Studies and Surveys
Just as other educational theories are tested and challenged with studies and surveys, some teachers and scholars have attempted to justify social media sites as learning heuristics by actually testing their efficacy in the classroom.
Perhaps the most important research completed was a 2010 study performed by R. Junco et al. that included a sample of 125 students majoring in pre-health professions. The study revealed that the average GPA of students who used Twitter for educational purposes was more than half a point higher than students who were told to communicate traditionally. Even more, engagement with the Twitter users was almost twice as much as the non-Twitter users.
Roblyer et al. looked at the theory behind social networks in the classroom; this theory speculates communication and interaction are improved between students and teachers when a social networking site, like Facebook, is used for educational purposes. The authors conclude from a survey that students are more willing to use social networking sites as a heuristic than faculty.
Using social networking sites in the classroom extends outside of the United States too. Bahar Baran, assistant professor at Dokuz Eylul University in Turkey, performed a small-scale study to determine students’ reactions to Facebook use in the classroom. Thirty-two students in his “Distance Education” class utilized Facebook as a forum to view, post, and discuss videos, links, and pictures. While many students said they liked the extra communication and interaction with their teacher, some were not pleased with the casual role of the teacher that social networking presents. The author cites this reaction due to the Hofstede Cultural Dimensions, the idea that power should not be equal among all groups of people.
The surrendering of authority does threaten to alter the student-teacher relationship. The hesitation of faculty to use social media sites in schools could be grounded in this fear of blurring teachers’ professional and personal identities. Yet other scholars have discovered blurring the lines could work to the students’ benefit.
Mazer et al. performed a study to examine teachers’ self-disclosure on Facebook and how it changed student motivation, learning, and the atmosphere of the classroom. The authors cite studies that concluded students are more willing to participate in class and understand information more clearly when taught by teachers who self-disclose with humor and stories. The study found that high teacher self-disclosure on Facebook did lead to higher motivation and affective learning, as well as a more comfortable classroom atmosphere. One advantage of Facebook, the authors add, is that teachers can control how they appear on Facebook—something they cannot do with face-to-face interaction.
This study leads to the conclusion that students are becoming more comfortable with teachers on social networking sites, whether used for personal or professional use, an idea that remained consistent three years later as shown from the survey done by Roblyer et al.
Micro-blogs, like Twitter, have also been studied as tools for educational and classroom use. Noeline Wright performed a case study with eight participants to explore micro-blogging as self-reflection for teacher education students. Wright found that a sense of community developed as the participants tweeted about the following categories: pedagogy, emotions, relationships, complexity/curriculum/planning, reflections, and other (261). One participant even suggested tweeting as reflection could help students’ thinking processes when working on projects.
A study done by Ebner et al. at the University of Applied Sciences of Upper Austria required 34 students to use micro-blogging for six weeks. While the authors state this kind of communication could be used for informal learning, they conclude by linking the exercise to process-oriented practices: “It is not the transfer of information or status messages that are crucial factors, but rather, the opportunity to be a part of someone else’s process by reading, commenting, discussing or simply enhancing it” (98). The authors go on to state ways micro-blogging can be utilized in the classroom, emphasizing the ability to observe, reflect, and give feedback on students’ learning processes.