Being approached by a local student to discuss social media learning for her research project was a thrill. It took us a little while to get sorted due to diary clashes etc, however eventually we settled on a question and answer format. Thanks and hat tip to Anna Scott for making the referral.
Q: How can we use Facebook to improve communication and learning outcomes for Year 12’s at Sacred Heart College?
Quote from the SACE website, “In the Research Project, students have the opportunity to study an area of interest in depth. They use their creativity and initiative, while developing the research and presentation skills they will need in further study or work.” https://www.sace.sa.edu.au/web/research-project
Tali’s request took me back to my own daughter’s Research Project, circa 2009.
Amber, my daughter, researched, analysed, studied, designed and created an online student’s voice blog. Curiosity for the online voice and conversation platforms is prevalent, regardless of whether schools are adopting or not.
Tali’s research question is, “How can we use Facebook to improve communication and learning outcomes for Year 12’s at Sacred Heart College?”
For her research outcomes, she intends to create a best practices guide for using Facebook as a learning tool. There were many questions she needed to be answered and I offer my answers below. Over time I’m sure we could expand on many of Tali’s questions and see where the future takes us.
We did the following questions and answers via email.
1. Do you support the idea of using social media (specifically, Facebook) to learn in an educational environment? What are your reasons?
We successfully used social media – for social learning – at UniSA (since 2010) and have evidence that it helps students; particularly in the creative thinking space or when learning needs to flow. At high school, this may be beneficial for research project type work gathering feedback and opinions from others. Social learning is essentially “informal learning”. Meaning – if the classroom is considered formal, then informal learning is done outside of the class. We also conducted formal classes via Facebook over time as well. These were mainly project based classes.
You can read our paper on the subject: https://www.academia.edu/5858703/Enhancing_Creative_Thinking_Abilities_through_the_use_of_Social_Media
Ive also written about it here – https://charlierobinson.wordpress.com/social-communications-and-learning/facebook-as-the-social-learning-environment/
2. According to the results of a survey I sent out to my school, majority of students aren’t aware of Facebook learning (the common response was that Facebook is too ‘distracting’). How do you suggest I overcome this? Are there any ways you could suggest for me to make students aware?
Social media environments work in the classroom environment when you create structure. Sounds like a contradiction to create formality for an informal environment – but it works. You set up an event; a time and a topic and let everyone chat. If participation is rewarded or graded in some way – you get excellent results. Students who don’t normally speak up in class – do online, therefore it can set a different tone to a formal classroom. It’s also fun… and on a plus side from a teachers perspective, it highlights lack of understandings and boredom, giving you the ability to correct.
3. I recently looked into Google Plus as a contrasting platform to Facebook (at Sacred Heart we use Google Plus). Which platform do you think would be more appropriate for learning at school and why? If you think Google Plus, could you please suggest reasons as to how Facebook could work?
Both work. We chose Facebook for UniSA as that’s where students are already. Why make them join something else? Both have suitable “groups” and conversation platforms to facilitate good engagement. There is more about our reasoning in the paper (linked above).
4. Do you think that the older generation (teachers) would cope/adapt to this change? Give reasons.
Many don’t cope/adapt. Many have issues around (Facebook) privacy and crossing boundaries etc.
We had good policies in place and set guidelines. The benefit was getting the students to interact with each other rather than the teachers. We (the teachers) were there to facilitate and keep conversations on track/topic.
It is certainly innovative thinking that has lots of brick walls against it. Facebook is seen as frivolous – and regardless of our excellent results many still struggle or refuse to get involved. Time will change and we have evolved even in 4 years, however, today’s students are missing out on a lot of dialogue that would be of benefit to their learning (IMHO) if the social media platforms were opened to the discussions.
5. Do you think that the high increase in technology use has affected the way students write? In specific reference to Facebook, do you think that this would be an issue if schools were to use Facebook as a learning platform? (Eg – group discussion).
I think it has improved it! There are so many grammar natzi’s out there! Writing blogs is an art form… as was writing a letter back in the old days. It’s just a new style that requires attention and needs to be learnt (can be taught). They should teach this in schools already! Everyone needs to know how these days. How to engage in 120 characters – all businesses and marketers need to understand how.
6. Do you have any other suggestions as to what direction I could take next in my research? Or any potential contacts?
I suggest you look at MIT: http://connect.mit.edu/
They use Google+ Groups and Hangouts …
Tali gave her permission for me to publish my answers to her questions.