Learning with Social Media: A Case Study at a Latin American University

Learning with Social Media: A Case Study at a Latin American University

Eduardo Adrián Toloza, Wolfram Lothar Laaser
Copyright: © 2017 |Pages: 19
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-1692-7.ch010
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The main purpose was to investigate the selection patterns and uses made of the web tools in both formal and non-formal education by the students. The authors found that many of them use devices and applications as ‘simple remote control' - discarding all the available possibilities for learning. The criteria for selecting the respective application in many cases are arbitrary, or just a response to advertising or the usage made by their friends. The applications of Web 2.0, in turn, provide ample opportunities (often for free) for being successfully incorporated into learning activities. To benefit from the use of social media for learning purposes, it is important to know students' preferences and the way in which they handle the media used in their private as well as in their academic environment. It is important for the university that the usage of technologies is not drifting too far away from those which students use outside the walls of the campus.
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Internet has brought deep changes in the way authors see the world, communicate, and provide information. But the strongest revolution came from so-called web 2.0 applications which have allowed sharing of information and experiences and led to the rapid creation of user-centric communities. These applications allow users to change from being a mere reader and to become an active creator of content which can be shared with the world simply by allowing discussion and dissemination of ideas, knowledge and activities. In addition, personal learning environments have been created by the students with profound social and cultural impact. We should know and understand these developments when we rethink educational settings (Cabero, 2009).

Although some studies on the use of technological tools in the classroom exist, fewer reports are known as to why and how students use these tools for learning in their personal life outside the educational institution. The study will focus therefore especially on this aspect. The answer to these questions is important if one wishes to understand the ways in which students learn and how they deepen their individual and collective knowledge just by following their interests. Based on the cases analyzed, we observed an emerging specific structure of their personal learning environments (PLE) which we call ‘Proto-PLE’.

We start from the assumption that students use web 2.0 tools in creative ways which differ from those offered by the existing educational structures. If this is to be a valid observation, most probably significant learning opportunities will be missed due to disregard of how students use web tools for learning purposes in their life outside the university academic environment. We therefore wanted to know which the selection criteria and practices of students to appropriate Web 2.0 tools are and what the consequences for the university are. However, before presenting design and results of our own study the relevant literature was reviewed with a special focus on the appropriation of web tools by young students.

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