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Danah Boyd: Sociality Is Learning

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From Danah Boyd’s apophenia blog, an article titled: Sociality is Learning.

Helping children develop social skills is viewed as a reasonable educational endeavor in elementary school, but by high school, educators switch to more “serious” subjects. Yet, youth aren’t done learning about the social world.

Boyd argues that the teenage years are hugely important in developing social skills, self esteem and identity. Imposed structure has increasingly become a feature of modern teen life, at the expense of unstructured social time “hanging out”. It is this unstructured social time which provides the environment for learning and mastering social skills.

<trumpet fanfare> Enter social media </trumpet fanfare>

Teens have embraced social media as they provide a public space to hang out in when no others exist. Whilst traditional educators may dismiss the value of social network sites, it is for the very same reasons that Boyd embraces it. She encourages a respect for the kind of learning which is going on in these spaces and calls for educators to be supportive, not judgmental of teen learning.

In another paper (Why Youth ♥ Social Network Sites, 2007) Boyd echoes these sentiments.

“Perhaps instead of trying to stop them or regulate usage, we should learn from what teens are experiencing? They are learning to navigate networked publics; it is in our better interest to figure out how to help them.”

Indeed, learn how to help them but more-so, we should be learning from them. These statements are laden with pedagogical implications. In my mind, a democratic, constructivist approach to learning involving rich tasks sits well with this idea of bi-directional learning and would represent a worthwhile use of the technology for both students and teachers.


  • Boyd, D. (2007). “Why Youth (Heart) Social Network Sites: The Role of Networked Publics in Teenage Social Life.” MacArthur Foundation Series on Digital Learning – Youth, Identity, and Digital Media Volume (ed. David Buckingham). Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Retrieved from www.danah.org/papers/WhyYouthHeart.pdf
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