Scientists have claimed that social-networking sites such as Facebook can help students learn scientific literacy and other complex subjects which are often left behind in the time-strapped classrooms.
Michigan State University researchers conducted first-of-its-kind study, where they found that high school and college students who engage in vigorous, intelligent debate about scientific issues in a voluntary Facebook forum were able to learn better than normal kids.
Researcher Christine Greenhow said that one of the things they struggled with as educators was how to take students’ spark of interest in something and develop it in ways that can serve them.
He added that if students had these kinds of niche communities to be part of, in addition to their formal curriculum that could really provide a rich environment for them.
The findings make a case for popular online sites such as Facebook as possible learning tools. Facebook has more than a billion users, but critics say excessive use can distract kids from academics, spur loneliness and depression and facilitate cyber-bullying.
Researchers said that while any social network site can be misused there is also a significant and underexplored opportunity to develop these spaces as forums for learning, healthy academic debate and career development.
The study is published in Journal Computers in Human Behavior.