This is the eighth article in my series Top Ed-Tech Trends of 2015

As long as I’ve written these year-in-review stories, starting back in 2010, I’ve noted some of the tensions surrounding social media and schools. On one hand, social media gets touted as facilitating “connected” or “social” learning, “personal learning networks,” and the like. On the other hand, social media is still viewed with suspicion. Sites are blocked on some school networks; some schools ban students and teachers from interacting online; and some schools monitor what students and staff say online. (Some students and staff monitor one another as well, sharing emails, videos, images via social media in turn.)

So like many of the topics I write about in this series, it would be easy to say that not much has changed when it comes to social media and schools. But to do so would ignore one of the most important trends in education: the powerful resurgence of campus activism. This activism is deeply intertwined with social media – in terms of organizing, documenting, and spreading messages – and with concerns about attacks on free speech.

Who’s Using Social Media?

The Pew Research Center released several reports on social media in 2014: on mobile messaging, on parents’ use of social media, and on teens’ usage.

In a report (PDF) that provides an overview of social media usage, published in October, the organization said that “Nearly two-thirds of American adults (65%) use social networking sites, up from 7% when Pew Research Center began systematically tracking social media usage in 2005.” When looking at adults’ usage, there are small differences in the rate at which men and women and at which different racial and ethnic groups use social media: 68% of women, 62% of men, 65% of whites, 65% of Hispanics and 56% of African-Americans use social media today. Those who live in urban areas, with higher education levels, and with higher household income are more likely to use social media. Young adults, between the age of 18 and 29, are the most likely to use social media – 90% of them do.

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Audrey Watters


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