As most people have blogged, there is a debate on social networking in higher education over at the Economist. Ewan Macintosh takes the pro side.
For what it’s worth here was the comment I posted:
In some ways the argument is irrelevant – it’s like asking ‘is alcohol beneficial to study?’ You could argue either way, but regardless of what we think students are going to use it anyway.
But, that aside, let’s look at what SNS offer – a sense of community, peer support, enthusiastic users, engagement with technology, resource sharing, democratic participation – hmm, these are all things we’ve been desperate to have in higher education for years. We’ve largely failed in many of these (as anyone who uses a VLE can attest), so why wouldn’t we look at what happens in SNs? It would be remiss of us not to do so.
However, there are some big cultural issues that higher ed will need to get over – in particular HE is based on a very hierarchical model, and is often obsessed with controlling the student experience. In a social network you have to let go. In short you have to accept bottom up over top down – and that will be tough, as it goes against 3000 years of educational instinct.
So, my conclusion – of course higher education should try and adopt principles of social networks and 2.0, but the question is whether it can.