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How Social Media Helps Us Learn

Posted on the 06 October 2011 by Combi31 @combi31

How Social Media Helps Us Learn

While many early studies on the effects of social media claimed that it hindered learning by providing distraction and promoting unhealthy computer habits, new studies are beginning to see the benefits of social networking sites. Businesses are utilizing it in the workplace, and teachers are integrating it into their curriculums. But is social media just the latest technology fad, or does it actually improve the way in which we learn and interact with the world? Here are some positive effects that social media has on learning.

1. Positive Attitude toward Technology

A study at the University of Minnesota looked at the Internet habits of high schoolers in 13 urban high schools in the Midwest. When the students were asked what they learn from social networking sites, the top answer was technology skills. Social networking sites encourage activities such as editing and customizing content, which helps users learn about a site’s technological capabilities in an interactive way. The personal aspect of social networking means that students care more about layout and design of a page, because it represents them. Learning these skills will make them more prepared for the professional world of the future, where technology skills will be essential.

2. Higher Self-Esteem

Students in the study also noted that they are more comfortable with expressing themselves on social media sites. The safety of a computer screen gives them more confidence to express their opinions about the world. Another study performed by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation showed that students who use Facebook have more respect and understanding of the First Amendment, which gives them the right to voice their personal beliefs. In addition, students are more likely to share original creative content like poetry, photography, music, and films.

3. Openness to Others

Likewise, students in the Minnesota study also mentioned that social networking has taught them to be more open to diverse views and opinions. The social capabilities of such sites allow for discussions in which everyone is on an equal playing field. The study noted that more students from low-income families (under $30,000) have access to the Internet than before, in part due to increased availability at school and after-school programs. With more and more people from all walks of life accessing social network sites each day, the amount of self-expression is limitless.

4. Communication Skills

Social media has dramatically affected our communication skills. Due to the personal nature of social networking, we are more open to revealing personal details about ourselves to a wide audience. While this can sometimes cause problems, it has also introduced a new level of confidence in both the personal and business setting.

Social media has also helped us to express ourselves in a more concise manner. The 140-character limit of Twitter and the one-line Facebook status have pushed us to get to the essence of what we want to say.

5. Connecting Neurons

An article in the Wall Street Journal discussed studies on infant and adult brains that show how social interaction and activity helps with knowledge retention. Switching between the methods of communication, such as updating a Twitter status or answering texts while in the middle of another task, may help us become more flexible at adapting to new situations and acquiring information in different ways.

6. Professional Skills

According to a post in the Business Learning Blog, social learning was one of the top five training trends for businesses in 2010. This shows that more businesses are recognizing the value of social networking for their employees. Social media allows users to share insights and resources by posting comments and links, which can promote a positive knowledge-sharing environment in the workplace.

Guest Blog post written by Andrea Erins - a college professor for 13 years who likes to write about various topics related to education.

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How Social Media Helps Us Learn
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