Educationalizing Instagram for Virtual Instruction in COVID-19: A Pragmatic Framework

Educationalizing Instagram for Virtual Instruction in COVID-19: A Pragmatic Framework

Rafik El Amine Ghobrini, Fatima Zohra Benzert, Meriem Balas
DOI: 10.4018/IJWLTT.287621
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Learning through social media platforms is a nascent pedagogy that opens up new virtual online e-instructional modalities and avenues to be explored especially in these challenging emergency times of COVID-19. This research focuses on a self-directed initiative of a math teacher who taught her students in an open virtual class via Instagram. This study explores how the main features of Instagram -inherently used as social interaction platform - were maximized for educational purposes. It also investigates the effects, be they positive or negative, on the learning-teaching process in terms of engagement and communication. For this, a mixed-method sequential exploratory design was opted for to conduct the study which surveyed 100 students across 22 different high schools who took part in the virtual open math classes. The findings highlight the different patterns of Instagram use and platform features that lend this social media website the requisite feasibility to educationalize it. Furthermore, the results reveal both the favourable and disadvantageous aspects of Instagram.
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The use of digital technology for educational purposes has been rapidly expanding in the last decade, offering teachers and students around the world an endless number of possibilities for innovative teaching and learning experiences. However, as a result of the worldwide outbreak of COVID-19, the resort to online and distance education has exponentially escalated on a global scale. In an attempt to eliminate the spread of the virus, according to a study published by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization in mid-April 2020, governments across 195 countries issued lockdown measures leading to the closure of educational institutions from pre-primary to tertiary levels and affecting 1.5 billion learners in the process (UNESCO, 2020).

Restricting orders with respect to social distancing has rendered teaching and learning online in the wake of a pandemic no longer an option, but an exigency, regardless of potential first-order barriers in terms of digital deficiencies in the infrastructure and second-order barriers rooted in potential teachers’ beliefs that are not in favour of educational technology. This resonates with the initiative made by the Chinese Ministry of Education which was entitled Disrupted Classes, Undisrupted Learning (Huang et al., 2020). Such demands further accentuate the significance of ensuring the continuity of education during unprecedented times and ahead of an ambiguous future.

Major implications are to be considered in this regard especially in the case of developing countries such as Algeria, a context in which online education is still in its infancy. The compulsory and urgent transition from conventional instructional procedures based on face-to-face interaction to a virtually mediated one means that online learning has occurred in a manner that was a reactive, unplanned and lacking the requisite scientific evidence brought about by research. This has pushed institutions and instructors to engage in self-directed initiatives in under-explored territories for the purpose of sustaining teaching activities.

As a matter of fact, this was also the case of number of academic institutions in other countries with similar limitations who were more intent on “the transfer of educational content to the digital world and not specifically on online teaching and delivery methods.” (Adnan & Anwar, 2020, p. 46). The need to ensure a rapid and feasible transition into the online world demanded a pro-active use of available platforms which did not only include learning management systems (Google Classroom, Schoology, Zoom, Edmodo, etc) or video communication tools (Zoom, Google Meet, FaceTime, etc) -websites meant for educational purposes, but also social networking platforms (Facebook, Telegram, Instagram, etc) -the designs of which are not inherently educational.

Due to the quality of internet connection as well as the availability of technical resources, many students in the Algerian context are not able to effectively maximise a virtual learning experience on the aforementioned examples of online educational platforms. According to Adnan and Anwar (2020, p. 46), “a significant amount of online content is not accessible via smartphones”, a digital affordance which is oftentimes students’ only means of internet access. However, this is not the case for social media applications as they can be readily accessed using the same devices. With that being said, in particular cases, social media has been used as the initial and primary resort for carrying out and maintaining teaching activities in order to cater to learners’ preferences and existing digital competence that align with social networking websites.

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