Posts tagged ‘ELPCG’

Social Networking Research Critique

Social Networking is the process of connecting individuals who share some kinds of commonalities. This is not a new phenomenon, social networking is a fundamental part of the human experience. Online social networking first emerged in 1997, with the launch of sixdegrees.com  and has slowly advanced its way into the populace  (p.3, Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Thus it is a relatively new circumstance, with a small field of research from which to draw conclusions. The application of Social Networking in Education is even more recent and consequently the research field is in relative infancy. Successful implementation of SN in educational environments requires constant academic analysis to ensure that the research used for policy decisions is up to date and specific in its focus. Focus areas should include risk mitigation, parental and administrative inclusion, academic achievement, and teacher training that links learning with pedagogical practice.  These were discussed in the previous ELPCG1 Research Journal. This critique collates the findings drawn from that journal.

Research showed that over 90% of Victorian students access some form of Social Networking on a daily basis (pp. 2-4, de Zwart et al., 2011). This implies some degree of parental approval or acquiescence. Future research might target this apparent gap in risk mitigation. Parents allow Social Networking in the home but are hesitant about its implementation in an educational context. Nor do they engage in educated dialogue with their children about the risks of online communities (pp. 2-4, de Zwart et al.,2011).  Research found that parents and teachers/school administrators are overly concerned with sexual predatory risks and cyber bullying (p.1, de Zwart et al.,2011). These concerns are also perpetuated by media and political bodies. Despite these concerns, the high percentage of teen use demonstrates that as a society, social networking amongst teens is condoned or at least tolerated. Why then, is it not widely implemented as a part of the school curriculum? Specific programmes could work to negate the aforementioned risks, and also address legality issues such as copyright infringements, privacy issues, defamation and breaches of confidence (p. 3, de Zwart et al., 2011).  Indeed, research found that these types of breaches were more common than either cyber bullying or issues of a sexual nature. The legal risks for teachers and schools should also be identified and programmes  implemented for risk reduction/mitigation, including legal protection tailored for teachers if the need arises.

A focus area that requires further research, is the effects on student learning after introducing Social Networking into the school curriculum. Quantifiable results detailing either improvements or deterioration in academic achievement might help advance the discussion to the policy level, with the current focus on test scores and school rankings. Alternatively, if the aim is to increase student engagement, it would be pertinent to study whether Social Networking in the classroom relegates it to the status of the common text-book, inducing yawns and groans where one might expect engagement and enthusiasm. After all, the research refers to the digital generation, for whom such resources are not technologically advanced but rather, a part of their daily fabric. Therefore more studies should direct analysis on future technologies and how to best utilise them for educational purposes. Currently, the technology advances the research, which is conducted retrospectively. For instance, the current discussions relating to Web 2.0 being replaced by cloud computing could  be considered in research projects analysing the use of ICT in education. How will it be implemented? How will  schools migrate successfully between the two technologies and at what economic cost? It is better to direct the technological research rather than technology retroactively directing the research.

Teacher training in Web 2.0 technologies demands immediate and extensive attention. Research by de Zwart et al. (2011)  highlighted the lack of awareness amongst parents and teachers concerning the legalities of online participation. Educating teachers in effective uses of Social Networking is important to ensure safe passage for students in the virtual world. Currently, online networking appears sporadically in schools and it appears to depend on the teacher’s personal knowledge, rather than as a by-product of professional training. Scaffolding of student learning is a basic tenet of education, why then are teachers not given scaffolded training to implement specific kinds of Web 2.0 such as Social Networking?  The research might better direct participants as to how to implement online networking and education. Students and staff at the University of Leicester were given mobile devices and asked to use Twitter by researchers (Badge et al, 2011). Whilst this provided valuable data on how Twitter use unfolded, future studies could achieve two aims, training for specific educational purposes and then measuring the effects of that use on either academic achievement, digital literacy, student engagement or the acquisition of life skills. de Zwart et al (p. 3, 2011)  highlight the need for schools to produce “effective digital citizens” and to implement “specifically tailored programs” but to achieve this end, teachers require specific training. This training could extend to parents and school administrations although such programmes introduce fiscal concerns that likely prove difficult to countenance. However, scientific data can only enhance the discussions of whether or not to implement technologies in a curriculum, especially if further funding and programmes are required.

Risk aversion is one of the main reasons for school and parent reticence at implementing formal programmes of Social Networking. However, blanket avoidance is not an acceptable analytic response to the many benefits of such technologies in schools. Research highlighted many benefits such as improved digital literacy, creativity, etiquette and overcoming geographical isolation (Collin et al., 2010). Perhaps most significantly, the research proves that pedagogical applications are still very relevant within the medium. Social Networking facilitates an online collaborative classroom that draws upon existing learning theories such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Social Constructivism, emergent learning; and learner centric methods such as enquiry based and problem solving learning. The potential to achieve hidden curriculum objectives such as improving student safety by modelling appropriate online behaviour is also very valuable. Williams et al. (pp. 50-51, 2011) discussed online emergent learning and the need for teachers to guide the construction of knowledge in order to achieve a qualitative learning environment. This demonstrated that pedagogy is integral to a learning environment, whether virtual or physical.  These worlds are merging for students; clear distinctions are no longer the norm. (Pp.17-18, Collins et al., 2010). Pedagogy and technological familiarity will guide teachers to implement effective programmes that link theory and practice, drawn from scientific research.

Social Networking for educational purposes extends learning potential beyond the borders of classroom walls and school boundaries. As with all things in life, there are benefits and risks. Therefore, its inclusion in an educational context requires rigourous study to ensure safety for all participants, including teachers. This critique concludes that a wider scope of research, with education for teachers that keeps pace with new technologies and facilitates a suitable flow of information to parents and administrators, should combine to form a comprehensive framework that insures formal, analysed implementation. This framework would then combine practice with pedagogy to ensure the highest quality of teaching and learning.

Resources

Badge, J., Johnson, S., Moseley, A. &  Cann, A.Observing Emerging Student Networks on a Microblogging Service (2011). MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2011.

Boyd, D. Streams of Content, Limited Attention : The Flow of Information Throughout Social Media, (2010). EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 26–36.  http://www.educause.edu/EDUCAUSE+Review/EDUCAUSEReviewMagazineVolume45/StreamsofContentLimitedAttenti/213923

Boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11. http://jcmc.indiana.edu/vol13/issue1/boyd.ellison.html

Collin, Dr. P.,  University of Western Sydney,  Rahilly, K., Inspire Foundation, Richardson, Dr. I., Murdoch University, Third, Dr. A., University of Western Sydney. The Benefits of Social Networking Services. (2010). Literature Review, ISBN: 978-0-9871179-1-5.

de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., Phillips, M., Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites, (2011).  Monash University, Faculty of Education Building 6 Monash University Victoria 3800 Australia.

Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (2011), International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol. 12.3, March 2011.

Benefits of Social Networking

I have defined Social Networking and given examples as to how it can be used in education. I have discussed pedagogical applications and how these translate to both the physical and virtual classrooms. I want to conclude with the benefits of Social Networking because I am a glass half-full gal who likes to focus on the positives. Do not mistake me, I am a full supporter of risk mitigation, but since writing these Research Journals for ELPCG1, I have become a pretty passionate proponent for using 21st Century teaching techniques.

This post discusses research analysing the benefits of social networking. Refreshingly, this research found the “challenges and risks have been over-emphasised in recent years, both in popular media and social research”. (p.21, 2010). I use the term “refreshingly” because I have noted the tendency for some people to demonise social networking as the devil. It reminds me of 1950’s attitudes to Rock n Roll. Or perhaps its virtual McCarthyism. (Disclaimer: the author read about these historical events. The author was not alive when they occurred. She may have been alive shortly afterwards though.)

In any case, as a teacher I hope to use all available tools to engage my students. They are  21st century learners, remember? However, it is imperative that I consult scholarly opinion on both my teaching methods and resources. It is not enough to say that I believe social networking has benefits, it is far better for me, my school administration and my

students and their parents, to draw upon peer-reviewed work that is available. Nor should we hoard that lovely intelligent literature in our staff rooms but make it readily available to our school communities…perhaps you could start a forum where parents, teachers and students could debate its effectiveness. See how I did that? Social networking is already at play.

The diagram below maps out the ‘interconnectedness of connecting’ with our students and our students connecting with each other.  These are the findings of the research project. The basic tenet is that the use of computers for social networking encourages digital skills, etiquette, creativity, education possibilities outside our classrooms, and the ability to connect on a global and intergenerational level.  It is also important to note that the corporate, consumer and tertiary academic world are already operating in these environments.

What is our mandate as teachers? I believe it is to equip our students with the skills to enter their world. Our world. The 21st Century world. For this generation, the lines between society are blurring. On-line worlds are melding with off-line worlds.(pp. 17-18, 2010). If we do not equip them with digital literacy and etiquette, how do they become discerning, skilled and appropriate members of that world?

The best part of that statement, is you don’t even have to take my word for it. You can go to the academic source, educate yourself in the discussion and start to take part. Your students will thank you for the opportunity to participate.

Resources


Collin, Dr. P.,  University of Western Sydney,  Rahilly, K., Inspire Foundation, Richardson, Dr. I., Murdoch University, Third, Dr. A., University of Western Sydney. The Benefits of Social Networking Services. (2010). Literature Review, ISBN: 978-0-9871179-1-5.

Tweet, tweet, tweet.

I tweet.

Do you?

Not your cup of tea?

Doesn’t float your boat?

Have you asked yourself WHY you feel that way?

Perhaps you are too busy, too old, too clever, too academic.

Or perhaps, dare I write the words, you are simply uninformed.

Uninitiated.

Let’s fix that and start the induction process.

It begins with peer review. That is correct. Twitter is open for the business of research and rigorous analysis. I would say that it warrants (at least) a second look…

This post discusses the work of four researchers from the University of Leicester, regarding the application of Twitter with two divergent groups of students : undergraduate and postgraduate . Several factors emerged that concluded with the consensus that micro-blogging sites such as Twitter are worthy of inclusion in a learning environment.

Of course, there is more. But I wanted you to stick with me till the end so I gave away the ending : Twitter has its place in a place of learning.

Firstly, it should be noted that the research was conducted at the university level but the findings are applicable to senior high school in particular. Indeed, the undergraduate students were of a similar age to year eleven and twelve students, with an average age of 18-19 years. Also, the below clip demonstrates some uses of Twitter at the high school level.  Here are the research findings on how Twitter was employed (as detailed on p.97, 2011)

  • Administrative issues such as coordinating field trips,  lecture schedules.
  • Between individuals to arrange meetings and projects.
  • Staff and students employed it to communicate subject-specific discussions
  • students formed “peer-to-peer support for academic and/or social aspects of University life”. (p.97, 2011).

The establishment of these peer-to-peer groups demonstrated the highest usage around assignment and exam periods suggesting a virtual tutorial group. (p. 93, 2011). The possibilities for emergent learning here are strong as is the very basic issue of reducing pre-exam stress particularly for socially isolated students. (p.93, 2011).

The ability to contact staff out of hours raises  questions, such as the  intrusion into teachers’ personal lives and student expectations about appropriate response time. This is a valid question that I believe warrants further analysis. As teachers, the line between the personal and the professional is one of utmost importance and is getting more difficult to manage with the addition of Web 2.0 possibilities. However, we must not shy away from the difficult, and must ensure that both teachers and students are using these technologies ethically, professionally and successfully.

The practical applications for Twitter are as various as your mind will explore. For further information, including examples of how it has been used across schools, click on the below links.

1. 5 Real Examples of Using Twitter for Education

2. Over 100 Ways to Teach with Twitter

3. Best Practices in a Twitter-Enhanced High School

As I continue to research this journal and ICT in general, the conclusion that emerges repeatedly is that as teachers, we must be reflective practitioners and continue to assess our practices, be informed about new technologies and use pedagogical application in order to engage our students in a manner that also demonstrates morally appropriate usage of Web 2.0.

Try it, or more accurately, tweet it. You and your students might just learn something!

Resources

Badge, J., Johnson, S., Moseley, A. &  Cann, A.Observing Emerging Student Networks on a Microblogging Service (2011). MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2011.