It seems that once in a while, it strikes us how much our world has changed in the past ten to fifteen years. We might notice that while we are at an event, everyone is on their phone during intermission. Or we might realize that all our pictures of our children are on our phone. Or when we walk into the classroom, all of the students are on their phones.
The final experience may explain why instructors are working to incorporate social media into their classrooms for educational purposes. The drive may not be merely to integrate popular technology, but to capture and keep the students’ attention.
Paul A. Tess recognized that instructors are incorporating social media into their higher education classrooms, and wanted to understand the research about the impact of social media on education. He conducted a literature review and shares his findings in, “The Role of Social Media in Higher Education Classes (Real and Virtual).”
First, Tess attempts to define social media. He explains that some researchers include all of Web 2.0 in their definition, while others only include social network sites like Facebook and Twitter. Tess focuses the review on studies that deal with social networking sites (SNS).
Tess describes the social networking sites and their prevalence. His data ranges from 2007-2011. Pew Research data from 2014, which focused on U.S. citizens, shows that 71% of internet users are on Facebook, and of those 87% are in the 18-29 age bracket, which includes traditional-aged college students. Twenty-three percent of internet users are on Twitter, and 37% are 18-29. Pew Research reports that 28% of internet users are on LinkedIn, with 23% in the 18-29 age bracket. The other important number to consider is that 70% of Facebook users are on daily. It has reached an impressive saturation both in number of people and in time. And statistics show college-age users are often the highest use demographic.
The Social Media Studies Used in the Review
Before studies can be conducted, Tess notes that instructors and researchers need to consider theoretical frameworks and practical uses for social media in higher education.
A researcher, Neil Selwyn, proposes three motivating concepts for incorporating social media in the classroom. The first is the changing nature of the student, second, the changing relationship to knowledge consumption and construction, and third, the emergence of “user-driven” education.
Social constructivism and situated learning, two educational theories, provide a framework that can be applied to incorporating social media in higher education. Social constructivism focuses on learning through dialogue and shared activity. Social networks can be used as the venue for dialogue and activity, and can increase student participation. Situated learning also emphasizes that learning requires participation. Social networks can be used to create the “community of practice.”
A philosophical approach notes that social media in the classroom can lead students to create knowledge in diverse networks because they are connected to individuals and communities far outside of the classroom.
In addition to the positive frameworks, Tess includes some cautions. Although social media seems like a tool that will encourage participation, some researchers suggest that it doesn’t help foster debate and disagreement. Instead, discussions seem to remain at a surface level. In addition, they caution against using a tool for an unsuitable task. Social networks are specifically designed for a set of tasks, but education is not one of them.
After noting these frameworks and cautions, Tess turns to reporting on the studies that have been conducted on social media in the classroom.
Several studies focused on specific fields, including using social media with future healthcare providers and future teachers.
Other studies focused on the impact of social media on general undergraduate courses. These studies looked at using social media as a communication tool, how social media impacts student achievement, and faculty perceptions. Studies also considered using social media as a course management system.
Finally, studies examined specific social networks, including Facebook, blogs, and Twitter, and their impact on education.