Responding to Contemporary Needs of Learning Communities Through Utilizing Emerging Social Networking Tools

Responding to Contemporary Needs of Learning Communities Through Utilizing Emerging Social Networking Tools

Elif Buğra Kuzu Demir (Dokuz Eylul University, Turkey) and Yavuz Akbulut (Anadolu University, Turkey)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 29
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3229-3.ch007

Abstract

This chapter aims to understand the nature of the learning processes of students who resorted to social networking sites (SNSs) during instructional activities. Throughout the research, a blended learning environment (BLE) involving both SNSs and face-to-face activities was utilized. Frequently used SNSs such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr were used in accordance with the preferences of the students. Through synchronous, asynchronous, and multimedia supported affordances of SNSs, it was aimed to improve the learning experiences of the students. Explorations revealed that affordances of different SNSs facilitated students' customization of the tools in the BLE for relevant purposes throughout the course. Participants mentioned that they were satisfied with the course, expressed their intention to use contemporary SNSs for their own instructional activities, appreciated the free and flexible learning atmosphere provided by the BLE, and underlined the importance of communication and sharing opportunities among all stakeholders in the classroom.
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Introduction

Contemporary interaction opportunities provided by emerging technologies facilitate our transition from the information age to the interaction age (Butcher & Gibson, 2010; Kaya, 2011). In this regard, individuals’ perceptions towards the information available have changed. In the interaction age, individuals place importance on social environments where they are supposed to implement their 21st century skills more effectively such as working collaboratively with others and thinking creatively (Acar, 2013; Nagi & Vate-U-Lan, 2009). The advance and proliferation of Web 2.0 tools accelerate this process, as individuals’ socialization practices have been extended through the Internet. That is, the need of interacting with others and maintaining relationships have been facilitated with the help of contemporary Web 2.0 tools.

Among all Web 2.0 tools, online social networking sites (SNS) have become quite widespread as a medium to respond to individuals’ socialization needs (Gjoka, 2010; Glynn, Huge & Hoffman, 2012; Hung & Yuen, 2010; Kaya, 2011; Mislove, 2009). The increasing use of these tools among diverse populations has led researchers to work on the utilization patterns and potential impacts of emerging social networking opportunities (Cheung, Chiu & Lee, 2011; Glynn et al., 2012). User statistics of common SNSs reveal that young adults, especially those between the ages of 18-24, frequently use them in their daily lives (boyd, 2010; Mason & Rennie, 2008; Selwyn, 2007). University students are among these tech-savvy individuals, who are also called a variety of different monikers including digital natives, millennium learners, 21st century learners or new millennium learners in different studies.

Numerous features of online SNSs have triggered the transformation of education and training practices. Within a learning-centered framework, learners can create their own content, share and disseminate them, and collaborate with others. These opportunities of online SNSs lead millennium learners to have higher expectations from the schools and the instructional opportunities offered. In this sense, it may be possible to respond to their expectations through integrating the affordances of Web 2.0 tools into educational settings. Thus, many researchers and scholars have emphasized the importance of using such tools for instructional purposes.

Within the scope of this chapter, theoretical background related to the use of online SNSs for educational purposes will be presented along with a mixed-methods research study. The study aimed to investigate and understand the nature of the learning processes of students who resorted to online SNSs during instructional activities. Throughout the research, a blended learning environment was utilized, which was prepared in accordance with the needs reported by the participants (Kuzu & Akbulut, 2013). The research setting involved both social networking sites and face-to-face activities, which lasted 14 weeks. Through the help of qualitative and quantitative data, satisfaction levels of students were explored. Frequently used online SNSs such as Google+, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr were used in the study in accordance with the preferences of the students. Through synchronous, asynchronous and multimedia supported affordances of online SNSs, it was aimed to improve the learning experiences of pre-service information technology (IT) teachers. Participants were 51 pre-service IT teachers who were senior students at a computer education and instructional technology department. The qualitative data were gathered through activity logs of online SNSs and semi-structured interviews; whereas the quantitative data were gathered through a questionnaire developed by the researchers. While the quantitative data were analyzed with IBM SPSS Statistics, which facilitated the calculation of descriptive statistics and conducting parametric tests, the qualitative data were analyzed through content analysis and inductive coding.

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