Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Adopting Social Networking Sites (SNSs) as Interactive Communities among English Foreign Language (EFL) Learners in Writing: Opportunities and Challenges

Academic journal article English Language Teaching

Adopting Social Networking Sites (SNSs) as Interactive Communities among English Foreign Language (EFL) Learners in Writing: Opportunities and Challenges

Article excerpt


As most traditional classroom environments in English as Foreign Language (EFL) still restrict learners' collaboration and interaction in college writing classes, today, the majority of EFL learners are accessing Social Networking Sites (SNSs) as online communities of practice (CoPs) for adopting informal collaborative learning as a way of practicing English beyond the classroom. This study aimed to investigate the opportunities and challenges of SNSs as learning environment in writing in English. The study was conducted among 24 active and regular EFL learners joining the Only for English Learning Facebook (FB) CoP - a group developed and maintained by a few instructors in English - for EFL learners coming from different EFL Arab countries. The data was collected from the learners' interactional exchanges in the weekly posted writing activities as well as their responses to online open questions posted by the instructor. Based on the mixed analysis of the data, the quantity of the EFL learners' participation in the writing activities highly increased in the second session. Moreover, the learners were motivated to generate ideas, write their paragraphs and scaffold each other in paragraph writing. The findings also revealed that the EFL participants perceived this CoP as an interactive learning environment that contributed to enhancing their writing by engaging in learner-learner and learner-instructor interaction, information sharing, communicating and socializing with friends and developing a sense of belonging. However, a few challenges faced by the participants in such an online CoP were identified by the participants, and therefore, some valuable assistive features are suggested to be involved in the FB CoP for achieving further EFL development in the future.

Keywords: Social Networking Sites (SNSs), Communities of Practice (CoPs), facebook group, EFL writing

1. Introduction

1.1 Introduce the Problem

Research on second language (L2) acquisition or language learning based on the Interactionist framework that is originated from the sociocultural framework (Vygotsky 1978) emphasized the importance of collaborative learning and learner-learner meaningful interaction. From the perspective of this Interactionist framework, Chapelle (2003, p.56) explains that "interaction between people is expected to promote negotiation of meaning, and if it does so, this should be beneficial for language acquisition". Yet, the majority of English as a foreign language (EFL) classrooms tend to lack the necessary characteristics of interactive learning environment where learners can be engaged in active participation and dynamic interaction to use and practice English for various authentic purposes (Murad & Norizan, 2012). This learning environmentrestricts EFL teaching and learning to delivering and receiving information with no or less opportunities for their students to interact and collaborate actively in classroom activities (Cloete et al., 2009).

However, today, due to the rapid advances of Social Network Sites (SNSs) as collaborative technologies, the opportunities for EFL learners to access such online interactive environments are increasing. As a fashionable way of learning and practicing English, EFL learners can collaborate and interact via SNSs outside the traditional classroom. This recent increasing application of SNSs as online Communities of Practice (CoPs) has not only been exclusive to personal, social and cultural identities and relationships, but it has also been ushered in education for the last few decades. As stated by Beer and Burrows (2007); Cloete, de Villiers, and Roodt (2009); Boyd and Ellison (2011); Lim (2012), SNSs have offered the opportunity for such self-direction with their ability to re-structure hierarchies, inform and reconfigure communication, and transform relationships with knowledge and people. Having their unique features and capabilities of re-organizing the way knowledge is acquired and used among people, Lave and Wenger (1991) pointed out that "these technologies are dramatically transforming the basic patterns of communication and knowledge interchange in society" and are re-defining "what it means to know, understand, and become a 'literate' or an 'educated citizen'" (p. …

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