Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Facebook as a TEFL Tool: A Focus on Attitudes | Morocco World News

ByFouad Boulaid

Morocco World News

Ifrane, Morocco, October 9, 2012

Today?s new generation of students are often said to be a digital generation of Web 3.0 users. Most of them are active and advanced users of Social Networking Sites (SNS), particularly Facebook (FB). The latter has erected itself around educators in a few years. Students can now be entertained, socialize, send and receive e-mails, browse for information, produce and preserve wall pages by filling them with photos, videos, and hyperlinks.? They are also able to broadly work on team projects using synchronous and asynchronous FB chatting and, subsequently, improve not only their internet competence, but also their language skills as well as their sense of creativity and life skills on the whole.

More interestingly, the reputable attractiveness of FB among students has galvanized many universities to become involved in this SNS in a variety of ways. There are even universities like Harvard University, University of Cambridge, University of Leicester, Oxford University, and Al Akhawayn University and others, which have created their profile pages as a space where to announce on-campus events. These pages are also a means of advertising the university and inviting new student ?fans.? Using FB in this way is supposed to provide universities with a different means of connecting with students. Within this framework, a study was conducted on the hypothesis FB could be incorporated in the English language teaching (ELT) activities and investigated how university students and teachers perceive such an idea.

The study was conducted with the participation of students and instructors from two Moroccan institutions of higher education: Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (AUI) and Moulay Ismail University in Meknes (MIU), department of English. The end finding confirms that FB garnered? positive attitudes among students, but showed that teachers are still skeptical and resist welcoming FB into education. For a pupil to be skillful on the whole, s/he has to realize her/his self-esteem. The latter is noticed (by more than half of the respondents) to be improved on FB interface. Truly, learners with higher self-esteem are supposed to be extrovert, delightful, reliable, expressive, and more open to experience virtual instruction. This proposes that introversive students should use FB to discover their true selves. In particular, FB appears to provide a ready space where students can become autonomous learners rather than rely on classroom lecture.

So, instructors are urged to be aware that FB is becoming a fundamental means for higher education and language learning. Optimistically, students? FB tendency can turn into a language teaching and learning setting. Since FB initially presents an English language framework and much of the content is in English (though it offers its services in nearly a hundred languages), learners and instructors speaking English can instigate language norms on FB that can turn out to be a vehicle for English language activities. The fact that a very high rate of respondents (98 percent) reported to insert comments on Facebook posts in the English language and that over half of the informants (75.7 percent) reported to have experienced student-instructor communication indicates that EFL learners are by now eager to communicate with their instructors in? English. As well, teachers of English will no longer encounter the habitual FTF seeds in instructing exclusively in the target language (English) especially that above half of the participants (73.2 percent) reported to trust that the idea of instruction via FB could be a possibility.

As well, students? communicative competence can be attained throughout their cumulative discussion of serious topics that are frequently referred to as taboo subjects. For instance, EFL students can overtly discuss with their peers, native speakers and instructors themes under the umbrella of politics, religion and sex. This will explicitly assail the learners? ears and implicitly invade their brain to smoothly receive language components. For sure, EFL learners attending FB virtual meetings on a regular basis can grasp the correlation between language and culture and enhance their awareness about the notion that certain native speech acts are tricky to decipher and find out the exact synonymous expressions in their native language for cultural reasons.

Fundamentally, EFL instructors can initiate Facebook activities with the hope of emphasizing learners? cultural and communicative awareness. They can create discussion forums corresponding exclusively to English language and observe the written exchanges between students and their peers. To this end, they can even invite native speakers to act as guest speakers to facilitate online courses, and a student can be assigned the role of ?virtual? moderator. The fact that students reported, in this study, that they very much enjoy facebooking and very frequently connect through FB implies that they are deeply immersed in FB virtual community. They are weaving the virtual setting that can naturally be melted with their FTF world. Thus, Facebook has a crucial function not only in students? social but also academic lives.

So, instructors should turn ?FB into a means of tutoring, making use of their ability to assist in producing, collaborating and information sharing. Of course, FB might be very flourishing in information sharing, connecting people, and making meetings more efficient and productive.

Undoubtedly, student-instructor facebooking cannot come to the surface without information sharing. The latter could be attained when students and/or instructors update their status, upload or take pictures, upload or record videos, share links, create events and groups, make comments on each others? posts, note down something on each others? FB Walls, and email each other synchronously and asynchronously. Thus, students can make use of FB status to depict their linguistic proficiency and may frequently discuss their university experience and most recent events like ceremonies, colloquiums and lectures. They can also revise their lessons with their peers through FB walls. Students can systematically share class information with their peers; for example, a FB status allows for circulation course planning, required reading materials and task assignments. As well, the FB status can be as an extension of the traditional FTF information such as handouts, wall notices, class announcements and group emails. Facebook is indeed a useful means of last minute informal information.

More interestingly, FB allows students working on relevant topics and interests to meet other fellows concerning their classroom presentations and/or research paper. They can then develop a sturdy team project. Students can create virtual communities and work on highly collaborative projects. They can do this as collaboratively as they can do it under the supervision of their instructor(s). Thus, it is high time teaching practitioners made use of students? ?net-generation? to enhance English language learning. This might be included even at the hidden curriculum.

Language teachers can then advocate new web course syllabi, and require their students to Facebook and thus hold educational conferences online. This can effectively lead to a well-built virtual campus. For instance, if educators want learners to better engage in this new trend of communication, they should reshape their curricula as that trend transforms the notion of communication. As well, the curriculum may include minutes of both synchronous and asynchronous attendance, tests and quizzes and home assignments, which will ease classroom relations. It will even provide para-activities inviting different classes to cooperate with each other in common classes, groups and discussions.

The functionality of these classes is that they may host thousands of students at the same time. This could be fostered by the use of text messaging for language class linking through Facebook updates. And the way FB updates can feed into pedagogical application and help improve communication and connectedness skills. Teachers may employ FB as a means to promote their connection with students. They should be encouraged to add their students on FB because, today, this is how most educated people communicate. FB provides with it many educational advantages. For example, lesson materials can be stored on a FB wall page, and students then can have access to data and answers to questions put by classmates. Teachers can then use the wall page to communicate with their students passing through FB live-and-later emails and wall posting. Besides, pertinent links could be integrated. They could also invite students to sign up for some interesting educational Facebook groups.

Accordingly, students can be invited to respond to their teachers? tiny questions right through the wall page service on FB. They can initiate minor groups to work on mutual assignments even if with no academic purpose. So, it may offer rich lesson content and a valuable virtual learning setting. The latter may allow instructors to employ Facebook stage to communicate with students. Of course, there are different ways teachers may exploit it.

They can basically produce wall pages and encourage students and colleagues to ?friend? them and connect in a very extensive process. Next, they may generate special pages exclusively for the class, which will essentially produce virtual class lists. Anyone can post information, receive feedback and collaborate within the FB network. Now, once you register for FB school, you are given the green light to download and upload applications that will promote the learning/teaching functionality of FB, especially that the outcome of this research paper reveals the interest and highly motivation of students to use FB functions.

Thus, teachers can leave assignments for their students on Facebook walls. They can also email them about future events and even schedule presentations and exam dates. In turn, students will be able to note assignment issues and obtain reactions from other classmates and instructors. The latter may provide students with a directory of information paths to make use of in their projects. As well, synchronous chats encourage students to discuss specific topics with their instructors. Further, teacher may have enough time to formulate quizzes for students to work on and get accustomed before final tests.

In short, Facebook may increase the time that a learner becomes actively involved in learning. Henceforth, it presents an invaluable milieu where both students and instructors might meet and resume their classroom discussion. It can help educators freely connect to learning resources, associate with their peers and develop creativity. It facilitates students and teachers to maintain work, life and technology equilibrium. This means that teachers will find themselves increasingly put in the margin in this rapidly changing educational landscape of the 21st century unless they extend their narrow vision to responsibility. Apparently, language teachers are supposed to widen their understanding of their roles. They should no longer stick to the classroom and to the traditional methodology of teaching.

Yet, the challenge for language teachers is how to gain their students? learning retention and extend their participation beyond the FTF classroom. For a better connection with students on Facebook, teachers have to acknowledge that their students frequently log in and that they read information on Facebook pages.? The big challenge is how to make sure that all students have an accounts and how frequently and easily they access it.

Fouad Boulaid is PhD candidate in Applied Linguistics at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane, Morocco, where he currently works at the department of Student Affairs?

? Morocco World News. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, rewritten or redistributed


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