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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

Research Proposal
A Case Study:
Student Engagement with Social Networking in the Classroom

Corinne McWhinney
ETEC 500 - 66C
Student ID 51555076
July 28, 2014

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

Table of Contents
Introduction……………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………3

Problem Statement…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………..4
Critical Review of Literature…………………………………………………………………………………………………….4

Web 2.0 - Opening the Door to Learning…………………………………………………………………………5

Technologies and Student Learning Styles………………..…………………………………………………....6
Communities of Practice………………………………………………………………………………………………..7

The Role of the Teacher…………………………………………………………………………………………………9
The 5 C’s of 21st Century Leaning………………………………………...……………………………………….10
Building a Healthy Classroom Community……………………………………………………………………10
Social Networking – An Environment for Learning……………………………………………………….11

Edmodo – SNS to Support Learning……………………………………………………………………………...13
Synthesis…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….14

Research Method…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………...14
References…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….18
Appendix .…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….19
List of Tables

Table 1. Triangulation – Data Collection Techniques………………………………………………………………16

Table 2. Schedule of Activities………………………………………………………………………………………………..17

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal
Introduction
The number of teens going online is ever increasing. As smart devices and online access at

school becomes ever more prevalent, the rapid growth of technology in the hands of students
creates new challenges in education. According to Batsila, Tsihouridis, & Vavougios (2014),

technology has created a “knowledge society”, a society dependent on knowledge attributed to
information and communication technologies (ICT). They claim that “research findings reveal

that ICT plays an important role in enabling teachers and students to enhance the educational
level and communication with each other across the globe.” With this in mind, this case study

will focus on the effects of using social networking in the classroom to support learning and its
effects on student engagement.

According to the Oxford Dictionaries, social media “is websites and applications that

enable users to create and share content or to participate in social networking” 1. There are many
applications that fall under this definition, the most common, according to eBizMBA Rank 2, are

Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and MySpace. The evolution of such technology has given
people the ability to create virtual-selves to associate with one another creating

interconnectedness. Social media and digital communication such as twitter feeds, instant

messaging, blogs, Facebook pages, My Space, Instagrams, and Youtube videos provide resources
and cyber communities that give users the ability to explore the world around them through

socialization and identity formatio. Teens spend vast amounts of time connecting with others via
social networking sites. Given the popularity of this type of communication amongst students,
through my research I will examine the potential to enhance learning within the classroom
through examining the engagement of students within a single unit of study of Ancient
Civilizations in a grade 7 classroom.
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http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/
http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/social-networking-websites

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal
Problem Statement
My role within my current school district is as a lead technology teacher. I mentor

teachers in the effective use of technology in the classroom. As my school district is now

beginning to embrace Web 2.0 technologies, I feel it is part of my role to mentor teachers in the
use of these technologies in a safe and engaging way. As social media use in the classroom is a
relatively new experience for me, my case study will focus on the use of social media as an

educational tool. My problem statement is: the purpose of this study is to discover and describe

the experiences of the student and teacher participants involved in the use of social media within
a unit of study to support curriculum delivery and its effects on the engagement of students. The
research will examine these questions:

1) How does the use of social media in the classroom effect the engagement of students in
their learning?

2) How do social media applications support the intended learning outcomes?

3) How often do students use a classroom social media site during a week, month, or school
year?

4) How do the features support individual learning styles?

5) How can teachers integrate social media into other subject areas?
Critical Review of the Literature

The literature supporting this case study examines the significance of Web 2.0

technologies within an educational setting in relation to current educational trends and students

learning styles. As social networking is the most common Web 2.0 tool that students are using at
this time, the literature examined in this study focuses on integrating social networking into

classroom curriculum through building healthy learning communities, developing higher order
thinking and actively engaging students in their learning through collaboration with peers and
teachers.

CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

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Web 2.0 - Opening the Door to Learning
With the increasing number of students with access to web technologies it is important to

investigate the higher order thinking skills that are needed for students to successfully use Web
2.0 tools for learning in an educational setting. In the qualitative research study, “Do Web 2.0
tools really open the door to learning? Practices, perceptions and profiles of 11-16 year old
students”, Luckin, Clark, Graber, Logan, Mee & Oliver (2009) investigate the practices,

perceptions and profiles of 11-16 year old learners and their use of Web 2.0 technologies. They

focus on the use of these tools in their everyday lives, and how we can use these tools to support
learning in an academic setting by enhancing engagement with the technologies. Luckin, et al’s
(2009) study focuses on these research questions:

1) What specific Web 2.0 technologies did learners report making use of?
2) What types of activities were Web 2.0 technologies being used for?

3) What different types of Web 2.0 users can be identified from these data?

4) What differences were apparent between school and non-school engagement with
Web 2.0 technologies?

Data was collected through surveys and observations of 60 focus groups from 22 schools.

Analysis of the data revealed that social networking sites were by far the most extensively used

Web 2.0 technology in students’ everyday lives. 74% of the respondents reported having at least
one social network account. As far as using Web. 2.0 technologies as learning tools, key findings

of the study suggest that there are four categories of learners based on the types of activities
students engage in (Luckin, et al, 2009):


Researchers: mainly in terms of reading with little evidence of critical enquiry

Collaborators: with respect to file sharing, gaming, and communicating

Producers and Publishers: in terms of sharing experience through social networking sites,

and with input from teachers there are some examples of co-publication and production

CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

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Their study revealed that there is little evidence of critical enquiry or analytical awareness of

students engaging in the use of Web 2.0 tools as the majority of students mainly used the tools as

“researchers”. The evidence suggests that students need to be taught higher order thinking skills
to better use these tools for learning. Luckin, et al (2009) emphasize the important role teachers
have in assisting learners to make more sophisticated use of Web 2.0 technologies to support
learning, taking into account things such as e-safety, privacy, and infrastructure. Current

technologies offer the potential for students to adopt the role of “navigators of knowledge, of
content creators, producers and publishers, with knowledge viewed as a collaboratively

produced phenomena, shaped by culture, context and co-generated communication” (Luckin, et
al, 2009).

Technologies and Student Learning Styles
As emerging Web 2.0 technologies are on the rise in the academic setting, it is important

to reflect on the relationship between these technologies and individual learning styles. The

action research study, “Emerging Web Technologies in Higher Education: A Case of Incorporating
Blogs, Podcasts and Social Bookmarks in a Web Programming Course based on Students’

Learning Styles and Technology Preference” (Saeed, Yang & Sinnappan, 2009), reviews the

relationship between various web technologies and how these technologies address the needs of
a wide spectrum of learning styles. Saeed, et al (2009), hypothesize that

1) Preference/use of instructional technology is influenced by students’ learning styles.

2) Academic performance is positively influenced by the use of appropriate instructional
technology.

The methods to support Saeed, et al’s (2009) study included 4 phases:

To collect students’ learning styles and technology preferences for emerging web

technologies

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal


To experiment with a combination of emerging web technologies based on students’
learning styles and technology preferences

To analyze the impact of the experiments on academic performances

To identify key achievements and shortcomings of the study and to redefine the research
objectives

Participants of the study included 204 enrolled students of a web programming course. Data

was gathered through online surveys and the Felder-Soloman’s learning style inventory that
classifies student learning styles as active-reflective, sensing-intuitive, visual-verbal or
sequential-global learners.

The major implications of the study reveal that students preferred to use various

technologies such as blogs, wikis, messaging, podcast and video, in their studies rather than

relying on one particular tool. The study also revealed that the majority of learners appeared to
be “well-balanced”, rather than dependent on one particular learning style. It showed that

“today’s learners are more flexible in stretching their learning styles to accommodate a variety of
teaching methods” (Saeed, et al, 2009). The validity of the findings in the study is supported by

the analysis of the data collected through surveys and observations and the review of literature.
One challenge I have with the findings is that the participants used were enrolled in a web

programming course, which leads me to believe the that many of the students may have had vast

previous experience with the technologies used to conduct the study, which may have influenced
the conclusion that today’s learners are flexible enough to use varying types of technology.
Communities of Practice

Web 2.0 technologies promote interaction, collaboration and contribution from user

generated content. These technologies have changed the landscape of learning and challenge
previous theories of learning. In the study, “A theoretical framework for building online

communities of practice with social networking tools”, Gunawardena, Hermans, Sanchez,

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

Richmond, Bohley & Tuttle (2009) develop a theoretical framework to understand learning

among groups of individuals that employ social networking applications. Their framework is

developed through a literature review of learning theories, and action research to explore the use
of social networking into communities of practice in which like-minded people, who share a
common concern about a topic, can deepen their knowledge and understanding through
interaction.

In their theoretical framework for communities of practice using social networking tools,

Gunawardena, et al (2009) identify, in what they refer to as a spiraling framework, six phases of
the learning process:

1) Context – the process of collective intelligence creation in social networking

environments initiates in context, the context of the site and the context of individuals
using the site.

2) Discourse- idio-culture forms as participants bring their life experience, knowledge, and
insights to the group through discourse.

3) Action- participants identify a learning goal and, through tool use, connect with others
that share the goal, agreeing to tasks to accomplish it.

4) Reflection- the interaction of personal experience and group thinking, considering and
integrating unfamiliar points of view.

5) Reorganization- following the reflective process, members brought new understanding to
the shared goal and adjusted meanings and content with the social networking
environment.

6) Mediated Metacognition- the members mutually reflect on reasoning and development

process as a group, exploring each other’s reasoning and viewpoints in order to construct
shared understanding.

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

Gunawardena, et al (2009) reiterate the important role teachers have in assisting learners to
refine the use of Web 2.0 technologies to support learning through facilitated collaboration
between members of the learning community.
The Role of the Teacher

“Given that SNSs (social networking systems) are the most popular form of

communication amongst teenagers there is an opportunity to transfer motivation and associated
information and communication literacies into an educational context”(Callaghan & Bower,

2012). The qualitative, comparative case study, “Learning through social networking sites – the
critical role of the teacher” (Callaghan & Bower, 2010), investigated if social networking can
enhance the learning of curriculum and the relationship of teacher interaction within the
network with the quality of the student learning experience.

There were 48 participants in the study, divided into 2 classes of year 10 commerce

students from a school in the western region of Sydney. Students were registered in the Ning

social network, which is a secure network only accessible by account holders. Tools used in the

lessons included forum discussions, blogs, video and photo albums. In one class the teacher was
not involved in interacting with students within the network, and in the other class, the teacher

was actively participating in SNS behaviors. Data was collected through three trained observers

and through analyzing the work that was created by students and saved electronically. A student
survey consisting of a balance of closed and open ended questions was also conducted at the
culmination of lessons.

Through analysis of the data, it was concluded that the online presence of the teacher

strengthened the teacher-student relationship and that factors such as establishing expectations,
classroom implementation and the nature of online teacher intervention facilitated a positive

classroom and enhanced overall student engagement and learning. This study demonstrates “the
critical role of the teacher in engaging effective online learning in SNS environments” and

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

establishes that “positive teacher behavior is associated with greater levels of student maturity
and more on-task performance” (Callaghan & Bower, 2010).
The 5 C’s of 21st Century Leaning

Social networks are being used by teachers and students to support 21st Century learning

as communication tools, creating chat-room forums to extend classroom discussions, posting
assignments, tests and quizzes while supporting relationships between teachers and their
students. Beverley Crane’s (2012) Using Web 2.0 and Social Networking Tools in the K-12

Classroom demonstrates how Web 2.0 social networking tools support the five C’s that are

important for 21st century learning to take place; communication, collaboration, critical thinking,
creativity and content. Through literature review and sharing social networking projects

developed to support curriculum, Crane (2012) demonstrates the many ways in which social
networking can support learning such as:


Gathering and sharing information

Maintaining openness to new ideas by considering divergent opinions

Collaborating with others to exchange ideas and develop new understandings

resources

Exploring real-world issues and solving authentic problems using digital tools and
Sharing work in a variety of media both inside and outside of the classroom

Crane (2012) emphasizes the importance of collaborating in “real time” while also taking into

account the necessary safety precautions from risks such as online predators, hackers, viewing
inappropriate content, cyber-bulling and privacy issues by reviewing the importance of safety

policies around internet use and using social networking tools in a guided environment.
Building a Healthy Classroom Community

The use of social networking as a learning tool allows educators to create student-

centered environments where students can take an active role their learning. The literature

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

reviewed so far has made reference to communities of practice, collaborative working

environments, and a shift to learning in authentic, real-life contexts. Social networking fosters

this type of community building both in and out of the classroom. Coombs, Leite and Grierson’s
(2010) research paper, “Opening Pandora’s Box: Social Networks in the Classroom of 2010”,

examines how a classroom community using inquiry-based processes, where students decide on
what is appropriate behavior for different social situations, fosters positive behavior and

relationships without didactically teaching morality lessons. “Online social networking provides
a unique opportunity to build such relationships and reinforce community that is critical to a

digital workplace” (Coombs, et al, 2010). Coombs, et al’s (2012) research suggests that creating a
positive community within a social network, where students can practice critical thinking

without being overly assessed, encourages students who may be too timid to raise their hands in
class to “feel more at ease writing about their opinions or asking someone for help online.” They
conclude that Web 2.0 technologies would allow teachers to actively engage students who
typically are not involved in classroom learning.
Social Networking- An Environment for Learning

When used effectively, new technologies have the potential to allow students to

“speak” to a world far beyond their local community. In doing so, they empower
students to write and publish for a global audience, encouraging them to be more
than just the audience (Wells, 2007, as cited in Casey & Evans, 2011).

The action research study, “Designing for Learning: Online Social Networks as a

Classroom Environment” (Casey & Evans, 2011) is of particular importance to my research
proposal as the research problem is very similar to my own. Casey & Evan’s (2011)
research investigates the use of online social media as a learning environment for

adolescents between 13 and 16 years old, focusing on new approaches for learning.

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal
The study included qualitative data, exploring the online interactions of students

and the classroom teacher as well as a review of literature for analytical discussion. Data
collected included teacher planning documents, field notes, teacher reflections, student

work and reflections and discussion notes. More than 150 students were registered on the
Ning social network in courses taught by Gail Casey (teacher and doctoral researcher) in

various subject areas. Research was focused on three areas: What type of demands does
this type of classroom practice bring to the teacher? What scaffolding is needed to help
students cope with the complexities of such an environment? What potential does this
type of online social medium have for learning?

Analysis of the data demonstrated several findings (Casey & Evans, 2011):

Ning (SNS) was not a linear learning environment, it was a dynamic system

Effective learning activities need to designed around big questions

was a large part of their communication with friends

Students were highly engaged with the technologies with the SNS, and for many it

Students became more confident as learners and valued one another’s feedback

them a reason to produce higher quality work

The tools encouraged students to be creative while publishing their work giving
Students were able to take more control of their learning including supporting and
assessing peers

Casey & Evans’ (2014) research supports their conclusion that using social networking as

a tool for education engages students in many aspects of their learning uncovering new
possibilities for academic experiences.

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

Edmodo – SNS to support Learning
There are many social networking sites in the digital world. The literature refers to

policy and safety measures to take into account when using social media. I have chosen to
use Edmodo 3for the purpose of my research based on my own exploration of social

networking sites and the research finding of Batsila, Tsihouridis & Vavougios (2014) in the
article “Entering the Web-2 Edmodo World to Support Learning: Tracing Teachers’

Opinion After Using it in their Classes”. Through a quantitative research method, Batsila,
et al (2014) based their research on these questions:

1) How often is Edmodo used as an instructive tool in teachers’ classes?
2) What is teachers’ opinion on its features?

3) What is teachers’ opinion on the disadvantages of Edmodo?

4) What is teachers’ overall opinion of Edmodo as a teaching tool?

Participants included 41 teachers from public Junior High Schools. Data collected

included observations, a questionnaire including closed type questions graded on the

Likert scale, and follow up interviews. Results of the data analysis reveal that the majority

of teachers used Edmodo at least three times a week due to its ability to motivate learners.
Teachers who had experience with other SNS’s reported they found Edmodo more

convenient or better organized for both teachers and students. The majority of teachers
rated the features such as the library, online assignments, message posting, quizzes, text
and email as excellent features of the Edmodo learning environment. The concerns

mentioned by teachers in the study were that some students seemed to make excessive
use of Edmodo, perhaps at the expense of other school responsibilities. Batsila, et al

(2014) conclude that the results give us insight on the kinds of teaching tools, such as
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https://www.edmodo.com/

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

computer based social networks like Edmodo, we can employ in order to arouse our
learners’ interest.
Synthesis

The literature reviewed in my research proposal demonstrates the potential for

active student engagement using a social networking site in a classroom. There are
significant actions that need to take place in order for the tool to be useful in an

educational setting. The teacher facilitating the network needs to take student safety and
district policy into account, needs to take an active role within the network, and also
design lessons with big ideas in mind. When choosing a social networking site it is

important to have access to a variety of tools that can meet a range of learning styles and
encourage students to publish work in a variety of ways. Taking these actions into

consideration advocates a motivating learning environment encouraging higher order
thinking skills.

Research Method

The case study investigates the use of Edmodo, an online social networking site, as a

learning tool. My interest in this case study stems from my own curiosity to explore the

implications social networks may have in the engagement of students in their learning. Edmodo
allows for the creation of learning groups, posting assignments, messages, quizzes and polls,
embedding video, and uploading and handing in assignments.

The participants of the study include a class of grade 7 students (approximately 30

students) and the classroom teacher in an elementary school setting in Coldstream, BC. I chose
this particular class as I am regular staff member at the school and students and parents will

potentially be more comfortable with my presence as an observer. Due to the age of the students
and potential risks of public access to student information, I have chosen to use a social

networking site intended for educational use for the purpose of this study. Edmodo is a social

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

networking application in which networks are created by teachers without email addresses, and
can only by accessed by the teacher and students. Parents have access to only their own child’s
information within the network. Students will be assigned a pseudonym and personal

information, including names, will not be included in the study. Parents will be advised of the
study and have access to their child’s activity within the network.

Students will be exploring a unit on Ancient Civilizations based on the BC Learning

Outcomes for grade 7 Social Studies. Lessons will be constructed by the classroom teacher and
me, incorporating a balance of the tools available in Edmodo such as creating a calendar of
events, learning groups, polls, posting assignments, tests and quizzes.

The qualitative data that will be gathered includes:

Teacher lesson plans which incorporate the use of the network tools

Field notes taken through observation

the unit

Teacher reflections taken at the end of each week and culminating reflections at the end of
Examples of student work from online activity within Edmodo

A guided student survey upon completion of the unit

Conclusions will be drawn from the findings exploring students’ online interactions with one
another and the classroom teacher while drawing on the related literature for analytical
discussion.

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Table 1. Triangulation

1

2

Field Notes

How do social media applications
support the intended learning
outcomes?
How often do students use a
classroom social media site during a
week, month, or school year?

Research Questions

Data Collection
Techniques
3

4

5

Teacher
Reflections

Student Work
Samples

Student Survey

Lesson Plans

Student Work
Samples

Teacher
Reflections

Lesson Plans

Field Notes

Student Survey

Teacher
Reflections

How do the features support
individual learning styles?

Field Notes

Teacher
Reflections

Student Survey

Student Work
Samples

How can teachers integrate social
media into other subject areas?

Teacher
Reflections

Field Notes

Lesson Plans

How does the use of social media
in the classroom effect the
engagement of students in their
learning?

The classroom teacher will facilitate the lessons in the classroom and be an active

participant in the network. I will observe in the classroom taking field notes twice a week and

collecting a weekly reflection from the classroom teacher. I will also be responsible for collecting

student sample work from the social networking site on a weekly basis. At the end of the unit,

students will be guided through a survey reflecting their experience using Edmodo as a learning
tool.

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal

Table 2. Schedule of Activities
Dates

Activities

December 2014

January 2015


February – Mid-March 2015




Mid – End of March 2015



Create lessons and plans for Ancient
Civilizations Unit using Edmodo tools
Create student profiles
Introduce Edmodo through mini lessons to
students
Begin Unit of Study
Observe in classroom 2X's per week
Collect weekly teacher reflections
Collect student work samples from online
postings
Complete Student Surveys
Collect final reflections
Observations completed

I chose the case study method as it allows for using a number of techniques for gathering

data. The literature to support the research is largely qualitative and the data collected is based
on multiple pieces of evidence such as observations, documentation and surveys. As this is an

independent study, it allows me to work closely with a reasonable number of participants and in
single unit of study.

The research I do will explore the implications social media can have in an educational

environment to meet the interest and needs of today learners. I believe that my research will

support that Web 2.0 technologies create vivid, engaging learning environments for students that
comply with the literature mentioned in this proposal. I believe the case study will give insight
into the ways we can use the tools to design interesting learning activities in the 21st century

classroom.

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal
References

Batsila, M., Tsihouridis, C., & Vavougios, D. (2014). Entering the Web-2 Edmodo World to Support
Learning: Tracing Teachers' Opinion After Using it in their Classes. International Journal Of
Emerging Technologies In Learning, 9(1), 53-60.
Callaghan, N., & Bower, M. (2012). Learning through social networking sites—The critical role of the
teacher. Educational Media International, 49(1), 1-17.
Casey, G., & Evans, T. (2011). Designing for Learning: Online Social Networks as a Classroom
Environment. International Review Of Research In Open & Distance Learning, 12(7), 1-26.
Coombs, D., Leite, J., & Grierson, S. (2010). Opening Pandora's Box: Social Networks in the
Classroom of 2010. Kentucky English Bulletin, 59(2), 14-18.
Crane, B. (2012). Using web 2.0 and social networking tools in the K-12 classroom. Chicago. IL:
Neal-Schuman Publishers.
Dugan (Unknown). Edmodo Student Survey. Retrieved from http://www.quia.com/sv/515703.html
Gunawardena, C.N., Hermans, M.B., Sanchez, D., Richmond, C., Bohley, M., & Tuttle, R. (2009). A
theoretical framework for building online communities of practice with social networking tools.
Educational Media International, 36(1), 3-16.
Luckin, R., Clark, W, Graber, R., Logan, K., Mee, A., & Oliver, M. (2009). Do Web 2.0 tools really
open the door to learning? Practices, perceptions and profiles of 11 – 16 year old students.
Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 87-104.
Saeed, N., Yang, Y., & Sinnappan, S. (2009). Emerging Web Technologies in Higher Education: A
Case of Incorporating Blogs, Podcasts and Social Bookmarks in a Web Programming Course
based on Students' Learning Styles and Technology Preferences. Journal Of Educational
Technology & Society, 12(4), 98-109.

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CMcWhinney-Research Proposal
Appendix A
Student Survey

Place a check mark next to your answer.
1)

What is your gender?

___male

___female

2) Which of the following devices do you have? (check all that apply)
___ Home Computer
___ Cell Phone (without internet)
___ Cell Phone (with internet)
___ ipad or tablet
___ none of the above
3)

How often did you use Edmodo per week?
___ never
___ once per day
___ twice or more per day
___ once a week
___ twice a week
___ at least 3 times a week

4) How did you access Edmodo? (check all that apply)
___ Home computer
___ School Computer
___ Cell Phone
___ ipad/tablet
___ Only in class
___ Other _____________
5)

Please rate the following features. (Circle the answer)
Assignment Notification
Calendar
Library
Handing in assignments
Message Posting
Quizzess/Tests
Grades (posted by teacher)
Polls

Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent
Excellent

5
5
5
5
5
5
5
5

4
4
4
4
4
4
4
4

3
3
3
3
3
3
3
3

2
2
2
2
2
2
2
2

1 Poor
1 Poor
1 Poor
1 Poor
1 Poor
1 Poor
1 Poor
1 Poor

6) What were the challenges you encountered while using Edmodo?

7)

What features do you think best supported your learning style? Explain.

8) Do you feel that using social media in your learning was useful? Explain.