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Technology plays a large role in many aspects of day-to-day life, and education is no different. Technology is rapidly changing the way students learn and how instructors teach.

Computers have replaced chalkboards as the go-to tool in classrooms today. And it’s not just happening in higher education; technology is part of education for children of all ages. It’s also a part of their daily lives. According to a research study by Common Sense Media published in October 2011, “computer use is pervasive among very young children, with half (53%) of all 2 to 4 year olds having ever used a computer, and nine out of 10 (90%) 5 to 8 year olds having done so.”

As technology continues to evolve, it brings with it new opportunities and challenges for educators and students. Social networking is a great example of technology that can help — or hinder — education, depending on how it is used and integrated into teaching plans. Privacy and security are two concerns that can come with using social networking in the classroom. It can also become a distraction to students, or even a tool used for bullying. According to a 2011 Pew report, 15% of children surveyed said they had been the victim of mean behavior on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter.

However, using social networking as part of the learning process can also have benefits. Students who are more introverted may open up and connect more with faculty and other students when they are communicating through social networking. It also affords students the opportunity to collaborate and work together in a whole new way.

There are also social networking sites designed specifically for education. An article on technology in education by Education Week mentions ePals and eChalk as two sites “designed specifically for learning.”

College students can be notoriously connected to technology, including social networking, through their smartphones, laptops, and tablets. Social media in education presents college students with different benefits and detriments compared to their younger counterparts. According to Mashable, “Facebook is the most used social media tool in higher education.” Additionally, Mashable says that colleges can use social media to encourage school spirit, foster the growth of alumni groups, and offer virtual tours to potential students.

So whether it is a college student studying classic literature or a grade school student first learning to read, technology is now an integral part of the education process.