Using a variety of different technologies in the classroom and in alternative learning environments provides the potential of offering learners the ability to explore ideas and concepts in different ways. For example, video can be used to convey course content in a way that is more engaging and memorable that a traditional textbook. Interactive simulations can encourage exploration and engage students in actively working with course material. Interactive quizzes and testing tools can give students immediate feedback on retention of terminology, and key concepts. These technologies help students to dynamically link concepts together to create deeper understanding of more complex concepts (Rogers, 2011).
However, I believe we have to be careful in thinking that all technologies are effective in increasing learning. Some technologies could in fact serve as distractors. For example, Facebook, even though it is incredibly popular, would not be a technology I would recommend using in the classroom. One might argue there is a benefit to utilizing a tool our students are already familiar with. After all, they use Facebook all the time. Does it make since to capitalize on their social familiarity and integrate into that social norm and as a way to reach our students?
Facebook is one of many social networking sites (SNS). It is a collaborative tool that serves to increase social interaction among its users. Ellison (2010) surveyed 227 students and found that over half were likely to use Facebook to arrange a face-to-face study group, or help manage a project, and 49% said they were likely or very likely to “collaborate in a way your instructor would like.” I think it is great that 49% of her students are utilizing the social networking capabilities of Facebook to facilitate their learning processes. But that also means that 51% of her students are not using Facebook.
One issue I have with Facebook is the amount of distraction. For many students who have hundreds of friends, a notice, or announcement is likely to get buried into the depths of all the other party invitations, notices about the latest pop celebrity, and other content. This means students depending on Facebook to coordinate classroom learning, may simply miss the notices. To be an effective classroom or educational technology it needs to provide equal access to everyone, and it needs to provide a clear and effective means of organizing information and ensuring everyone at least has an opportunity to access the information.
I think there is a lot we can learn from Facebook. And many learning management systems and other tools aimed specifically at the educational market are designed to emulate the social networking features of Facebook. In fact, many of them integrate with Facebook and use Facebook as a redundant pathway of networking with students. But they also meet the goals of ensuring all students have access, and all course content, and related information are available in an organized, clear and concise manner.
Ellison, N. B., (2010). Facebook Use by Undergraduates: An Educational Tool? Available online at: https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=487460320569. Retrieved: 01/20/2014.
Rogers, Sharp, Preece (2011). Interaction Design: Beyond human-computer interaction. John Wiley and Sons. p. 81-82.