Author: Dennis Moot
Site of publication: IntechOpen
Type of publication: Report
Date of publication: May 31st 2017
“Google it” is fast becoming the catch phrase for verification of facts and information. When said, the challenged is directed to type the question into Google. In turn, Google returns with several thousand sources that provide answers to the question in doubt. Interestingly, Facebook, WhatsApp and YouTube has become comparable to “Google it” due to its ability to generate discourse and information about issues. Social learning was the term introduced by Patricia Kuhl for the first time, a professor at University of Washington. Social leaning does not simply refer to the collaboration of the psychical presence of other students. Instead, it transcends boundaries of the physical location of the classroom, to a place of complex interconnections of numerous collaborators existing in the virtual world. These collaborators exit in the virtual world.
Ghana’s National Communication Authority report indicated that mobile usage penetration reached 127.63% with more than 35 million telecommunication subscription. An indication that mobile phones and devices are fast becoming a household item, and the key players are the telecommunication companies.
Global effort to bridge challenges facing education system has achieved some feat through the use of the Internet and by large social media (SM). In Africa, the entry of Information Technology (IT) in the classroom is replacing blackboards, providing access to libraries on mobile devices, improving poor performances because of absenteeism and encouraging collaboration. SM, appropriately so used, is placing the students from all social class on the same benchmark used for educational progress. SM continues to eliminate the dominance of information previously controlled by few corporate entities. Today, with the likes of Coursera and Edx, one could launch a whole career without having to step into the classroom.
Following the SM boom around the millennium in West Africa, little knowledge exited as to how a person can manoeuvre around web 2.0 (now web 3.0) platform in relations to learning and sharing information.
Today, there is much more depth to reach which is attributed to the in-depth scope of SM. West African youth are not oblivious to the power of SM. From the era of Hi5 which collapsed to the sway of Facebook and twitter as well as YouTube and blogs, -on the one hand, and instant messages from BBM, Yahoo Messenger and now WhatsApp, Tango, Snapchat on the other hand, African youth are at the core of utilizing SM in their educational endeavours by sharing of notes, assignments and debates. What seems to be a major challenge, however, is the concern of students’ over-dependence on the Internet in educational settings that has resulted in poor concentration, less critical thinking in solving complex societal issues and over-dependence on virtual knowledge.
The influence of SM amongst students and largely the youth has received a considerable attention from scholars. Most of these scholars argue that SM especially Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter negatively affect students’ performances. a study conducted on students who used SM frequently found that students who spent much time on SM had some drop-in grades. The study concluded that students who use Facebook spend fewer hours per week studying on an average than Facebook non-users and as a result obtained lower mean Grade Point Averages (GPAs).
Contrary to the above arguments, other scholars were much concerned about the improvement SM has brought to the classroom. Despite this negative influence of SM, teens use these technologies for several positive activities, including greater participation in interest-driven groups and activates. Likewise, it is advanced that SM provides the platform that encourage the youth to learn more about activities, practice classroom lessons and acquire knowledge on diverse fields.
What seems to be a major challenge, however, is the concern of students’ over-dependence on the Internet in educational settings that has resulted in poor concentration, less critical thinking in solving complex societal issues and over-dependence on virtual knowledge
The benefits of SM in the classroom span from in classroom activities (teaching and participation) to out of the classroom collaboration and learning. Teachers can now post and receive assignments from their students without necessarily being physically present. Students equally now have access to enormous information in the form of articles, electronic books, biographies, video presentations and info graphs, all present on the web.
The numerous benefits of SM in every component of society are undisputable. With its seemingly free cost, (in Africa and elsewhere, there is cost associated with access, hosting and management) its use rests within the discretionary interest of the user. SM has also redefined the aspect of news reporting and information and placed in a more inclusive aspect called “Citizen Reporting.” Individuals do not have to wait or a news agency to report on issues of much concern to them but with access to Internet and a few SM sites, news could travel in a matter of clicks.
Defining SM is a difficult task and quite impossible to provide a working scope in a single chapter. Primarily because of its dynamism of fast changing pace and characteristics. Dichotomizing its component: the media aspect of SM provides a channel for communications whiles the social elements evoke the idea of inclusiveness of the masses. Social networking sites are web-based services that provide the public a service that encourages connections, collaborations and engagement through improvement communication, shared interest and messages.
This is most exemplified through friend requests and acceptances, posting messages, sharing information (news, articles, or photographs), likes, comments and emoji reactions.
SM has opened a wide range of avenues where people conduct activities that are deemed of great importance in today’s society. Through SM, people can conduct business swiftly in a short time that defeats the physical realities of owning a shop, possessing selling acumen and seeking of financial support for business sustainability. Today, information is shared across continents in seconds that might take days and sometimes months to do.
SM has also redefined the aspect of news reporting and information and placed in a more inclusive aspect called “Citizen Reporting.” Individuals do not have to wait or a news agency to report on issues of much concern to them but with access to Internet and a few SM sites, news could travel in a matter of clicks
In the academia, participation, collaboration and academic integrity are given a true meaning. For instance, in referencing an academic work, one may stumble over a variety of information, mostly complex in nature. This information may either be difficult to understand, accept or its facts wrongly presented. In a traditional classroom setting, it would be difficult to have external perspective on the material obtained. Students will have no other choices than to accept and digest the perspective of the instructor. Through SM, a simple post will generate variety of interpretations, affording the students an insight into carefully comprehend and build their own perspective. The multiplicity of the knowledge shared will inform the students in a variety of conditions to take into consideration and its context.
As stated earlier that SM is used for a wide range of different purposes and may serve society in different ways. Nonetheless, the vehicle of SM websites is built for such specific purposes. While some SM sites are built for the purpose of networking, sharing of more personal information with others may have the aspect of providing information by professionals on academic, history and society or perhaps empowering citizen reporting.
However, it must be recognized that SM comes with some disadvantages for its users aside those that are much concerned about their privacy. Over reliance on the virtual world could lead to a monolithic consumption of information. This is where every information is consumed as a fact without verification. It is for this reason fraud, hoax and spin information continues to gain popularity and cause damage often beyond repair. Aside this, for those that are concerned about privacy, there is easy access to a person’s information which can later be used for criminal activities. An individual is at a higher risk of being implicated or duped.
Ways student can use SM effectively
According to Andrew Marcinek, an Instructional Technology Specialist at Boston University, the SM has become a factory of thoughts. People are capable of publishing their thoughts to a vast audience. Comments, tweets and status updates are ubiquitous and constant. He believes that the focus to a larger extent has been shifted from quality of content to quantity.
In his approach of guiding students to use SM in the educational endeavour goes beyond simply instructing students to acquire a blogger ID, Facebook and twitter. These are essential part of using SM, but beyond boastfully claiming ownership among peers, inability to use it to develop the skills necessary to effectively convey messages to a receptive audience, then the value of the message is diluted. If that same student stood at a podium with a microphone, yet has not prepared a speech and has trouble using proper grammar, this student’s message could be lost to his or her audience.
First and foremost, instructors and educators must keep the standards high. Students should be enabled to find and share their voice with the world. The need to be equipped with a powerful skill that is timeless: writing effectively. He added that “Students must realize that there is a BIG difference between “your” and “you’re” no matter what forum they are using to communicate a message. Consider this how much effort does it take to edit 140 characters? Not much. It is heartening to find students publications with common errors such as “then” vs. “than”, “it’s” vs. “its,” and knowing when to use an apostrophe to denote possession. These students learn from feedback that their message is diluted. If students are allowed to move on without correcting his or her errors, this trend would continue and possibly diminish their capacity of reaching their full potential. The same principles must apply in all forms of SM.
Marcinek and some scholars argue that the incorporation of SM in the classroom must be consciously implemented by educators. Specifically, in the areas of writing and editing as exemplified above, the use of social platform like twitter encourages students to master the English language as well as effective communication. The use and cap of 140-characters overtime shapes the writing skills of students.
First and foremost, instructors and educators must keep the standards high. Students should be enabled to find and share their voice with the world. The need to be equipped with a powerful skill that is timeless: writing effectively. He added that “Students must realize that there is a BIG difference between “your” and “you’re” no matter what forum they are using to communicate a message
Finally, students must be taught the basic rudiments of writing before posting, examine motives. Every educator tries to find ways to present authentic assessment and give their students an audience for feedback and reflection. However, it must be conveyed to our learners that a lot more eyes are watching than ever before. The attention should be shifted from just instructing students to blog, connect and, communicate but to making sure students are putting out polished, substantive information. The same goes for Facebook and any other form of SM. The best educators must model this skill daily and practice what is preached. Students should be made to think about what information being put out there and the reason for the publication.
Integrating SM in educational tutorials would empower students to gather skills and knowledge to properly utilise the tools of SM to improve their educational goal.
Teaching students about time management is necessary to equip students especially workers to appropriately manage their time and skilfully blend their work with schooling and eliminate the overabundance on SM.
Educating students on research methods is necessary to advance the research skills available to students and eliminate the issue of plagiarism, over-dependence on SM and lack of analysis of issues before adopting ideas.
Teaching students not to trust the accuracy of information on SM is important to make students critical thinkers, enhance their abilities to analysis arguments and make meaningful conclusions.
Teaching students about time management is necessary to equip students especially workers to appropriately manage their time and skilfully blend their work with schooling and eliminate the overabundance on SM
Encouraging students to source and make use of information from libraries is necessary to take the focus of students from SM and build credible research attitude among students.
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