Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Enhancing Students' NOS Views and Science Knowledge Using Facebook-Based Scientific News

Academic journal article Educational Technology & Society

Enhancing Students' NOS Views and Science Knowledge Using Facebook-Based Scientific News

Article excerpt

Introduction

Studies have consistently found that students usually lack an adequate understanding of the nature of science (NOS) (Lederman, 1992; Ryan & Aikenhead, 1992). The nature of science is defined as the epistemology of science, characteristics of scientific knowledge, and the values and beliefs inherent to scientific knowledge and its development (Lederman, 1992). Many of these intrinsic ideas are not emphasized in traditional science classroom instruction, resulting in students learning skewed notions about how science is conducted (Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman, 2000). Exploring ways to help students acquire an adequate understanding of NOS is important for educators, since this is among the desired outcomes of science instruction (Lederman, 1992; Abd-El-Khalick & Lederman, 2000). The mass media tend to cover contemporary socio-scientific issues which address the public's attention and interests as they are related to daily life (Halkia & Mantzouridis, 2005). The values of media news stories in science instruction seem promising given that the use of scientific news stories in education prepares individuals to learn about science and to build essential knowledge of NOS (Christensen, 2011; McClune and Jarman, 2012). In sum, NOS and news stories about science are interrelated and have an effect on one another. One particular media form has gained prominence recently as a means of conveying relevant information throughout society: social networking. Popular social networking sites such as Facebook can facilitate collaborative science learning because they are user-friendly and support flexible communication (Baatarjav, Phithakkitnukoon, & Dantu, 2008), thus providing ideal spaces for users to engage intellectually and form networked learning communities. Although researchers generally agree that explicit instruction improved students' NOS learning, few have examined how different online communication formats influence students' understanding of NOS. Knowledge remains limited regarding how reading and discussing scientific news in online contexts affects students' NOS comprehension. This study compared how students' NOS views changed when they analyzed scientific news stories in synchronous and asynchronous online discussions. The findings of the current study reiterate the value of scientific news stories in informal science education and broaden our knowledge about how news media influences individuals' awareness of NOS.

Literature review

The rising influence of Facebook in instruction

Social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace, are currently among the most popular online communication methods. The number of Facebook users has grown exponentially from 1 million in 2004 to over 1 billion in 2012 (Smith, Segall, & Cowley, 2012), compelling some researchers to explore the potential educational benefits of using such sites. One advantage of using Facebook was that it offered learners "a dynamic and unintimidating environment" in which to communicate (Schroeder & Greenbowe, 2009, p. 5), and social networking has the potential to support diverse instructional strategies, dynamic learning materials, and learning communities (Arnold & Paulus, 2010). Scholars thus have new opportunities to explore how social networking sites can be used to influence instructional design and learning outcomes.

Synchronous and asynchronous online discussion

Online discussion has been shown to benefit student learning by fostering high-level cognitive skills such as reasoning, argumentation (Pilkington & Walker, 2003; Yeh & She, 2010), and subject comprehension (Comeaux & McKenna-Byington, 2003; Chen & She, 2012). Researchers continue to explore the educational advantages and disadvantages of different online communication approaches, particularly synchronous and asynchronous discussion.

Synchronous discussion involves online interaction in real time, establishing urgent and immediate feelings among students that foster a sense of community and that works well for content that stimulates debate (Schwier & Balbar, 2002). …

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