Earlier this school year I had a student tell me, “You know Mr. Wood only old people use email.” At 31 I don’t feel that old, but it does highlight the fact that students and adults use technology to communicate in very different ways. My student’s statement also illustrates that online use is dynamically changing and Nielsen Online released data to support this trend.
In Global Faces and Networked Places Nielsen Online showed that by the end of 2008, “member communities,” consisting of blogs and social networking, had overtaken email in terms of worldwide reach. According to the study, 66.8% of Internet users across the globe accessed member communities from December 2007-December 2008, compared to 65.1% for email. Online research and accessing and web portals still remain the most popular online activities remain with around 85% participation for each. In terms of social networking, according to the study, Facebook reaches 29.9% of global Internet users while MySpace reaches 22.4% of the online audience.
The Nielsen study also explored the amount of time users spent on various sites. When compared to 2007 users spent 63% more time on member communities in 2008. The must stunning figure was for Facebook where time spent online grew by 566% for worldwide users. The study also noted that Facebook’s fastest growing demographic groups are older users. During 2008 Facebook added 24.1 million 35-49 year olds and 13.6 million 50-64 year olds. At the same time, Facebook added 7.3 million users under 18.
Overall, most of these trends aren’t surprising if you are currently use social networks. As a self-identified “average online user,” most of the findings coincide with my own online behavior. While the under 18 Facebook group grew at a smaller pace, I wonder if its because so many of them were already there or because they are so diversified into different membership communities including MySpace, Mebo, YouTube, Flickr, and Photobucket. I’ve heard many of my students discussing that these are the places where they hang out. Unfortunately, the study does not answer these questions. The Nielsen Online report was written for a marketing, adverting, and publisher audience. Most of the conclusions for the report relate to how these individuals can use member communities to interact with consumers and gain a greater marketshare. For example, one of the conclusions was:
“Whilst social networks provide significant competition for traditional publishers in terms of consumer attention, they also provide significant opportunities. Publishers can improve engagement with their own audiences – by tapping into consumers’ increasing desire to create content – and can use social media to syndicate their content beyond its traditional confines to a much wider audience.”
While this report was written for marketers, I’ve always been a firm believer that our students are our customers. If we aren’t meeting their needs they will “shop” someplace else by disengaging in class, not showing up at school, or moving to another school or program entirely. Keeping that in mind I’ve adjusted the conclusion above to speak specifically to education:
“Whilst social networks provide significant competition for traditional schools/teachers in terms of student attention, they also provide significant opportunities. Schools/teachers can improve engagement with their own audiences – by tapping into students’ increasing desire to create content – and can use social media to syndicate their content beyond its traditional confines to a much wider audience.”
Interesting, huh? I think its also important to remember that “creating content” is at the top of Bloom’s Revised Taxonomy. While creating content many times students will also be employing 21st Century Skills including information and media literacy, along with critical thinking and problem solving. This is especially true if adding content requires evaluation of information for deeper understanding or figuring out how to adjust HTML code to format the page just right. Content-creation at its core also requires knowledge of standard-based content.
What do you think? Should we be taking a look at using blogs, wikis, and social media with our students? To me it seems like these tools could help us achieve significant instructional goals, but also meet our consumers in the world in which they are already living.