Today’s college students are known as “digital natives” and are also known as members of the Millennial Generation. The digital natives are highly connected, increasing mobile, and technological savvy; and they see technology as an essential part of their lives. Results of a 2007 national study conducted by the Pew Internet and American Life Project show that 55 percent all online American youths between the ages of 12 and 17 use social networking sites for communication. A recent study, Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social- and Educational-Networking conducted by the National School Boards Association (NSBA) and Grunwald Associate, indicates that American kids are spending almost as much time using social networking services and Web sites as they spend watching television. The report is based on online surveys of about 1,300 American kids from 9 to 17 years and over 1,000 parents, and telephone interviews with more than 250 school district officials. The findings of the study indicate that 96 percent of students with internet access engage in social networking. Almost sixty percent of students say they use the social networking tools to discuss classes, learning outside school, and planning for college. Students also report using chatting, text messaging, blogging, and online communities such as Facebook and MySpace for educational activities, including collaboration on school projects.
Based on these studies as well as many similar research studies, the opportunity for instant and global publication of information, thoughts, opinions, and ideas is something our “digital native” students take for granted as normal and commonplace. The “digital native” students have already found social networking tools integral to daily life. As Marc Prensky pointed out from his article Digital Natives, Digital Immigrants, “Our students have changed radically. Today’s students are no longer the people our educational system was designed to teach.” I think we should consider moving teaching and learning away from conventional methods by which students are told what to learn, when, where, and how. Instead, knowledge should be actively constructed and students should be made responsible for their own learning. We should also consider some of the social networking tools and integrate these tools in teaching and learning.