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Social Networking: Learning Theory in Action * By Ruth Reynard * 05/21/08
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There has been a lot of recent debate on the benefits of social networking tools and software in education. While there are good points on either side of the debate, there remains the essential difference in theoretical positioning. Most conventional educational environments are "Objectivist" in nature and highly structured in terms of students progress and choice. Social networking essentially requires a less controlled, user-generated environment, which challenges conventional views of the effective "management" of teaching and learning. Therefore, can social networking both as an instructional concept and user skill be integrated into the conventional approaches to teaching and learning? Do the skills developed within a social networking environment have value in the more conventional environments of learning?
Certainly, social learning theory is not new, but some would argue that while the social learning theorists hold that social interaction is at the center of effective learning and that no individual learns in isolation, social networking software does not provide a helpful context within which social interaction skills are developed. In other words, the valuable social skills that support learning are not the skills developed within current Internet-based social spaces.
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As you may expect, traditional academic institutions have generally resisted the influence and increasingly pervasive presence of social networking activities in the life of their students, but recently the same institutions have had to look with new eyes at all of the aspects and consequences of these new modes of technological socialization sweeping the younger generations. (DeRossi, 2007)
The National School Boards Association (USA), in partnership with…...

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