Do You Use Instagram?: The Presence of Social Networks in the Foreign Language Classroom

Do You Use Instagram?: The Presence of Social Networks in the Foreign Language Classroom

Maria Teresa Martinez Garcia, Valentín Martinez Garcia
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8852-9.ch011
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This chapter explores the uses of social networks, specifically of Instagram, in a Content and Language-Integrated Learning (CLIL) History and Valencian classroom in a high school context. The authors provide an overview of all the benefits and disadvantages of using Instagram in the classroom as an example on how to provide learners with content and interaction anytime and anywhere (as proposed within the ubiquitous learning methodology). Moreover, the chapter presents and discusses an example on how this platform could be used in any classroom and to teach any subject (with a real example implemented in a Spanish Contemporary History class in a high school in Spain) and ends with an explanation and tips on how to specifically implement this platform in the classroom.
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Nowadays, different forms of social networks (Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Google+, or YouTube, among others) have led to a social and technological revolution, impacting all aspects of our daily life: from family or personal interactions to their emergence in the work and even academic contexts (Álvarez Ramos, Heredia Ponce, & Romero Oliva, 2019). As mentioned by Pérez Escoda (2018), the data reflected in the latest research highlights a 70% increase in users of new technologies among minors between ten and fifteen years of age. That is, current students, our students, are more familiar with social networks than any of the previous generations. According to the data reflected in Espinel-Rubio, Hernández-Suárez, and Padra-Núñez (2021), the average time spent on social networks worldwide is two hours and twenty-four minutes, with Facebook, YouTube, and WhatsApp being the most used apps nowadays.

Among the easiest to spot benefits of ubiquitous social networks for our daily lives, we could point out that they enable fast long-distance communication, the interaction with other people all over the globe, or the dissemination of science and news to all publics (Burbules, 2011; Cope & Kalantzis, 2009). However, social networks were not always used in such an interactive way. The main difference between the newer forms of social networks from older versions is clear: While traditional broadcast media only allowed unidirectional transmission of one-to-many media content, the more modern forms enable peer-to-peer messages and, thus, reinforce social and collaborative interaction. In doing so, social networks have the potential to reshape communication patterns among their users through the use of online communication and by lowering the barriers to face-to-face interaction.

Similarly, nowadays schools are different from what we can think of schools twenty years ago. Not only schools are better equipped with different technical tools, but the curriculums of most of them are getting better acquitted with the latest methodological approaches, implementing technological resources in different ways. Consequently, the present educational paradigm tries to continue responding to the growing interest in the use of technologies in the classroom, and one of the newest approaches is the application of social networks for educational purposes (Greenhow, 2011). Of course, the idea of introducing social media in the classroom is not solely based on teachers’ interests in these applications, but on research on the use of motivational and functional applications and platforms for classrooms whose members are digital natives and large consumers of social networks. These benefits will be further explored within this chapter.

Taking into account the many advantages derived from the use of these applications (such as their intrinsic motivation), we are faced with the possibility of introducing them in contexts where there is an important need for resources that bring motivation and dedication to the students. A context that requires this application would be the teaching of foreign languages, such as the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) classroom. The problem in the area of foreign language education resides in the low motivation shown by students, which could be linked to the fear that they show to communicate in a foreign language, the difficulty of the grammatical structures and vocabulary necessary for communication in a second language (L2), or the reticence of students to speak in front of others in a language they do not control (Zheng, 2008). Traditional approaches to teaching a foreign language, together with the problems mentioned above, have a negative influence on the development of the four skills (listening, speaking, writing, and reading) by students, who tend to memorize concepts or vocabulary lists, without being able to express themselves clearly and adequately in the L2. From the teaching point of view, social networks could improve the quality of teaching-learning processes in the area of foreign language education with innovative strategies and techniques to guarantee its success in language learning (Wong, Sing Chai, & Poh, 2017; García, Gil-Mediavilla, Álvarez & Casares, 2020).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Collaborative Learning: An educational approach which uses pair or group work to enhance learning through working together.

Social Learning: A learning theory which proposes that new behaviors can be acquired by observing and imitating others in a social context, even in the absence of motor reproduction or direct reinforcement.

Content and Language-Integrated Learning (CLIL): A general expression used to refer to any teaching of a non-language subject through the medium of a second or foreign language (L2).

Learning Tools: Pedagogical resources, which are included in learning environments for managing the course and to facilitate learning.

Digital Native: A person born or brought up during the age of digital technology and so familiar with computers and the internet from an early age.

Synchronous Learning: Any form of education, instruction, and learning in which students learn from instructors, colleagues, or peers in real time, but not in person. That is, those contexts in which learning occurs at the same time, but not in the same place. For example, educational video conferences, interactive webinars, chat-based online discussions, and lectures that are simultaneously broadcasted would be considered examples of synchronous learning.

Social media: Websites and applications that enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking.

Ubiquitous Learning: An everyday learning environment which is supported by mobile and embedded computers and wireless networks in our everyday life. It provides learners with content and interaction anytime and anywhere by including the real-life experience augmented with virtual information and is adapted to the learner’s environment.

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