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Facebook in Education: Students, Teachers, and Library Perspectives

Facebook in Education: Students, Teachers, and Library Perspectives

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Journal of Computing, eISSN 2151-9617, Volume 4, Issue 6, June 2012, http://www.journalofcomputing.org
Journal of Computing, eISSN 2151-9617, Volume 4, Issue 6, June 2012, http://www.journalofcomputing.org

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Published by: Journal of Computing on Jul 19, 2012
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Facebok in Education: Students, Teachers,and Library Perspectives
Manar I. Hosny, Shameem Fatima
 
Abstract
 — this paper explores the use and application of Facebook in academia. The study tries to give an insight into howFacebook and similar social networking sites can be used as a medium of communication to help students, teachers as well asthe institution’s library. The aim is to encourage the use of Facebook to complement and enhance classroom teaching. Weinvestigate the benefits of using such medium from the perspectives of the student, the teacher and the librarian. We thenreview some case studies where Facebook was used to promote the learning experience. In this paper, we try to deriveconclusions about best recommendations and practices that academics can follow to improve teaching and learning throughusing Facebook and other similar social networking sites.
Index Terms
 —
E-learning, Facebook, Social Networking Sites, Web 2.0
.
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1 I
NTRODUCTION
HE
term “Social Network” has been suggested by J.A.Barnes in 1954. It corresponds to a network of rela-tionships between different information processingentities such as people, groups, and organizations. A So-cial Networking Site (SNS) is a type of websites with in-dividual user profiles, forming a traversable networkedcommunity for social interaction [1]. A user profile con-tains personal information about each member, such as:name, gender, age, interests, etc. Social Networking Sites(SNSs) bring people together and allow them to commu-nicate by making new friends, exchanging ideas and en-gaging in similar interests. These sites in general providetools for posting messages, sharing photos, creating per-sonal pages and groups. Besides communicating withfriends, social networking sites are increasingly beingused for business, advertisement or entertainment. Theyare also currently used to connect government entitieswith people by posting announcements, taking votes andsharing opinions. Boyd and Ellison [2] define social net-working as:
“Web based services that allow individuals to (1) construct a public or semi public profile within a bounded system, (2) arti-culate a list of other users with whom they share a connection,and (3) view and traverse their list of connections and thosemade by others within the system.”
 Based on the above definition, social networking ap-pears as an approach to support a social or professionalrelationship of people among themselves or betweengroups of similar interests. The most common featuresinclude personal profile creation, uploading of photosand videos, participation in groups, and message send-ing. SNSs currently attract millions of people around theworld, resulting in the creation of a sophisticated envi-ronment of sharing and collaboration.Social networking websites such as Facebook, MyS-pace, Twitter and LinkedIn are popularly used by mil-lions of people to communicate with friends, family andcolleagues. As of January 2012, Facebook has over 800million users around the world [3]. While in July 2011,Twitter has 250 million users, LinkedIn has 115 millionusers, and MySpace has 50 million users [4]. The users ofsocial networking sites create personal profiles throughwhich they connect to a group of other people, usuallyknown as friends, followers or connections. Users sharelinks and multimedia content, and they can form sub-groups of common interests or goals, where they can en-gage in active online discussions. The communication between connected members may be public through theirprofiles, or private through personal messages sent be-tween them.Nowadays, there are several online social networkingsites that differ among each other in their layout, style,functionality and purpose. Some countries have their ownsocial networks such as StudiVZ (Germany), Qzone (Chi-na), Maktoub’s Ashab (Saudi Arabia), and Mixi (Japan).Some social networking sites are dedicated to a specificarea of interest of the users, such as professional profiles,art, music, and photo sharing networks
.
LinkedIn is dedi-cated to professional profiles, devianART is a social net-working site dedicated to art. Flickr is a social networkingsite for photo sharing, and Last.fm is dedicated to music.Besides social, commercial and governmental usage, theomnipresence of social networking sites in our daily livescan be exploited in academia as well. SNSs can be used tocreate an interactive and transparent learning environ-ment between teachers and their students, where they caneasily communicate and exchange information. In addi-
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 M.I. Hosny is with the Computer Science Department, College of Comput-er and Information Sciences, King Saud University, Riyadh,Saudi Arabia.
 
 
S. Fatima is with the Information Technology Department, College of Computer and Information Sciences, King Saud University.Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
 
T
JOURNAL OF COMPUTING, VOLUME 4, ISSUE 6, JUNE 2012, ISSN (Online) 2151-9617https://sites.google.com/site/journalofcomputingWWW.JOURNALOFCOMPUTING.ORG78
 
 
tion, since the success of any teaching and learningprocess largely depends upon the availability of rich re-sources, some academic libraries have created their ownlibrary pages to reach students during and after their uni-versity study.In this paper we will explore how social networkingsites can be used in teaching and learning. We specificallyfocus on the most popular SNS, Facebook, and how it can be utilized from the above mentioned three perspectives
:the teacher
 ,
the student
and the
library
. We give examples ofsome case studies of academic institutions that have usedSNSs in education, and try to come up with recommenda-tions about the best practices and applications that may be used to successfully exploit SNSs in teaching andlearning.The rest of this paper is organized as follows: Section 2is short review of some related work that highlights theimportance of SNSs in education. Section 3 is an overviewof some social networking sites that can be used in teach-ing and learning. Section 4 focuses on Facebook and thefeatures that it provides, which can be used for educa-tional purposes. Sections 5 and 6 explain the benefits ofusing Facebook from the perspectives of students andteachers respectively. Sections 7 and 8 discuss the libraryand how Facebook can be beneficial to the librarian toconnect with students. Section 9 then gives an overviewof some real applications in which academic institutionsexperimented with Facebook as a possible tool to enhanceclassroom teaching. Finally, Section 10 concludes this pa-per with some recommendations derived from the aboveanalysis and final thoughts about the future of usingSNSs in education.
2
 
R
ELATED WORK
 
Munoz and Towner [5] discuss the advantages of usingFacebook in education, and the different methods and best practices that the teacher can use to enhance class-room learning. According to the authors, the reactionstowards using social networking sites in education aremixed. Some feel that SNSs are not a suitable venue foreducation, while others are in support of integrating Web2.0 technology, like Facebook, Wikis and blogs, with edu-cation. The authors make a comparison between Face- book and other currently employed learning managementsystems, like Blackboard. They concluded that many fea-tures available on Facebook, such as bulletin boards, in-stant messaging, online discussion, and the ability to postphotos and videos, mirror those available in Blackboardand similar courseware. Nevertheless, Facebook featuresare distinguished with ease of use, frequent updates andcompatibility with different browsers. The research ex-plains some Facebook features that can be used for educa-tion, such as profile page, creating a group for a class,discussion boards, and integrating Facebook applications.Finally, the study gives recommendations about best prac-tice polices that the instructor can follow to avoid inva-sion of his/her privacy as well as the privacy of the stu-dents. In addition, some suggestions about how to engagestudents in class activities and how to share documents,links, websites and videos are briefly highlighted.Rodrigues
et al
. [6] discuss the potential of using SNSsto enhance the e-learning experience. The paper stressesthe importance of e-learning in allowing students to be-come active participants who can share opinions, postresources and engage in productive discussions. Current-ly Learning Management System (LMS) software, is themain application that is used for delivering course con-tents and interacting with students in an e-learning envi-ronment. However, LMS applications are usually charac-terized by having a rigid one-way learning platform,where students access the contents designed and up-loaded by the instructor. This often results in the lack ofinterest and stimulation from the students’ side. From theauthors’ point of view, social networking sites, such asFacebook, MySpace, Twitter, Wikis and Blogs have a greatpotential in enhancing e-learning, since they provide arich collection of features and applications that allow stu-dents to play an active role by creating and sharing con-tents. Thus, students can shape their own learningprocess and develop a critical sense, through the interac-tion with people of different interests and opinions.Griffith and Liyanage [7] explore social networkingsites that can be used in education, giving insight into thepositive and negative aspects of using such media forteaching and learning. The study mainly focuses on Face- book and MySpace. It describes the features available in both networks, and similarities and differences in termsof services available to users and how the profile can becustomized in both. The study then explains briefly the benefits of using SNSs in education to complement class-room learning and to motivate students and encourageactive discussions among common interest groups. Ac-cording to the authors, among the limitations of usingSNSs, though, is the risk of information exposure, whichcan lead to serious consequences. Another risk is the typeof messages that may be posted on the wall, which maysometimes become offensive.A good guide for instructors on the benefits and use ofFacebook in education can be found in [8]. This guide isdesigned to help educators who want to get started onusing Facebook to better connect and interact with theirstudents. There are several ways that an instructor canfollow to successfully use Facebook for educational pur-poses. To start with, educators must encourage studentsto follow Facebook guidelines, for example by not usingFacebook for students under 13 years of age. Educatorsmust also stay up to date with safety and privacy settingsof Facebook. They should encourage students to protecttheir privacy and be aware that there are special Facebookprivacy settings for people under 18. Instructors shouldalso promote good citizenship in the digital world, byencouraging students to behave responsibly, protect eachother, and report any abuse or bullying. To communicatewith their students, instructors can use pages and groupsfeatures, rather than using their own personal profiles, inorder to protect their privacy.In what follows we describe some social networkingsites that can be used in the academic field to enhance theteaching and learning experience.
JOURNAL OF COMPUTING, VOLUME 4, ISSUE 6, JUNE 2012, ISSN (Online) 2151-9617https://sites.google.com/site/journalofcomputingWWW.JOURNALOFCOMPUTING.ORG79
 
 
3
 
S
OCIAL
N
ETWORKING
T
ECHNOLOGY IN
A
CADEMIA
 
As the mode of instruction changed from the traditionalclassroom lecturing to the online interactive tutoring,educational institutions are currently under pressure toadopt new educational technology within their field.Nowadays, educational technology, such as WebCT andBlackboard, are being used to help students perform bet-ter and increase their productivity within the classroom,as well as to encourage them to become more engaged inthe learning process. However, the availability of suchtools put a tremendous pressure on students to cope witha more complex learning environment and new technolo-gies that they have to become familiar with [9]. On theother hand, the popularity and extensive use of socialnetworking sites, like Facebook, Wikis, and blogs, cannow be used by teachers and students as an effectivecommunication tool inside and outside the classroom,without requiring that students learn a new technology,since most of them are already using one more of theseSNSs.In the academic field, social networking sites are mainlyused to create chat-room forums and groups to extendclassroom discussions. In addition, they are used to postassignments, tests, quizzes, links, and extra resources.Through SNSs, a teacher may take the students’ opinionor feedback about certain course content, and can alsosend and receive messages to an individual or a group ofstudents. The following are some social networking sitesthat can be used in education:
Facebook
: In early 2004, Facebook was launched by MarkZuckerberg, a former student of Harvard university. Itwas initially limited to college students at Harvard with auniversity email address [2]. Later, it spread like wild fireand became the most popular and most visited website.Users of the site have to register before using the site, af-ter which they may create a personal profile, add otherusers of the site as friends, and send and receive messag-es. Their friends also receive automatic notifications whenthey update their profiles, or upload photos or links. In January, 2012 the number of Facebook users is estimatedto be over 800 million all over the world [3]. Besides socialcommunication and group discussions, Facebook has alarge number of applications that users can engage in, themost popular of which are games and quizzes.
Twitter
: Twitter is a social network site that was estab-lished by Jack Dorsey in 2006 [6]. It is one of the top 10most used sites in the world [10]. Twitter rapidly gainedworldwide popularity, with over 250 million users as of July, 2011[4]. The users of the site have to register beforeusing the site. Once the user creates a profile, he/she canposts updates and view updates posted by people he/shefollows. Twitter enables its users to post short messagescalled Tweets, which consist of a maximum of 140 charac-ters. Tweets usually express feelings, thoughts or activi-ties of the users. Updates are displayed in real time sothat followers can be immediately notified with new in-formation as they happen. Many companies are currentlyutilizing this resource as a means to advertise their prod-ucts, through constant updates. Twitter allows continuousinteraction between users and, therefore, is an excellentmeans of advertising and broadcasting.
MySpace
: MySpace is a social network site similar to oth-er networks such as Hi5 or Facebook. Users join the site by completing a profile describing personal interests,through which they can choose among two types of pro-files: a personal profile and a musician profile. MySpaceprovide features like: network of friends, blogs, similarinterest groups, upload photos, upload music files andvideos. The ability to upload music files has significantlyhelped to increase the popularity of MySpace, becoming awell-known platform for artists’ promotion. The profileinformation can be shared with others, depending on theprivacy preferences of the individual, as well as the sup-ported features of the site.Among the above mentioned SNSs, Facebook seems to be the most popular and most effective when it comes toeducation. The reason is probably that the site is alreadyused by a large number of teachers and students for socialcommunication, and utilizing it in the teaching and learn-ing process could be appealing to many students andteachers. Despite this, the use of Facebook in educationstill seems to be at an early stage. Some recent studieshave indicated the scarcity of using Facebook among stu-dents and teachers for learning and teaching purposes[11], [12], [13]. Thus, in this paper we try to highlighthow Facebook can be utilized effectively to enhance class-room teaching and promote a personal learning expe-rience for students. In what follows, we assume the read-er’s familiarity with the main Facebook features used forsocial interaction. For more details about these featuresthe user is referred to [8].
4
 
U
SING
F
ACEBOOK IN
A
CADEMIA
 
Facebook provides an excellent means of communica-tion between students and teachers during the lifetime ofa course.
TABLE
 
1C
OURSE TO
F
ACEBOOK
M
APPING
 
Course Facebook
Course ProfileProfileCourse ContentInfoCourse EventsEventsStudents’ GroupsGroupsAnnouncementsStatus UpdateGroup DiscussionsDiscussion Boards/ Online ChatEmailsMessagesFeedback/EvaluationComment/Like/Ask QuestionsInformation SharingShare
JOURNAL OF COMPUTING, VOLUME 4, ISSUE 6, JUNE 2012, ISSN (Online) 2151-9617https://sites.google.com/site/journalofcomputingWWW.JOURNALOFCOMPUTING.ORG80

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