Does Social Network Site Use Affect Student Grades and Learning? 1. -June Ahn
Research on social networking sites and learning achievement is particularly slight when compared to studies of privacy, safety, social capital, and psychological well-being. To date, two studies exemplify the debate surrounding SNS, youth, and educational achievement. A conference paper by Karpinski (2009) received much media attention with findings that college Facebook users have lower GPAs than students who are not users of the site. Karpinski offers several hypotheses for these findings. For example, perhaps Facebook users spend too much time online and less time studying. However, the study did not rigorously examine counter hypotheses and remains a rather exploratory, basic attempt to understand the effect of SNS on learning. Pasek, more, and Hargittai (2009) note several clear limitations of the Karpinski study. First, the sample of students is clearly limited. Second, the study utilizes few control variables in the analysis. And finally, Pasek et al. take issue with the liberal conclusions of Karpinski, namely, that the original study offers strong evidence for a negative relationship between Facebook use and grades. Pasek et al. offer three additional analyses that use a larger sample of undergraduate students, a nationally representative sample of 14–22 year olds, and a longitudinal dataset. The authors utilize more control variables including race, socioeconomic status, and previous academic achievement variables. From this analysis, the researchers find that Facebook usage has no significant relationship to GPA in any of their datasets. The researchers in this debate suggest that the Facebook/GPA relationship is an interesting avenue for future studies. However, aside from the fact that many youth use Facebook, there appear to be no substantive theoretical reasons why Facebook use might influence GPA. As noted earlier, adolescents use the Internet for diverse communication and social goals. If perhaps a large percentage of youth interactions on Facebook were school-or academic-related, one might find a relationship to measures such as GPA. However, measurement of these communication patterns is lacking in the current literature and is a critical area for additional studies. The work of new media literacy researchers provides one avenue to better specify behaviors that might lead to learning. Most studies of social media and youth education define learning from a literacy perspective (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009; Ito et al., 2009; Jenkins, 2006). The literacy perspective focuses on learning practices, such as creating media, rather than traditional measures of learning such as grades or standardized assessments. Hull and Schultz (2001) note that one major contribution of literacy scholars is to understand the concept of practices. Children's activities in school—i.e., listening to a teacher's lecture, practicing problems on worksheets, taking tests to assess their learning—can be seen as specialized literacy practices. Formal schooling is designed to teach students to perform well in those behaviors. However, literacy practices outside of school may serve very disparate functions than expected in the classroom. In the context of new technologies, youth today communicate and learn very different practices outside of school. Engaging in social networking interactions is a different literacy practice than successfully completing a multiple-choice test. This direction is particularly fruitful to consider how youth's everyday practices with technology constitute learning in and of itself, and how these activities are in stark contrast to practices within school. Jenkins (2006) observes that youth today must be literate in several practices within social media environments. For example, he defines performance as the ability to adopt different identities for the purpose of discovery. Perhaps SNS, which are ideal...
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