Random Thoughts on Instructional Design
The debate rages on. Is Facebook an appropriate instructional tool in Higher Education? As with any good debate, there does not seem to be any one right or wrong answer and the responses vary considerably.
A recent flurry of emails on the New Media Consortium (NMC) listserv on this topic can be organized by the following response types: For, Against, Neutral, Caution, Purpose/Functionality, and FERPA.
Interestingly enough, the Push Technology of the late 1990s used more by government agencies and corporations than education received similar scrutiny. In 1997 (BFB =before Facebook), push technology was emerging as a new way to deliver information directly to people’s computers. Referencing a 1997 article from Wired magazine, Franklin and Zdonik(1998) stated that “push technology would change the Web from a passive library of information into a networked, immersive medium for information and entertainment delivery.” While this technology was being touted as being an immediate way to disseminate information to individuals, it also raised concerns about bandwidth use, selecting appropriate applications, setting standards for the use of the technology, and the prominence of possibly unwanted advertising. (Umbach, 1997)
While push technology, now Web 2.0 technologies, has persevered and in many cases exceeded the expectations of 1997-98, so too have the questions and concerns raised about its implementation and impact. Recent questions posed on the topic of the use of Web 2.0 technologies in Higher Education include:
Neil Selwyn of the University of London’s Institute of Education in the United Kingdom is a leading researcher focusing on the sociology of technology use in educational settings. In a 2007 article, Web 2.0 applications as alternative environments for informal learning – a critical review, Selwyn states that social network communities function as personal and personalisable spaces for online conversations and sharing of content. Based on Stutzman’s 2005 article Our Lives, Our Facebooks, Selwyn extrapolates that students “use Facebook in the micro-management of their social lives, as an arena for social exploration and to develop social networking skills between their peers at university and from previous institutions they have attended.” In addition to the social aspects of FB, Selwyn calls out articles from Mason (2006), Bugeja (2006), and Ziegler (2007) which indicate that FB has the potential to engage and motivate students when used as an instructional tool for reflection and critical thinking.
When considering the implementation of an instructional technology into teaching and learning, it is imperative that the instructional goals, student learning objectives, and assessment strategies remain the primary focus not the technology. A 2010 article, Students as Web 2.0 authors: Implications for assessment design and conduct, focuses on the assessment challenges of assignments requiring student authoring using Web 2.0 technologies. Gray et al (2010) site various sources which suggest that Web 2.0 technologies have the potential to “engage and empower students, to increase peer learning and creative expression, to develop literacy and communication skills, and to inculcate lifelong learning.”
Emerging literature and Selwyn’s own research, however, question the benefits of FB for formal learning. One challenge to the perceived benefits of Web 2.0 technologies is that of designing medium to high stakes assessment activities that meet the rigors of assessment in higher education. Gray et al point out that the creation of low stakes activities focused on superficial tasks appear frequently in the literature; however, such tasks risk student perception of the assignment as busy work or ancillary to the overall course objectives thus decreasing student motivation to participate.
Selwyn’s 2007 study of 907 students use of Facebook over a six-month period suggests “that the educational nature of students’ Facebook use is profoundly informal and often at a tangent with the official learning aims of educators.” Selwyn’s article reporting on the results of the 2007 study is both entertaining and informative. The findings include the following:
This is not to say that innovative activities integrating Web 2.0 technologies should not be considered. Instead, Grey et al caution that Web 2.0 activities should be designed with “relevant conventions and guidelines for designing and conducting such assessments” in mind to ensure that the students learning is benefitting from the full educational potential of the technologies. Unfortunately, for many Web 2.0 tools such conventions and guidelines are as yet not in existence either in the literature or as part of official university assessment policies.
Selwyn (2009), Hemmi et al (2009), and Gray et al (2010) all conclude that there is a need for additional research focused on the pedagogical practices of the use of Web 2.0 technologies in teaching and learning to identify the theoretical foundations of assessment for the use of these technologies in formal education. The role of student voice, not only through the use of Web 2.0 technologies but also in the planning and implementation of such technologies in learning, is also a prominent theme. It is clear in the literature reviewed for this posting that the assumption that students are comfortable with and able to use these technologies whether for personal or educational use is mistaken. As such consideration of the audience aptitudes during the design and implementation of such activities will be key to the student success and the successful implementation of activities using Web 2.0 technologies.
Give these conclusions; it is likely that there will be continued discussion within academia about whether or not it is appropriate to use Facebook and similar Web 2.0 technologies for formal learning in higher education.
What are your thoughts on the issue? For, Against, Neutral, Caution, Purpose/Functionality, FERPA?
Franklin, M., Zdonik, S. (1998). “Data In Your Face”: Push Technology in Perspective. SIGMOD Rec., 27(2), 516 – 519.
Gray, K., Thompson, C., Sheard, J., Clerehan, R., Hamilton, M. (2010). Students as Web 2.0 authors: Implications for assessment design and conduct. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology. 26(1), 105 – 122.
Hemmi, A., Bayne, S., Land, R. (2008). The appropriation and repurposing of social technologies in higher education. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning. 25(), 19 -30.
Selwyn, N. (2007). Web 2.0 applications as alternative environments for informal learning – a critical review. Paper presented at the OECD-KERIS Expert Meeting – Session 6 – Alternative learning environments in practice: Using ICT to change impact and outcomes. [viewed 1 Sept 2010]. http://www.oecd.org/dataoecd/32/3/39458556.pdf
Selwyn, N. (2009) ‘Faceworking: exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook’ Learning. Media and Technology. 34(2), 157-174.
Umbach, K. (1997). What is “Push Technology”? California Research Bureau. 4(6).