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Tuesday, October 02, 2012


It has indeed been a rare pleasure chatting with and learning from the Prawfs community. I enjoy it every time. I'm just sorry I didn't have more time to post more often. The life of a PhD candidate planning his dissertation experiments leaves little room for much else.

But, I'll tease one last project. In analyzing the role online social networking plays in our daily life, sociologists, legal experts, and policymakers should be interested in the connection between social networking and student academic performance. There are many studies already done about academic success, using test scores as indicators of success or failure. There are too few studies seeking to determine the role technology and online social networking -- virtual homework groups, virtual study clubs, chatting online about the latest Harry Potter book, for example -- have on academic success, and too few studies that quantify academic success as more than just test scores -- including, say, participation in class, perception of school, willingness to do outside learning, and so on. Exactly none of those studies factor in the harm done by cyberbullying, its frequency, and its target victims to determine the relative strength of the correlation: Are the benefits of social networking to learning outweighed by the harm done by cyberbullying? There are indeed cyberbullying and bullying studies; I've conducted my own and published them in a law review article in the N.Y.U. Journal of Law and Social Change. But, no one has conducted a sufficiently rigorous multivariable nonlinear regression to determine how much each variable (online social networking as a tool for learning versus harassment and hate online hurting learning, for example) is correlated with academic success/failure. This has legal implications, as well: Today, children under certain ages are not permitted to engage on social networking tools through schools because they are considered unsafe. We need to create a balance, a balance where we protect students from harm, but give them the freedom to learn in a 21st Century way.

In coordination with a foundation, I am studying the role social networking can play and the ways we can minimize the harm done by cyberbullying in school-structured social networking platforms. I look forward to reporting the results next year and, perhaps, in these pages!

Again, it has been a pleasure. Happy Fall!

Posted by Ari Ezra Waldman on October 2, 2012 at 02:26 PM | Permalink


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