in research, collaboration, cooperation, literacy, numeracy, geography, history, art and design to name but a few and that is just Y6 students. So, your children “do the most social networking” will it cause them to have poor grades? I don’t think so. Indeed, if you look at this JCAL study, you will read about students’ increasing engagement as well as a .5 increase in their GPA! Then there is the statement from Tanya Byron in SecEd:

“Students that show e-maturity can show an increase in two grades. That’s the difference between having a C or an A. But it is not only in outcomes, using technology can help inspire students creatively.”

The issue is  behavioural, not technological

What causes poor grades is a young person’s decision to use the technology inappropriately. Once again (and I say this a lot!) the issue is a behavioural, not technological. I am completely unwilling to accept that the use of these technologies is any different than going out to play sport or meeting up with mates to hang out, or watching TV. You can do all these things appropriately and lead a balanced enriched life as a result. As Ralph Schroeder is quoted as saying ”The web presents novel ethical dilemmas, not ethical novelty.”

21st century learners adapting to 19th century educational ideologies.

I will not attempt to discuss these ethical dilemmas, nor the resulting behaviour of young people online. However, it is something that naturally follows on from my previous point and so, instead I would recommend this article in the NY Times which addresses the challenges faced by children learning in a digital age and they go waybeyond the perceived notion that interaction with digital technology affects their spelling! I believe the article highlights the phenomenal way that children are adapting to the multiple stimuli around them. They are 21st century learners adapting to 19th century educational ideologies.

The research was conducted by a company motivated to find these results

However, it is not the opinions of teachers that raised the biggest concern with this article. Far more so was the way in which the foundation research was conducted. The report states that the survey was commissioned by JCA, (a company which provides school trips) and quotes a JCA spokeswoman,Janie Burt:

“Rather than relying on life experiences, educational travel and face to face interaction with others, children are becoming obsessed with social networking and this is shaping their attitudes instead”.

Once again, JCA provide school trips. I am sure they are unhappy that school trips are competing with other experiences. But, “obsessed”?

After gathering some feedback from colleagues, I learnt that Onepoll was used to conduct the survey. Onepoll pays respondents to take part in surveys and asks questions such as: “Which household object would you not want to live without at Christmas?” Possible responses included:

TV, Christmas Tree, Dining Room Table, Sofa, PVR (e.g. Sky+), Bed

Based on some people’s responses, it would be easy to conclude (quite wrongly) that people would prefer to have a TV rather than a bed over Christmas. The possible future ‘deductions’ that could be made are endless. This is the ‘Research says’, ‘9 out of 10 cats’ culture of the tabloid press and I am very disappointed to see it used in this context. As for social networking “shaping their attitudes”, the devolution of power from a centrally controlled and edited news source to a free and collaborative public body of knowledge may be seen by some as a good thing, especially if we are otherwise forced to rely on articles like this for information!


Do you believe that social networking leads to poorer grades?

Is social networking a waste of students’ time?

How can social networking be used to improve performance?

10 responses to “Does social networking result in poor grades?”

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Pooky Hesmondhalgh. Pooky Hesmondhalgh said: Does social networking result in poor grades?: http://ow.ly/3t0Xo <pls comment + RT, I'd love your input #UKEdChat […]

  2. Avatar Steve Philp says:

    I’ve just done some (admittedly limited) research into using social media in maths and found that doing a half term of social media-led learning followed by a half-term of more rigid ‘traditional’ lessons greatly increased progress – the children gained ownership of their learning with the social media bit, then the more traditional bit made sense to them, because of their increased motivation. I’ve blogged about it on my tech blog: http://frogphilptech.posterous.com

    I think teachers have a duty to LEAD social media learning, so that the children are guided to using social media productively. If teachers don’t lead social networking by role modelling and explicit teaching, then it will become a waste of time for most students.

  3. TWITTER COMMENT:

    @1976TC: ” yep, socnet does result in poor grades. Mainly because I can’t concentrate on Twitter AND mark effectively at the same time…”

  4. Comment on original post:

    Comment from Brian Sharland
    Time December 22, 2010 at 12:05 am

    Of course the question becomes even more interesting when you consider social networking based learning platforms like edmodo or schoology. Good blogpost though – I agree that ultimately some of the ‘research’ being done is pretty rubbish and one sided. The best a teacher can do is say if the pupil is still learning it can’t be that bad!

    And a response from the author:

    Comment from Pete Bell
    Time December 22, 2010 at 11:42 am

    Thanks for your comment, Brian! I agree that the debate gets much deeper when you include specific educational tools such as the ones you highlight. These are the sorts of tech that students are used to engaging with and it is with their appropriate use that students develop digital literacies in a more formal setting than they might engage with during their use of SNS for leisure. They are learning to use the right tools for the right job, but also transferring skills; not only between the different facets of their lives, but also within the subject and between other subjects to develop a range of skills for a range of purposes, digital or otherwise. Truly empowering.

  5. Avatar Zane Porter says:

    As a reading/writing 7th grade teacher in the US, I notice that the students who already know how to use blog sites and comment (the social media group) are usually the better thinkers and creators. Social networking drives collaboration and self-reflection that we are looking for as educators. I just wish my district would unblock the sites that my students are motivated to read and write in.

  6. […] but it takes on added urgency when considered in the domain of education. A December 22, 2010 post on The Creative Education Blog addresses precisely this issue of new media’s impact on young […]

  7. Hi,
    We think social networking sites waists our time.This is not correct.

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