Home Casual Internet Use Is Good for Kids, 3 Year Study Concludes

Casual Internet Use Is Good for Kids, 3 Year Study Concludes

The ways young people use the internet everyday are transforming learning in ways that adults often fail to understand but represent major new opportunities that need to be taken advantage of by supportive educators. That’s the conclusion of a major new study by 28 researchers over three years released today by the University of California at Berkley and the MacArthur Foundation.

Titled “Living and Learning With New Media,” the study articulates the value of social networking, text messaging and other forms of new media use better than anything we’ve seen yet. It’s a major contribution to our understanding of the new web and the way it impacts the world at large.

Funded by the MacArthur Foundation’s Digital Media and Learning Series, the research is summarized in one two page document a 30 page white paper and a 12 part online book titled Hanging Out, Messing Around, Geeking Out: Living and Learning with New Media. MIT Press will be offering a print version of the book soon.

Leading education blogger Will Richardson pulls out some of his favorite parts of the study on his blog, some of which we excerpt below as well.

Self Directed Exploration Uniquely Motivating

New media allow for a degree of freedom and autonomy for youth that is less apparent in classroom setting. Youth respect one another’s authority online, and they are often more motivated to learn from peers than from adults. Their efforts are also largely self-directed, and the outcome emerges through exploration, in contrast to classroom learning that is oriented toward set, predefined goals.

That makes sense, of course, but is it effective?

New Forms of Learning Essential to Participation in Contemporary Society

Social and recreational new media use as a site of learning. Contrary to adult perceptions, while hanging out online, youth are picking up basic social and technological skills they need to fully participate in contemporary society. Erecting barriers to participation deprives teens of access to these forms of learning. Participation in the digital age means more than being able to access “serious” online information and culture. Youth could benefit from educators being more open to forms of experimentation and social exploration that are generally not characteristic of educational institutions.

What kinds of rolls can adults play in this?

Adults Should Help This Process

Youth using new media often learn from their peers, not teachers or adults, and notions of expertise and authority have been turned on their heads. Such learning differs fundamentally from traditional instruction and is often framed negatively by adults as a means of “peer pressure.” Yet adults can still have tremendous influence in setting “learning goals,” particularly on the interest-driven side, where adult hobbyists function as role models and more experienced peers.

It’s a new world for those privileged enough to have access to the web. The consequences of these changes will unfold in years to come. Do schools need to adapt to these new forms of learning in order to keep functioning well? Perhaps. But perhaps for some learning subjects in particular traditional schools have never worked as well as they could in the future if they support these new collaborative styles of learning.

This report is the end result of work done by 28 researchers over 3 years, based on interviews with 800 young people and 5000 hours of online observation. Check it out in full for yourself and let us know what you think.

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