Learning Language Through Facebook

Learning Language Through Facebook

Vera Monika Leier (German Department, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/IJCALLT.2017070103
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This article seeks to account for the experiences of tertiary students of German when a Facebook group and associated tasks is introduced as an assessed element of their language course. Ethnographic methods were applied, such as pre-, post questionnaires, interviews and fieldnotes. The data was collected by the instructor/researcher and subjected to thematic analysis. The students (n = 23) enjoyed Facebook but mostly used the site passively and only actively posted when required. This led to a flurry of posts at deadlines and less engagement between deadlines. Students wanted more feedback than the instructor was giving them, in an effort to make the interaction feel more authentic and spontaneous, as it is in non-educational, social Facebook.
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Literature Review

A large number of studies have looked at the usability and potential of Facebook for language learning (Aydin, 2012; Blattner & Fiori, 2009; McBride, 2009) and also at learner habits on SNS platforms (Alm, 2015; Blattner & Fiori, 2011; Chen, 2015; Mitchell, 2012; Terantino & Graf, 2011; S. Wang & Vasquez, 2012, 2014). Only a few studies have looked at Facebook as part of the language curriculum (Blattner & Lomicka, 2012; Mills, 2011; Terantino, 2012).

Facebook with its affordances of personal profile creation can be used in L2 learning to explore other perspectives and cultures and experiment with language and self-presentation. This can move learners further towards the stage of intellectual development referred to as self-authorship (McBride, 2009, p. 51). Blattner and Fiori (2009) saw a great potential in Facebook-groups as a platform for building telecollaborative communities. They believed that a social network community could be an asset in building a community of learners and that the community could develop pragmatic competence, including knowledge of speech acts and speech functions and the ability to use language appropriately in specific contexts. Aydin (2012) contributed to the research with an extensive literature review about Facebook. Aydin looked at research on Facebook in different tertiary educational environments ranging from astronomy courses to library courses. The outcome of his review showed that Facebook and other SNSs could potentially provide valuable additional educational environments, particularly when learning about different cultures. Furthermore, Facebook increased learners’ self-efficacy, motivation, self-esteem, positively changed perceptions and attitudes, reduced anxiety, and improved foreign and second language learning skills in reading and writing (p. 1101).

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