Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Facebook: When Education Meets Privacy

Academic journal article Interdisciplinary Journal of e-Skills and Lifelong Learning

Facebook: When Education Meets Privacy

Article excerpt

Introduction

In 1997, SixDegrees.com was launched, a website now believed to be a precursor of more current social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Hyves. Today the use of social networking sites (hence SNSs) has become commonplace amongst youngsters and young adults. Tufekci (2008) found that between 80% and 90% of college students are a member of at least one SNS. The first SNS that gained worldwide popularity was MySpace. Barely four years after its launch in 2003, it had become by far the most adopted SNS amongst youngsters, with 100 million users and attracting 230,000 new users each day at some point in time (Lenhart & Madden, 2007; Sellers, 2006). According to Hinduja and Patchin (2008), this popularity is "due in large part not because of innovative functionality and utility, but because it centralized many attractive functions that were already a part of other social networking sites in a user-friendly way" (p. 130). Not surprisingly, MySpace is not the only SNS available (for an overview, see Boyd & Ellison, 2007); Facebook seems to be the most popular for people of all ages (Doughtery, 2010; see also Judd & Kennedy, 2010). In a follow-up study in September 2009 by Lenhart, Purcell, Smith, and Zickuhr (2010), 71% of a sample of American young adults (between 18 and 29 years old) owned a Facebook account, 66% a MySpace account, and 7% a LinkedIn account. In July 2010, Facebook reached over 500 million active users (Facebook, 2010). In Belgium alone, more than 4.6 million active users (of the 7 million who surf the Internet) have a profile on Facebook (Socialbakers, 2012).

In this contribution, the focus is upon Facebook. Taking into account Facebook's current popularity amongst college students, much research has been established to explore the possibility of using Facebook as an educational tool. Such interest is, of course, not new. Ever since the introduction of television into schools and the increasing popularity of computers and video games, scholars have been paying attention to education that is in some way technologically facilitated (Cuban, 1986). So is the case with regard to SNSs: a lot of research concerning the SNSeducation relationship has been conducted over the last years (e.g. Anderson, 2007; Anderson & Dron, 2011; Bugeja, 2006; Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010; Mason & Rennie, 2008; Mazman & Usluel, 2010; Roblyer, McDaniel, Webb, Herman, & Witty, 2010; Sandars & Schroter, 2007; Selwyn, 2009) and resulted in some systematic reviews (e.g. Manca & Ranieri, 2013). Moreover, some of them argue that SNSs entail a lot of educational possibilities (e.g. Greenhow, 2011; Halverson, 2011; Lee & McLoughlin, 2008; Selwyn, 2007). For instance, Lee and McLoughlin (2008) claim that SNSs are pedagogical tools, because one can use them for content creation, collaborative information discovery and sharing, and knowledge and information aggregation and modification. Despite high expectancies with respect to the potential of Facebook, current research on the relationship between Facebook use and academic achievement shows no--or even a negative--relationship (e.g., Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010; Pasek, More, & Hargittai, 2009). Yet, what seems for the most part to be ignored in the research literature regarding SNSs, in our view, is the willingness of students to accept Facebook as an educational tool, a tool that is used in an instructional context to foster their learning processes (Roblyer et al., 2010). Therefore, we delve into students' own, self-reported perspectives regarding the use of Facebook in education, as further insight into students' opinions, to add value within this currently popular research domain. In case students do not appreciate the use of Facebook as a tool for educational purposes, it can be expected that the added value of Facebook will be rather limited (cf. Perkins & Turpen, 2009).

After this short introduction on the popularity of Facebook, this article briefly presents role theory and reference group theory, as we will use them as an interpretive framework. …

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