Individuals of all ages are spending more time online than ever before. This modern trend even extends to school-age children and pre-schoolers. A recent survey reported that children as young as two are spending over 60 percent more time on the web than a decade ago. This early exposure to the Internet means that by the time a child starts school, he or she has likely already been online for several years. Schools are finding ways to reach out to these technologically-connected students by harnessing the power of social networking to build online communities and stay in touch in ways that didn’t exist just 20 years ago.
Educating children is a collaborative effort between teachers, students and parents, and teachers and administrators are always seeking ways to encourage better interaction with students and their families. All three critical groups benefit from the myriad ways to connect that are provided by the Internet. Educators can stay informed of the latest trends in education and receive professional development through the web. Many teachers also start classroom blogs and encourage students to participate in order to hone writing and communication skills. Students are able to access assignments and additional study material while at the same time receiving support from teachers and other students. Busy parents also find the web to be an invaluable tool to stay in touch with their children’s teachers and receive regular progress reports.
Despite the positive features of increased communication and interconnectedness, all of the possibilities—talking, texting, blogging, friending, tweeting—also mean social media has the potential to disrupt the educational process. Many schools have responded by banning cell phones during school hours altogether, but others are attempting to channel social media usage in ways designed to facilitate learning. A recent program in Oregon found that sending early-morning texts to students reduced absenteeism, while student grades also rose an astounding 50 percent during the program. It would seem that, despite the possible negatives and distractions, the Internet has great potential to improve the educational process if educators, parents and students each take the time to contribute and use it properly instead of banning it outright.