NSBA survey touts social networking for students. The National School Board Association and Grunwald Associates have released a report Connecting and Creating: Research andGuidelines on Online Social - and Educational - Networking.
The study was comprised of three surveys: an online survey of1,277 nine- to 17-year-old students, an online survey of 1,039 parents and telephone interviews with 250 school district leaders who make decisions on Internet policy."
The report recommends that school districts may want to 'explore ways in which they could use social networking for educational purposes' — and reconsider some of their fears. "Many schools initially banned or restricted Internet use, only to ease up when the educational value of the Internet became clear. The same is likely to be the case with social networking."
Social networking technologies have significant educational potential. However social/commercial social networking sites - eg. Friendster, MySpace should not be the focus. It is the functionalities of these sites that are important, not the commercialization - and other non-commercial tools are available - see elgg for example.
Young people must safely gain the ability to use these social networking technologies just as they must learn how to effectiveley "network" in real life - getting together with friends, physical activities and athletics, arts and music, social service.
Educators and educational insitututions must learn to do their own honest risk assessments - and refrain from demonizing all social internet activities and trying to block students from social networking technology. If we model and teach the safe, effective use of these technologies, we wouldn't resort to knee jerk censorship.