The Economist Debate: SNSs

apophenia makes some interesting points re. the current Economist debate about SNSs in Education.
She comments:

SNSs do not make youth engage educationally; they allow educationally-motivated youth with a structure to engage educationally.

and goes on to discuss youths that see each other regularly. I’d agree with her on that point, it’s very hard to get students to engage in computer mediated communication (of whatever form), for course related matters, when they see each other.

However, I think that her argument doesn’t fit for part time/ distance learning students. Granted, most of them probably wouldn’t fall under the heading “youth”, but education isn’t just for the youth.
While I’d agree that it’s probably quite difficult to set up a formal educational group in, say Facebook (I’d not expect a lecturer to appear in the bar and start to talk work), however, students may informally use Facebook for such matters (as they may, on occasion, discuss programming between sips of beer). The skills they’re learning in Facebook, however, can, I feel, be used in other environments (such as Elgg), to enable them to form communities with other students with similar interests, for group work, and so on.

As an educator, I’ve found the ability to set up communities etc,. in Elgg, via the Eduspaces network, invaluable for making contact with others. I’m just hoping that the current changes in ownership of Eduspaces doesn’t cause long term difficulties.

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