Sunday, 20 April 2014

Excerpt from my MA in Education The Education Research Project 2- The role of social media in enhancing learning and teaching

Issues around Social Media

In my small scale survey, teachers expressed their concerns about on-line safety, privacy, protection of information and safety, viruses, giving access to strangers in a virtual environment, appropriateness of all information shared, things being in the public domain, unsociable use, child protection issues, technology glitches, minor tech problems, access to inappropriate material or an inability to control or monitor students, use of pupils’ image, access to inaccurate or untrue info, spammers, distraction from learning and lack of access for all students.        

Chapter 5: Conclusions and Recommendations
In my study, I set out to answer the question ‘In what way can social media be used in a secondary school to enhance learning and teaching?’ by applying my own experience of using Blogger and Twitter with the students, in addition to teacher-student questionnaires and conducting a focus group interview. Moreover, through extensive research I discovered new and diverse outlets of social media that I will definitely incorporate into the classroom in the future. My aim was to ease secondary school teachers’ concerns regarding the cyber world through exemplifying enjoyable, yet safe, Social Media-based teaching and learning activities.

Choosing the suitable social media is a very important decision when writing lesson plans and designing the tasks. In order to make sure all students benefit, it is made clear that social media tools should be used accurately and appropriately. Therefore, teachers should understand how to choose the suitable social media for different educational purposes (2013:17). Moore made a table which clearly explains about the purposes of social media tools. For analysis, synthesis and evaluation blogs, animation, clippings, games, mind mapping, podcasting, slideshows, video or video sharing and wikis can be used. IM, chatting, clippings, mind mapping, polls and surveys, Skype and VOIP, social networking are good for brainstorming. If you want to develop collaboration, then the same web sites can be used to create collaborative projects in groups. To communicate and share the knowledge, comprehension and knowledge building, feedback, information seeking, searching and consolidation, networking, object sharing, opinion building and sharing, presentation and dissemination of information, storing and managing information and visualisation can all be achieved through social media tools (2013: 18-19).  

The Internet and the Social Media are an undeniable reality of our digital world. According to Ahn, Bivona and DiScala’s paper, recent research on youths, new media, and education paint a stark picture of disconnect between students’ learning in and out of school. Students are self-directed, interest-driven and social when they are learning outside of school (Project Tomorrow, 2010). They state that young people today are increasingly learning with digital media (2011:1). Despite high student demand and interest, schools are still blocking access to these websites in order to protect students against various risks that the Internet can present. But how realistic and effective is this approach?  

Nowadays, children are introduced to computers and the Internet from a very young age. Parents like the fact that their children are competent ICT users, although they would like to ascertain that they are safe when using it.
In ‘The role of social media in enhancing learning and teaching’ I have covered the intellectual and academic benefits of Social Media, but there are further benefits of learning good etiquette when it comes to the Social Media. Students must understand the ethics of Social Media, and it is the duty of schools to teach good Internet conduct. They need to understand how to protect themselves from cyber bullying and other dangers of the cyber world. They need to know what plagiarism is and respect others’ copyright and Intellectual Property while protecting their own.
A recent article that I read was written by C. Thompson on Globe and Mail was called ‘The dumbest generation? No, Twitter is making kids smarter’. (Appendix 16)  ( C. Thompson claims that there is powerful evidence that digital tools are helping young people write and think much better than in the past. A. Lunsford from Standford University compared 877 ‘freshmen composition’ papers from 2006 to the papers from 1986, 1930 and 1917 and found that the average rate of errors had barely budged in almost a century from 2.11 errors per 100 words in 1917 to 2.26 words in 2006. He also adds that technology does not just make students better writers or more fluent, but also lets them communicate easily with others- their peers, friends and the world at large. Prof Lunsford stated that what made the online environment so powerful was that it provided a sense of purpose. Therefore students are writing things that have an impact on the world that other people are reading and responding to.     

Evidently, my study is small-scale and many further studies can be done with larger groups to find out the impact of Social Media being used as an educational tool. Nonetheless, in the face of a world where the future of education will increasingly depend on digital technologies, I challenge all educators to be bold and refuse to be intimidated. I call for a revolution of thought; a change in our traditional reproach of innovation. For if we do not continually develop our understanding of learning and teaching in progress with our contemporary realities, then there will come a time when the very notion of schooling itself will confront extinction. 

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