Educational and Cultural Identities in Virtual Social Networks

Educational and Cultural Identities in Virtual Social Networks

Wajeeh Daher (An-Najah National University, Nablus, Palestine & Al-Qasemi Academic College of Education, Baqa, Israel)
Copyright: © 2012 |Pages: 14
DOI: 10.4018/ijcee.2012070104
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This research attempts to describe the identity development of students/teachers who used a virtual social network –Facebook to work with historical mathematics and mathematicians in the frame of a second degree course. Fifteen participants aged from 24 to 53 years old participated in the course in which they were required to attend mathematical Facebook sites involved with math history. The research findings arrived at using the grounded theory approach indicate that working with historical mathematicians and talking and discussing their work in virtual social networks, students/ teachers developed their identity in four aspects: (1) the educational aspect, (2) the cultural aspect, (3) the personality aspect, and (4) the ethnic aspect. These identity aspects were developed due to the different conditions of the learning environment, together with the actions/ interactions of the participants. Specifically, working with the history of mathematics in virtual social networks made the participants aware of (1) the advantages of integrating technology in learning and teaching, (2) the advantages of integrating history in the learning and teaching of mathematics and science, and (3) the possibility to move their culture to one that is involved more in science and mathematics. In addition, working with the history of mathematics in virtual social networks made the participants proud of their heritage and as a result they increased their self esteem.
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Identity has a double sense, where it refers to social traits, and at the same time, to the sources of a person's self-respect or dignity (Fearon, 1999). In this research we assume that identity is not a fixed and coherent set of traits, but something complex, which is subject to change across time and place (Morgan, 2004). Identities thus could be influenced by different factors as history, experiences and belonging groups. Specifically, teachers and students' identities are influenced by individual factors, as well as social ones. At the same time, these identities influence teachers' practices in the classroom, as well as students' learning, where positive image of the identity influences positively teaching and learning consequences and vice versa. An issue which attracts researchers' interest in the evolving virtual social networks is their ability to behold educational transactions and the influence of these transactions on students and teachers' different identity aspects. This research attempts to examine the identity aspect of working educationally in virtual social networks, specifically in Facebook, where three educational mathematical sites were constructed: a character representing a historical mathematician: Al-Khwarizmi; a fan group of another historical mathematician: Al-Khayyam; and a page about a mathematical phenomenon: the golden ratio. In this article, the first two sites are considered, where post-graduate students developed social, cultural and mathematical talks, connecting past and present and at the same time discussing their cultural and mathematical present, in addition to possible teaching and learning acts that could change that present.

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