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

Students' Perceptions of Benefits and Drawbacks of Facebook-Connections with Teachers

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

Students' Perceptions of Benefits and Drawbacks of Facebook-Connections with Teachers

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Student-teacher relationships, which are vital to successful learning (Birch & Ladd, 1998; Davis, 2003; Hamre & Pianta, 2001; Sabol & Pianta, 2012), include major social components as well as academic ones. Naturally, student-teacher relationships go beyond school time, and it was shown that this relationship is more interpersonal for students who engage with their teachers beyond the classroom than for students who do not (Dobransky & Frymier, 2004). As social networking sites (SNS)--like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.--have been widely adopted among Internet users of all ages, they serve as a natural arena for social interactions for both students and teachers. Mostly, people's use of the communication and interaction enabled by SNS is driven by their social actions (Cheung, Chiu, & Lee, 2011; Nadkarni & Hofmann, 2011; Yang & Lin, 2014). Following that, student-teacher relationships are also being facilitated via those platforms.

Some intriguing questions have been raised regarding student-teacher connections on SNS and their effects on student-teacher relationships in "real-life" and vice versa. Even the very term used in many SNS to describe connected users; that is, "friends" may challenge traditional student-teacher hierarchy, as traditionally teachers are allowed some power over their students even when close relationships between the two parties are developed (Ang, 2005; Vie, 2008). Closeness and friendship may be different in SNS compared to the real world, as noted by Subrahmanyam, Reich, Waechter, and Espinoza (2008), which may affect communication and interaction.

SNS may affect mutual perceptions and beliefs (Mazer, Murphy, & Simonds, 2007, 2009), thereby changing student-teacher relationships, followed by an even greater change in traditional hierarchical structures in schools. For this reason, school authorities and policymakers have been pondering about their position regarding student-teacher SNS-based communication. Education policymakers worldwide have adopted different educational approaches, often prohibiting teacher-student communication via SNS altogether (Forkosh-Baruch & Hershkovitz, 2014). Public discussion on teacher-student communication via SNS reflects the complex nature of this issue, and demonstrates the difficulty in adapting innovation in large-scale systems and organizations. However, most policies are not based on empirical evidence, but rather on notions and public opinion. This study aims at utilising empirical evidence based on students' perceptions. We focus on the secondary school population, as many SNS (in particular Facebook) require their users to be at least 13 years old. In addition, secondary school students are less dependent on their teachers and are more mature than elementary school children. Overall, non-pedagogical aspects of SNS in grade-schools are still under-researched.

BACKGROUND

While school borders define the boundaries of education, including issues such as pedagogy, teacherstudent communication and participants' roles, current schooling is characterized by blurring of these boundaries, allowing more frequent and free out of class communication. This, in turn, allows paradigmatic change in teacher-student connections, which may have impact on schooling altogether (Wentzel, 2010). It has been argued that students who have good interactions with their teachers have close, warm relationships with them, and are often motivated and more interested in learning (Fredriksen & Rhodes, 2004; Mazer, 2012). However, examination of communication behaviors of teacher and the ways it may influence students' well-being, engagement and interest in school and what it has to offer, is meagre (Mazer, 2013).

Indeed, the importance of positive teacher-student connections and relationships is undisputed, being interdependent (Frymier & Houser, 2000). There is also agreement that out-of-class communication (OCC) is important for students, as students who engage in OCC with a teacher may view their relationship with this teacher differently than students who do not engage in OCC (Fusani, 1994). …

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