Collaborative Learning in Schools With Social Media: A Social Constructivist View

Collaborative Learning in Schools With Social Media: A Social Constructivist View

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-5709-2.ch003
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The purpose of this chapter is to explore how the use of social media can support teaching and learning in schools. A social constructivist lens is used to explore how collaboration can facilitate the process. Some of the key concepts of social constructivism are outlined with a focus on the role of the teacher. Ways that social media are used in schools to support teaching and professional learning for teachers are presented. Discussion on ways social media was used during COVID-19 to connect students and teachers to support teaching and professional learning are investigated. The chapter concludes with possible future research directions.
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The use of social media began toward the end of the 1990s with the site called Six Degrees being often credited as the first social media site in the Web 2 environment (Harrison & Thomas, 2009). It was the first website that enabled users to have a profile. Since then, there has been a vast number of social media sites created with the more familiar ones being YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok to name but a few. In this chapter social media are defined as: “Internet-based channels that allow users to opportunistically interact and selectively self-present, either in real-time or asynchronously, with both broad and narrow audiences who derive value from user-generated content and the perception of interaction with others” (Carr & Hayes, 2015, p. 50). Social media “enable users to create and participate in communities through communicating, sharing, collaborating, publishing, managing, and interacting” (Mao, 2014).

Born into a world of social media are Generation Z and Generation Alpha. Children born between 1997 and 2010 are known at Generation Z whilst those born after this are known as Generation Alpha (Jha, 2020). For many of these young people, growing up in the new millennium, life is different from those of earlier generations. Many young people own a smart phone (Taylor & Silver 2019) although ownership varies across countries (Fowler & Christakis, 2011). For young people who own a smart phone, their lives are simultaneously both face-to-face and online. This means that their social lives are mediated through apps as well as being in-person, often at the same time. Young people are now frequent users of social networking sites (SNSs). In one United States study for example, nearly 50% of adolescents visited SNSs daily, and spent an average of one hour per day dedicated solely to social media use (Rideout & Fox, 2018).

The main way social media are used by young people is for recreational and relational purposes (Manasijevic et al., 2016). Uses under these broad categories include collaboration, communication, interaction, information, dissemination, entertainment, resource sharing, and socialisation (Otchie et al., 2020). As reiterated by Jenkins et al. (2009), social media platforms are built upon an architecture of participation that can support cultures of collaboration.

Social media use is also increasingly being used in schools to support teaching and learning.

Not only can social media be employed to support learning for students, they can also be harnessed by teachers to support their professional learning needs (Gupta, 2014). The use of social media allows teachers to form their own professional learning communities and connect with each other anywhere, anytime. Importantly, the use of social media allows teachers to have greater agency over their learning (McLoughlin & Lee, 2010).

The purpose of this chapter is to investigate ways that schools (including students and teachers) are using social media to support collaborative learning. Underpinning this investigation is constructivism, and in particular- social constructivism. This is a theory of learning based on the premise that individual cognition and active participation occurs within a social context (Hyslop-Margison & Sears, 2006).

In investigating the use of social media to support learning, this chapter begins by setting out some of the main aspects of social constructivism. This is followed by discussion on some of the links between social constructivism and social media use. The ways that social media can support learning in schools is then investigated. As part of this investigation, ways social media supported collaboration during COVID-19 are explored.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaboration: Where two or more people work together towards a common goal.

Social Constructivism: A variety of cognitive constructivism that highlights the collaborative nature of learning.

Authenticity: A quality of the learning experience that provides opportunities for students to explore, discuss, and meaningfully construct concepts and relationships in contexts that involve real-world problems that are relevant to the learner.

Synchronous Means: Occurring at the same time.

Asynchronous Means: Not occurring at the same time.

Social media: interactive digital channels that facilitate the creation and sharing of information, through virtual communities and networks.

Agency: This refers the capacity of teachers to act purposefully and to have control to direct their professional growth.

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