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Representatives of human kind exist in permanent need of being connected with other individuals. Over the course of many centuries, these connections could only be established either through personal communication or within close distances. However, the rapid progress in technology has considerably broadened the scope of such relations. The appearance of social networks enabled the individuals to establish communication between them regardless their location. In fact, it is not recognized only as a connection, but rather as communication on a multitude of levels. Social networks have been used as mediators in sharing personal interests, making acquaintances, as well as in employment or learning. As people who are in the process of gaining the knowledge constitute the majority of social networks’ users, these web resources make a considerable influence on modern education. Social networks provide great assistance in both sharing the ideas and spreading the knowledge thus serving the modern educational purposes in the number of ways.
First of all, social networking sites have been already used as transmitters of knowledge. Sharing the ideas and materials is primarily done on the local level. According to the article entitled “Social Networking as an Alternative Environment for Education”, there is a possibility for the users of social networking sites to join certain groups according to the school, class or group the members of which they might be with the aim of studying and distributing educational materials quickly and easily (Stanciu, Mihai and Aleca 65). Moreover, these sites may become the promotion place for learning specific discipline. Nowadays, there exist many communities where people can post information concerning certain topic, including literature, history, art, etc., as well as investigate further information posted by others. In many cases, visitors of these networks publish some articles or video materials that were found outside the networking space, and facilitate the process of search for others visitors.
What is more, the development of networks made it possible to create the working environment that unites students around one country or the globe in general. The existence of suchlike single space can give the opportunity to fulfill numerous assignments. For example, it can provide up-to-date information regarding certain events in particular country or assist in interviewing the individuals who are to be examined within specific project. Furthermore, the above mentioned environment fosters the process of sharing educational and personal experiences that make young people acquainted with the new viewpoints and help to overcome the issue of cultural differences.
Taking into consideration specific academic disciplines offers a more detailed explanation of how social networking sites can be used positively in an educational setting. The members of social networking sites place pictures on their personal web pages. These pictures vary from personal photos to actual art work. By means of social networks students can examine all of these visual representations and express personal point of view regarding their appropriateness in general, as well as discuss some specific features in particular. In this way, students could begin to develop the ability to think critically and to conduct constructive dialogue with their contemporaries from different corners of the world.
Certain modifications of social networks are already being successfully applied in a distance education. Nowadays, many institutions practice the usage of discussion boards as a means of communication between students. In comparison to the social networking sites, they are limited in certain ways. The basic discussion boards consist of text being posted under threads or general headings allowing students to read the information, respond, and repeat the process in interaction with the instructor and their classmates. However, such virtual communication is restricted in terms of the quantity of possible participants, and besides, the students need to be logged in simultaneously in order to join a more active class discussion.
In addition to the transmission of knowledge, social networks became the tools for discussing the educational process itself. This dialogue exists in the two levels with the first one presupposing communication between students and their teachers, and with the second creating the space for informal discussions among the students. The article entitled “Creating & Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social - and Educational - Networking” states that approximately 60% of the students who actually use social networks discuss the topics related to education. Moreover, more than 50% of them talk about schoolwork and home assignments (National School Boards Association). In many cases, social networks provide assistance in collaboration and frequently become mediators in communication between teachers and students (Roblyer et al.). The students and faculty members’ perception of online interaction was investigated by means of one of the most popular social network - Facebook. The results of the study proved that modern students are willing to be engaged in communication with educators and co-curricular activities. Hence, the appeal to these Internet web sites may increase the time spent on studying and encourage the desire of discovering something new.
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Social networks not only educate young people through the share of knowledge, but also participate in the process of bringing up their personalities. Many sources emphasize the negative impact of the networks. The opponents of social networking sites are afraid that students may become too much engaged in their virtual life, which is due to the fact that some young people may not be able to engage in social activity outside online societies thus risking their real lives (Himanshu). Of course, it is one of the possible outcomes, but it should not be treated as a stop sign. This apprehension should become one of the reasons to connect social networks to the process of acquiring education. Teachers and later professors should educate the young people of the benefit of these online tools and show them the borderline that should never be crossed.