- Greg and I talk about our latest research on using Twitter to support students throughout their first year of college.
- I summarize my recent research on using Facebook in education.
- Greg explores the future of higher education and how new technologies can be used to effectively improve student success.
- Liz discusses how to use Facebook to market your institution and programs.
- Ed explains how to frame productive social media use to administrators.
- I get snarky about EdTech startups and how they don’t communicate with educators.
Listen to the podcast here:
Or you can download the file by right-clicking here and selecting “Save As.” Here are the slides for the presentation portion:
I’d love to hear what you think. Please share your thoughts and questions in the comments below.
Junco, R. (2012). The relationship between frequency of Facebook use, participation in Facebook activities, and student engagement. Computers & Education, 58(1), 162-171.
Facebook frequency – I use two different ways to measure frequency of use: 1) Average time spent on Facebook per day and 2) Number of times Facebook is checked per day. Note that if you are relating these to outcome measures, you will probably get different results for time and checking (there is more detail about this in this paper and this one). My reason for using a continuous measure of time spent on Facebook is simple. Using categorical measures (i.e., 1-2 hours, 3-4 hours, etc.) presupposes an underlying distribution in your data that may not actually exist. Plus, you can always convert a continuous variable to a categorical, but not vice-versa. I recognize that using such fine-grained options could be problematic; however, survey methods are the most efficient in collecting these data (stay tuned for one of my future projects that seeks to remedy the problems inherent in employing surveys to collect usage data). You might have noticed that the “time spent on” question is worded in a way to include more stems than just Facebook– I used a few additional stems (i.e., searching for information, email, etc.). Feel free to add your own.
Facebook activities - Because the types of Facebook activities change with the addition or deletion of features, I used a novel method to come up with these 14 items. I posted a public status update stating: ‘‘I need your help for my next research project. What are the things you do on Facebook?’’ The items submitted by 39 of my Facebook friends were collated and compiled into a non-overlapping list of 14 items. These 14 items were shared with two separate groups of undergraduate students for input, revised and posted on Facebook for further comments. All of the items from the original list were kept, and most of them were edited for clarity and relevance.
You can download a pdf of the questions here. If you end up using these questions in your own research, please send me an email and let me know. You may also be interested in my colleague, Nicole Ellison’s Facebook Intensity Scale.
Over at Wired, Tim Carmody wrote a great piece about Apple’s latest foray into the education market – digital textbooks via the iBooks 2 app. Tim hits the nail on the head in his introduction (emphasis mine):
Engagement is a big word in education. It combines both objective participation and subjective emotion. It’s one of the few psychological terms in education that links students, teachers and content. So it’s not surprising that in promoting the iPad as a tool for education, Apple touted the device’s ability to engage students.
Because they’re so engaging: okay, let’s just drop the bull and say it, because they’re cool
Tim understands what Apple and most reporters don’t know or like to gloss over: That there is nothing engaging about iTextbooks in relation to the important interpersonal engagement that we’re striving for in order to increase student motivation, participation, and academic outcomes (here is a great article reviewing student engagement and related research).
There’s no doubt that iTextbooks are intrapersonally engaging or put another way, interactive. However, just because something is interactive does not mean that it is engaging. Although I’m not endorsing them either, at least Inkling has the “social learning network” feature that allows students and instructors to carry on a conversation about book content. Certainly, a step in the right engagement direction.
Some of my research on Facebook and Twitter illustrates the idea of “engaging” tech vs. actual engagement: using an “engaging” system like Facebook doesn’t predict much of the variance in real-world engagement; however, using it in certain ways does. Learning outcomes come about not because of the particular technology being used, but because of how that technology is used to support sound pedagogy. Certainly, some technologies will be better suited for certain activities than others (for instance, Twitter lends itself better to ongoing synchronous and asynchronous conversations than email).
Educators will often become enamored by new technologies and adopt them with the underlying assumption that technology in and of itself must be good for learning (for a great review, see the Outcomes section of this paper). We see this type of hype with almost every new educational technology tool that is released. Take for example iPad initiatives at a growing number of universities: there’s no data to show that having students adopt iPads leads to better learning outcomes. So why adopt them on such a widespread scale? The only reason that I can tell is because they are cool.
Now, there is nothing wrong with the “cool factor.” Doing traditional educational activities with a shiny new toy can improve student motivation, a phenomenon I liken to Jedi mind tricks (“these are not the boring lectures you are looking for”). Unfortunately, the effect of the cool factor is short-lived when it comes to promoting positive educational outcomes. When all students have iPads (which is presumptuous to assume- I’ll save my rant about how iTextbooks will widen digital inequalities for another time), reading iTextbooks will be just like any other boring non-engaging assignment that students have to complete in isolation. In other words, the coolness wears off and the interactivity becomes a routine part of the process.
Of course we’ll never know how well new technologies work unless we try them. But in addition to trying them, we must integrate them in educationally-purposeful ways and also assess how integrating them in these ways affects student outcomes in comparison to other tools (in the case of iTextbooks, reasonable comparisons would be regular textbooks, other forms of digital books, and interactive websites). Put another way, we can (and should) be excited about the possibility of how new technologies might enhance learning; however, we must be mindful of evaluating what works and more importantly, what doesn’t.