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Based on Wikipedia.com (2009), social networking is a structure made of nodes-which are generally organizations or individuals who are tied by one or more specific types of friendship, values, kinship, vision, ideas, sexual relationships, dislike, financial exchange, trade, or conflict. Nodes are the individual actors within the networks, and ties are the relationships between the actors. Besides the definition captured by Wikipedia.com, social networks also can be further elaborate as a form of social constructivism where it have the potential to foster the interaction through which knowledge and meaning is constructed. Also, social networking has the potential to motivate student participation and deepen cultural understanding. It also emphasizes collaboration and interaction within a learning community.
Ferdinand Tonnies and Emile Durkheim were noted as founders of social networks in the late 1800’s. Tonnies believed that social groups have ties that link individuals who share beliefs and values or individuals who have impersonal, instrumental, and formal social links. While, Durkheimn distinguished between a traditional society as “mechanical solidarity” which prevails if individual differences are minimized, and the modern society as “organic solidarity” that develops out of cooperation between individuals with independent roles.
In the 1930’s, J.L. Moreno began recording and analyzing the social interaction of small groups. During this time, W.Lloyd Warner and Elton Mayo also have explored the interpersonal relations at work. In the 1960’s to 1970’s, numerous scholars worked to combine the different traditions and tracks of social networking. Among these, H. White and his Harvard University students and C. Tilley, who focused on networks in social movements and political sociology, and S Milgram, who developed the “six degrees of separation” thesis, have further their research on that. Other research was also done by Talcott Parsons, George Homans, Mark Granovetter, and Barry Wellman.
Social networks research can introduce people to one another, solve organizational problems, and came out with new findings. It requires that names of both respondents and their contacts be collected and used in most analyses. Proper handling of the data and the analysis, including complete control by the investigator can virtually eliminate harm to respondents and those they nominate. On the benefit side, academic researchers always benefit, organizations, society and science may benefit, but individual respondents rarely do (Charles Kadushin, 2005).
Social Networks and Students
A research study shows that 96% of students claim to use the internet for various reasons such as chatting, text messaging, blogging, and surfing the web. However, all students claim that education is the move prevalent topic discussed. Often, while online, approximately 60% of students’ research and discuss college plans, options, and future careers (Manzo, 2009). Most adults fear when students use the internet it makes them more influenced to crook. However, new research claims that teens are using the internet to interact with people they know rather than strangers. From research, 43% of students claim the use of online networking made their relationships closer because the internet assisted in making plans and staying in touch with friends. There was a small 5% that have friends who were found online and had no face to face interaction (Jayson, 2009). Within the last 5 years with the expansion and popular demand of Facebook.com a lot of research has been looked into about who and why people become members on the social networking website. Research shows that people who use Facebook look for people they have previously met offline rather than looking for new people (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 07). Other research about Facebook shows that almost all users have the highest connection to their past high school friends. This is the reason why social networks are so helpful because people can stay in touch online as they move around the world with past friend.
For almost everyone online these days, social networking is the best way to keep in touch. People not only keep in touch with their current classmates but old classmates, current co-workers, family, people half way across the world and many others. One interesting area of research about it is how race and ethnicity are associated with each site. In a new report, it was found that Facebook, Myspace, and Xanga users can be predicted based off of their race, ethnicity, and parents educational level (Northwestern University, 07).
There are some practical applications to various educational opportunities which are presented through social networking. One of it is the wide use of blogs to improve student learning. Blogs improve the classroom environment in five ways. The first improvement is found in the form of nurturing a collaborative culture. Next, blogging adds to student writing time, in other words journaling. Blogging will also increase exposure to content. Reflective learning is also improved through opportunities from student and teacher feedback. Lastly, the blogs create different forms of participation for students. Collaboration on a project is difficult for teachers to evaluate as the process continues to completion. Technology has now given educators to see the research, view the summaries of the research, and have the students peer review their classmates work. The students used a chat box in one classroom model (Downes, 2004). The chat box continued the collaboration based on various content items need to be discussed by students.
Blogs allow for students to work outside the four walls of the classroom. English teachers finding the use of blogs to improve the journaling time for students (Richardson, 2003). Student journaling otherwise known today as blogging is a very powerful skill for relevant and present writing. Richardson (2003) goes on to discuss the availability for students to wrestle with concepts post class time. This interaction with one another in a journal environment causes student to consider various processing methods displayed in various individuals. Blogging increase exposure to content and reflective learning is improved. Ferdig and Trammel (2004) found that if students work with the material through blogging with other students enhancement of learning can occur. The dialogs back and forth continue to reinforce various points of view from peer to peer. The reflective nature of blogging is not found in the teacher posting a question and all students respond in multiple forms. But the power comes from the student to student dialogs spontaneously through back and forth debating. Blogging ultimately creates different forms of social networking. No longer does the flow of information come from the instructor. This multiple form of participation reverses the flow of knowledge from student to student and from student to teacher (McBride and Luehmann, 2008). This cyclical nature of knowledge motivates the students because they feel responsible for the information and reflection. Also there is a finished product left for others to glean from. No longer will the students turn on a formed paper to later be thrown away, their blogs can be retrieved for further discrimination of knowledge.
As the students build information networks the students become authors for public edification (Reinhold, 2006). This provides worth to students time and effort as they collaboratively carry products to fruition. The reader side of their cycle through a completed product is found by the research system the students have to endeavor and also by peer editing to create thematic tones in their finished work. This reversal of knowledge then moves the classroom from a passively learning environment to a healthy active learning environment. The student becomes both able to interpret information and an adept participant in the construction of new knowledge (Forte and Bruckman, 2007). Students are motivated active participants as they see anyone can change anything. The information the students construct may or may not be linear due to their points of view. This active learning environment establishes ownership and worth as the product concludes.
Maintained Social Capital and Life Changes
Social networks change over time as relationships are formed or abandoned. Particularly significant changes in social networks may affect one’s social capital, as when a person moves from the geographic location in which their network was formed and thus loses access to those social resources. Putnam (2000) argues that one of the possible causes of decreased social capital in the U.S. is the increase in families moving for job reasons. Other research has explored the role of the Internet in these transitions (Cummings, Lee, & Kraut, 2006; Wellman et al., 2001). Wellman et al. (2001), for example, find that heavy Internet users rely on email to maintain long distance relationships, rather than using it as a substitute for offline interactions with those living nearby.
Internet technologies feature prominently in a study of communication technology use by this population by Cummings, Lee, and Kraut (2006), who found that services like email and instant messaging help college students remain close to their high school friends after they leave home for college. Nicole B. Ellison, Charles Steinfield and Cliff Lampe introduced
measure focusing specifically on the maintenance of existing social capital after this major life change experienced by college students, focusing on their ability to leverage and maintain social connections from high school. Young adults moving to college need to create new networks at college. However, they often leave friends from high school with whom they may have established rich networks; completely abandoning these high school networks would mean a loss of social capital. Granovetter (1973, 1982) has suggested that weak ties provide more benefit when the weak tie is not associated with stronger ties, as may be the case for maintained high school relationships. To test the role of maintained high school relationships as weak, bridging ties, they adapted questions about general bridging relationships, such as those in Williams (2006), to be specific to maintained relationships with high school acquaintances as opposed to close friends. They call the concept as “maintained social capital”. They found out that Facebook (one of social networks) has garnered a very strong percentage of users on college campuses. Facebook members report spending between 10 and 30 minutes on average using Facebook each day and report having between 150 and 200 friends listed on their profile and respondents also report significantly more Facebook use involving people with whom they share an offline connection-either an existing friend, a classmate, someone living near them, or someone they met socially. They also found out that students view the primary audience for their profile to be people with whom they share an offline connection. This is suggested as well by the responses to items about how they use Facebook. Students also use Facebook primarily to maintain existing offline relationships or to solidify what would otherwise be ephemeral, temporary acquaintanceships. There was a slight tendency for newer students to use Facebook to meet new people more than for juniors and seniors to do so but across all four years in school, respondents reported greater use of Facebook for connecting with existing offline contacts.
Returning to our original research question, we can definitively state that there is a positive relationship between certain kinds of social networks use and the maintenance and creation of social capital in students’ lifestyle. Although we cannot say which precedes the other, social networks appear to play an important role in the process by which students form and maintain social capital. The fact is that social networks are a relatively recent phenomenon, and senior students to be less likely to join. Students used social networks to keep in touch with old friends and to maintain or intensify relationships characterized by some form of offline connection such as dormitory proximity or a shared class. For many, social networks provided a way to keep in touch with high school friends and acquaintances. This was demonstrated through the fact that the most commonly included information on users’ profiles was likely to be relevant for existing acquaintances trying to find them. Nearly all users felt that their high school friends had viewed their profile, and through respondents’ self-reported types of use this offline to online movement differs from the patterns observed by early researchers examining computer-mediated communication and virtual communities. Due to the structure of the site, which blocks entry to those without a school email address and then places individuals into communities based on that email address, social networks serves a geographically-bound user based.
Social networks can help students accumulate and maintain bridging social capital. This is the form of social capital which is closely linked to the notion of “weak ties” that seems well-suited to social software applications, as suggested by Donath and boyd (2004), because it enables users to maintain such ties cheaply and easily. Haythornthwaite (2005) discusses the implications of media that “create latent tie connectivity among group members that provides the technical means for activating weak ties” (p. 125). Latent ties are those social network ties that are “technically possible but not activated socially” (p. 137). Social networks might make it easier to convert latent ties into weak ties, in that the site provides personal information about others, makes visible one’s connections to a wide range of individuals, and enables students to identify those who might be useful in some capacity (such as the math major in a required calculus class), thus providing the motivation to activate a latent tie. These weak ties may provide additional information and opportunities, which are expressed as dimensions of bridging social capital that speak to interaction with a wide range of people and the more tolerant perspective this might encourage. Facebook seems well-suited to facilitate these experiences, in that detailed profiles highlight both commonalities and differences among participants.
Finally, social networks intensity predicted increased levels of maintained social capital, which assessed the extent to which participants could rely on high school acquaintances to do small favors. For college students, many of whom have moved away for the first time, the ability to stay in touch with these high school acquaintances may illustrate most clearly the “strength of weak ties” outlined by Granovetter (1973, 1982). These potentially useful connections may be valuable sources of new information and resources. Additionally, the ability to stay in touch with these networks may offset feelings of “friend sickness,” the distress caused by the loss of old friends.
College students overwhelmingly reported that their social life on campus has been affected by the internet. The internet serves two purposes for students. The first is using the internet to stay in contact with professors and for working on group projects; and secondly to be in sync with family members and friends. The strong linkage between social networks use and high school connections suggests how Social Network Services help maintain relations as people move from one offline community to another. It may facilitate the same when students graduate from college, with alumni keeping their school email address and using social networks to keep in touch with the college community. Such connections could have strong payoffs in terms of jobs, internships, and other opportunities. Colleges may want to explore ways to encourage this sort of usage.
With the use of the internet and social networks, students are now more in charge of their learning more than ever before. They are creating relationships and taking those to the next level by this online environment where they can speak about classes and educational plans. Giving the students this opportunity is not only motivating but an exciting way to show their knowledge. The use of E-portfolio’s is almost a requirement in any post undergrad program. The ability to compile and have all previous work available at the click of a mouse is a great way to impress employers at interviews. It is also a good way for reflection of teachers and students about their previous accomplishments. Instant messaging is a quick and convenient way for students to communicate. This can be used for socializing outside of school but also asking questions. Having the ability to message another classmate who is awake and work through the problem helps the students complete their work instead of giving up. Social networking is a huge benefit for students inside and outside of the classroom. Not only are they in constant contact with peers if needed but they have the ability to return to previous work and reflect upon with others.
Online social network sites may play a role different from that described in early literature on virtual communities. Online interactions do not necessarily remove people from their offline world but may indeed be used to support relationships and keep people in contact, even when life changes move them away from each other. In addition to helping student populations, this use of technology could support a variety of populations, including professional researchers, neighborhood and community members, employees of companies, or others who benefit from maintained ties.
While the use of the interview has unlimited benefits there are of course drawback. The communication is ruined. In younger kids the abbreviated words and emotions are commonly used. But it has been found that as they mature they quickly drop the abbreviated words. These are the students who are adapted and used the technology and how to work it inside and outside of the classroom. New technology which is always changing is a difficult thing to learn with anyone regardless of education and intellectual level. The use of technology in the classroom is almost too much for teachers because they are unable to keep up with their fast paced students. E-Ports while easily accessible have problems when students are not honest. Determining a person’s work these days is difficult because there are so many ways to cheat or filter information to pass it off as your own. The students could grow and learn so much but these drawbacks seriously hinder the way students perceive the educational system. Students these days not only have problems with school and the different technology within their classroom but face severe emotional problems. Cyber bullying is a rather new concept but is severely dangerous. Kids who are picked on have either way to be even further humiliated or have a way to take out their anger others. Parents and educators need to work together to prevent cyber bullying so our students can focus more on education while in the classroom and not on negative social experiences.
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