Cognitive

Standard – Analyze, synthesize, use inductive and deductive reasoning, solve problems effectively and creatively.

Context

For ED690 Methods of Inquiry, my literature review, survey, data analysis and subsequent case study explored the use of online social networks among middle school students. It was developed to determine the usage characteristics, rationale for use, and online confidentiality standard of middle school aged online social network users.

Outcomes

The literature review sought to examine existing reports on the motivation among middle school students for using online social networks, explored current educational uses for online social networks, and investigated online safety issues revolving around the use of these networks. The literature revealed that 87% of all youth between 12 and 17 use the Internet on a regular basis. Of these users 57% contribute writing photos videos music and artwork via online social networks. Online social networks are a popular vehicle for young adolescents because they develop a sensible long getting and serve as a point of contact for other like-minded friends, in addition they gravitate toward online social networks in order to create a sense of identity. Online social networking though still in its infancy is beginning to make inroads into classrooms and has tremendous potential as a key tool in the classroom of the future. At this point most research seems to indicate that online social networking has potential to enhance student writing technical skills and foster information literacy. The rapid adoption of online social networks by young adolescents brings with it a concern for these children safety and development. Online predators, cyber bullying, and mediated exhibitionism raise red flags for online social networks use among adolescents. Will the classroom of the next decade feature these technologies prominently or will online social networks fade as the web continues to evolve? According to the literature for now the jury is still out.

This study explored the use of online social networks, such as MySpace, among middle school students. It was developed to determine the usage characteristics, rationale for use, and online confidentiality standard of middle school aged online social network users. A 12 item survey was developed in Survey Monkey and administered to 90 students at the American Embassy School in New Delhi, India. The students represented a random sample of middle school students who were selected because they represented a random cross-section of ex-patriot children from six continents who demonstrate a high level of technology awareness. Significant findings from the survey revealed that online social networks are an important part of middle school students lives as the vast majority of those surveyed are active account holders eerie at their frequency of use however is erratic and the updating of their content on their sites is infrequent. Additionally except for divulging their first names most middle school student survey disclosed little other personal information. Moreover a majority of respondents parents were aware of their online social networking activities.

Key findings of this research project both support or refute elements of the literature review in terms of usage the case study supported most major findings regarding adolescents use of online social networking sites. However the study contradicted findings regarding the standard of online safety middle schoolers abide by children at AES were much more cautious users of technology.

Demonstrating cognitive skills

Problem-solving, decision-making and analysis were part of the higher order thinking skills set used in this case study. The challenge of producing this case study at distance and in the location of New Delhi India gave me the opportunity to demonstrate appropriate use of cognitive skills. Starting with the lit review I ran into obstacles such as not being able to locate high-quality information academic journals, but rather incidental information in the popular print media. It wasn’t until I was able to problem solve and gain access to the ProQuest database that I began to find useful information.

However at that point, the literature was centered on schools in the United States which was a much different demographic that I would have access to survey, I needed to make a critical decision. Given my location, and timeframe available I made the decision to use the students at my fingertips for the survey group, even though they wouldn’t be reflective of the target audience from the literature review. This compromise and decision allowed me to move forward.

Once the data was gathered, higher order thinking skills were used to analyze it and draw conclusions. Perhaps the biggest challenge was providing meaning for the findings given the fact that the context of the survey and the literature review were significantly different. However in the end, through synthesis and evaluation many of the survey findings did support usage patterns from the literature review.

Lessons Learned

While I am proud of my work on this case study, realizing the limitations of one’s work is an important lesson to learn. While the findings of this study provide a snapshot of middle school students in an international school the value of applying the findings to a wider audience in the United States is not appropriate due to a variety of cultural economic and situational factors. Given the scope of the research topic further analysis is needed given the small sample group and limited findings. Further analysis could include looking at differences between male and female users, differences between users of different ages, and differences between users of different locations of origin.

Second, when researching a topic it is often common to hit roadblocks or dead ends. An important lesson to remember is that by applying higher order thinking skills and creative problem solving one can often discover ways to work around these temporary setbacks. Moreover, these setbacks provide a time of introspection which allow one to refocus their question, methods, and outlook on the topic.

Finally, when working under time constraints, at times you may have to make compromises in your work. While I would have liked to have probed the literature more deeply and increased the size of my survey group, time did not allow. Coming to this realization allowed me to move forward and be successful.