Facebook is a social network site that attracts attention of many researchers and educators because of its affordances for learning. However, there is a constant debate among researchers whether it is an effective tool/environment for learning and academic success or not. For example, while Junco (2012) argues that there is a negative relationship between the time students spent on Facebook and their overall GPAs, Robelia et al. (2011) presents how Facebook can be a rich learning environment for students. I think Facebook can be a useful social network site for learning. In their study, Robelia and her colleagues explore the relationship between Hot Dish, an application within Facebook, use among young people and their pro-environmental understanding and behaviors. Results reveal that ‘‘Hot Dish users learned from using the site by interacting with their peers to exchange information and viewpoints. They also reported increasing their environmentally responsible behaviors as a result of their participation. The challenges on the site were successful in moving some users toward civic engagement’’(Robelia et al., 2011, 569). Additionally, Facebook can be beneficial not only for learning content knowledge but also developing social relationships among people. Based on the findings from surveys filled by 286 undergraduate students, Ellison et al. (2007) conclude ‘‘We can definitively state that there is a positive relationship between certain kinds of Facebook use and the maintenance and creation of social capital’’ (p. 1161). Despite the potential benefits of social network sites for learning, educators should always be careful while using them in their teaching because they are not designed directly and only for teaching, and their features change all the time.
I have been thinking of social media and learning for about a year now, and what strikes me still is how a virtual community can find ways in which to give and take responsibly from each other. Given that you have now been a student of a few courses that use social media, how important would you say this component is while gauging the learning experiences of students in a virtual learning environment?
I think it depends on the course structure, what is expected from the social media, and students’ motivation to use the social media. Personally, for me, in some of the courses that I needed to use social media, I used it just for the sake of the course without any further motivation to engage with the media. This might be because I did not have enough time to explore the media and learn how to use it effectively. However, the important point here is that the social media should be meaningfully placed in the course to not make its use as an additional/extra task for students.
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