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Revathi Viswanathan - Social Networking and Blogging to Enhance Learning

Revathi Viswanathan - Social Networking and Blogging to Enhance Learning

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Published by Classroom 2.0 Book
Chapter submission for the Classroom 2.0 Book Project
Chapter submission for the Classroom 2.0 Book Project

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Published by: Classroom 2.0 Book on Jul 16, 2012
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11/10/2012

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5th
 AnniversaryBookProject
Social Networking and Blogging toEnhance Learning
By:
Revathi Viswanathan
Creative Commons License:
CC BY-NC-ND
Author contact:
revathiviswanath@yahoo.co.in
Author Biography:
Revathi Viswanathan is an Associate Professor in English at B.S. Abdur Rahman University, Chennai, India with 19 yearsof teaching experience. She is currently teaching Technical and Business English toengineering and management students in the university. She has specialized in ELTand has worked on promoting self-directed learning among collegiate students whiledoing her doctoral thesis. Her other area of interest is the use of advanced technologyin language classrooms. She is also a teacher trainer and has been conductingteacher training programs for the past 9 years.
Activity Summary
The Web offers many tools for teachers and learners and the most popular ones are the socialnetworking sites and Blog, which both could use effectively in their teaching and learning process.
Using these tools promotes students’ active learning as well as teachers’ efciency to teach even
beyond their classrooms. In this chapter, the author would discuss the pilot study conducted with theabove-mentioned tools in an engineering college. In a survey done with a help of a questionnaire, itwas found that students enjoyed accessing social network and had the interest in receiving inputsrelating to language skills through the social network. In this study students learnt to create anaccount in social networking site Twitter and Web 2.0 tool Blog and also work on the tasks relatingto business scenario. Their feedback of students indicated that the author had achieved most of her study objectives.
Class or subject area: EnglishGrade level(s):
Tertiary Level
Specifc learning objectives:
The Indian classroom scenario.
The objective of conducting a short Pilot study.
The procedure followed to train students in four skills.
The orientation given to students about Twitter and Blogs.
The encouragement given to students to share their views online.
The use of Web 2.0 technology for training students.
How business English could be taught beyond a classroom.
The use of Podcasts to teach Business English.
The advantages of offering online training through Twitter and Blog.
 
Introduction
Students learn better when they are involved in their learning process and teachers need to createa platform for their participation. Social media technologies offer learning platforms, which are user friendly and the ones students would feel comfortable to work on are social networking sites for sharing ideas with others and Blogs for uploading responses to tasks. In this chapter, the author would discuss the pilot study she conducted with engineering students to analyse the effectiveness of using Twitter, a social network site and Blog, for promoting language learning.
Background
Teaching within or beyond a classroom helps teachers and students to form a network andexchange information. B.S.Abdur Rahman University, where the author is currently working, offersa supplemental blended learning program (Pennstate, 2005) and students receive inputs bothwithin the classroom and in the language lab. Students are exposed to business English for writingtheir communication skills lab exam and facing the corporate world. Additional input on corporatescenario is given through tasks. Teachers handle a rigid curriculum, which includes training studentsin language skills and conducting continuous assessments within a period of four months. Hence,exposure given to students to learn business scenario proves to be inadequate in this system. It isfelt that teachers have to integrate web tools for imparting additional training beyond the classroom.Wikipedia (2012) states that “Social media technologies take on many different forms includingmagazines, internet forums, weblogs, social blogs,microblogging, wikis, podcasts, photographsor pictures, video, rating and social bookmarking”. Students are familiar with social networks likeFacebook, Twitter, Orkut and MySpace. They use at least a few regularly for interacting with their friends. It is believed that these social media technologies could be exploited for training students inlanguage skills and at the same time create awareness of other Web 2.0 tools such Blog, YouTubeand Podcast through these sites among students. They would also learn to use the Web 2.0 tools
for learning purposes, thus paving the way for lifelong learning. The author identied Twitter, a
social media technology and the microblogging site and Web 2.0 tool, Blog for using them astools to conduct the pilot study. The advantages in using them are, as Pettenati (2006) states, thecharacteristics of social networks are ‘spontaneity, high level of trust and autonomous motivation’(p.4).
Theoretical Relevance
 According to Siemens (2004),”Personal knowledge is comprised of a network, which feeds intoorganizations and institutions, which in turn feed back into the network, and then continue to providelearning to individual” (n.d). This is applicable to students’ acquisition of knowledge, which he gainsfrom various sources. Siemens theory of Connectivism states that “Learning is a network formationprocess of connecting specialized nodes or information sources” (n.d)Thus it is evident that studentsneed to form a social network, which in a way would make him learn from each other. It must bestated that learning becomes more authentic and interesting while networking with experts, with peersand additional sources of information given. Reynard (2008) Pettenati & Cigognini (n.d), support the
use of technologies to form a network. Thus, the use of social media technologies could be justied
with the application of theory of Connectivism.
Literature Review
Social Networking is the recent trend among youngsters and research studies too have been doneto train students in lifelong learning as well as encourage them to collaborate with others. Hoffman
 
(2009) discusses the success of using Social network site, Ning with the students of Univeristy of Regina. The institution decided to include social media application, Ning instead of CMS system for 
holding discussions among students. Students used the tool for commenting on prole pages of their 
peers and posted pictures initially, responded to twelve discussion items over the semester (out of which for six items they had to comment on each other’s answers). The discussions included analysisof course readings, coordination on one group project and peer review of draft assignments. Studentsenjoyed using this platform for holding lively discussions and using Blog. Although the analysis of this study did not offer any evidence to student achievement, students’ self-ratings of learning waspositive. It was also found that students, who wanted to have classroom learning, now opted for distance learning.In another study conducted by Alderton, Brunsell & Bariexca (2011) on the selected educators’ use
of Twitter, the aim was to nd the impact of Twitter usage on their professional practice. The selectedparticipants were users of Twitter. Their individual tweet was given to one of ve categories. The
categories were, 1. Practice, 2. Resource, 3. Question , 4. Social and 5. Unknown that referred toany other exchange educators had. Besides analysing the content of each participant’s tweets, theyhad to complete an 11- item survey that consisted of multiple choice and open-ended items. Theparticipants responded that twitter allowed them to build connections with educators. The analysesshowed that ten teachers were effectively using Twitter for professional networking and growth. Theeducators were engaged in true dialogues. They were following other educators and content experts
for gaining knowledge of their eld of teaching. They could create personal learning network and fulll
themselves of their professional needs. It was evident from the study that the social network site was
used for tweeting in all the above-mentioned ve categories.
Methodology
The pilot study was conducted with the aim of providing additional input in business English throughsocial networking site, Twitter and Web 2.0 tool Blog.The objectives of the study were1. To expose students to business English and corporate culture.2. To orient students to social networking site, Twitter and Blog.3. To motivate them to use the tools for accessing information and tasks.4. To train them in all four skills beyond the classroom.5. To provide exposure to Web 2.0 tools like Podcasts and YouTube.6. To show students the possibility of forming a network through Twitter and publish posts in Blog. About 30 students were chosen for the study, which was conducted for approximately six weeks. The
researcher prepared a survey questionnaire (with the help of surveymonkey.com) to nd out students’
knowledge of social network, their access to the social networking sites and their interest to receivelearning input through them. 25 students responded the online questionnaire. For the question on thefrequency of the use of social networking sites and students awareness of Twitter, it was found that40% were accessing social networking sites, particularly Facebook and only 41.7% were aware of Twitter. 25% of them were found to be sharing subject related topics with others.The pictorial representation of the responses are given below: 

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