English Writing via a Social Networking Platform

English Writing via a Social Networking Platform

Wei-Chieh Wayne Yu (Department of Instructional Systems and Workforce Development, Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/IJICTE.2018010102
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Abstract

This study examined students' perceptions of completing an English writing class via a social networking platform. Participants were 162 aboriginal students between 18 and 23 years of age at a nursing college in southern Taiwan. Different ethnicities were defined and represented by different memberships of indigenous groups or tribes, also known as the aboriginals. The participants were completing a required English language course and were required to pass an English Proficiency test as an exit requirement of the university. Participants' pretest scores indicated that they had a positive perception of taking a web-based class. At the conclusion of the study, based on posttest scores, students' positive perceptions decreased noticeably for six of the thirteen items on the instrument. The findings of the study also indicated that tribal membership had no significant impact on students' perceptions of completing an English writing class via a predominantly web-based environment.
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1. Background And Motivation

Social media is reshaping today’s education system, as it allows an unprecedented access to information and collaboration. Research studies on instructional technologies have been increasingly catalyzed by social and constructivist perspectives on learning. When learners are placed in an environment designed on social constructivist theories in order to facilitate meaningful learning, collaborations and interactions among the learners are supposed to occur (Aydin, 2014; Kivunja, 2015). Hence, Lee and Woods (2010) noted that knowledge is constructed, and experiences and skills shared. The surge of web-based technology mediated learning seems to be able to stimulate the learning process and to produce persuasive learning outcomes. McCarthy (2010) suggested that web 2.0 (and beyond) technologies have not reached their fullest potential in education; however, some have argued that these technologies may not always be successful or adequate tools to facilitate formal learning or learning activities (Waycott, Bennett, Kennedy, Dalgarno & Gray, 2010). Numerous research studies examined the potential effects of technology-mediated learning on students, and the ethnic and cultural aspects that may contribute to students’ satisfaction with technology-mediated learning, especially among minority students. Hunt and Tickner (2015) and Kivunja (2015) claimed that when the ethnicities and cultures of students, students’ learning styles, and their level of confidence are unknown, the quality of instructions, too, is unknown. As Huang (2002) noted, “technology- mediated learning could be in conflict with individual differences” (p. 32). When technologies are used to facilitate teaching/learning, the instructor may experience difficulties related to individual learning preferences and capabilities.

To emphasize the importance of English as a communicative language and lifetime learning tool, many higher education institutions require students to take English courses as an integral part of the general education core curriculum (GECC). Students also have to pass an English language proficiency test to meet an exit requirement maintained by the university. The most common test taken by the students is the General English Proficiency Test (GEPT), which assesses learners’ listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills. Among the four language skills, writing has been regarded by the students as one of the most difficult areas to improve on, trailed by speaking, listening, and reading, respectively. Fast growing Internet technologies have been considered in order to facilitate the needs of language teaching and learning. As stated by Warschauer (1996), direct, instant and inexpensive web applications conveniently motivate students intrinsically, enable the learners to exercise reasonable control over their learning, provide them with authentic materials and allow the users to interact and communicate with real people in a cohesive way.

Social media used as web-based instruction and learning is anywhere and anytime instruction delivered over the Internet or intranet to browser-equipped learners. The instruction can be synchronous, instructor-facilitated, or asynchronous, self-directed, instruction. This type of learning environment is one that facilitates a learner-centered approach and provides the learners opportunities to exchange knowledge and to practice skills.

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