Academic journal article The English Teacher

Facebooking in Today's Net Generation: Prospects and Challenges

Academic journal article The English Teacher

Facebooking in Today's Net Generation: Prospects and Challenges

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Internet has been deemed as the most life changing invention ever created. Social networking sites have become such a popular trend among internet users that some claim that life would not be exciting without Facebook, Instagram, Twitter or MySpace. Schafer (2009) defined Facebook as a popular free social networking website that allows registered users to create profiles, upload photos and video clips, send messages and keep in touch with friends, family and colleagues. Created by Mark Zuckerberg together with Eduardo Saverin, Dustin Moskovitz, and Chris Hudges, who started offcreating a site for fun, Facebook's popularity skyrocketed within a short period of time.

In the Malaysian context, it is reported that there are currently around 2,365,780 Facebook users which account for 43.0% penetration in the Malaysian population. The Facebook users in Malaysia consist of 69.77% Internet users in Malaysia, the majority of which are young people between the age of 12 to 18 who have access to a computer and Internet and are mostly likely to have their own Facebook accounts (International Webmasters Association, 2012). Some of the features found in Facebook include News Feed, Wall, Timeline, Notifications, Like, Photos - just to name a few, have become a trademark which enable users to conveniently connect and network digitally. While it appears that a growing number of people in Malaysia use Facebook, there has been little research on to what extent and for what purposes students use Facebook in Malaysia.

Initial means of using Facebook in the education context is only to create a learning community online and out of the classroom. Facebook is only seen as a tool for communication, to connect teachers and students out of class, to connect the school staffand also to share information and notifications. Little has been done to explore the possibility of using Facebook to teach language skills as part of the learning experience in and out of the classroom and most students cannot fathom how Facebook can be incorporated into their learning experience other than as entertainment.

At the current moment, it is observed that teachers seem to be engaged only in traditional classroom activities such as workbooks, text books, copying exercises from the blackboard and some more advanced ones would attempt some minimal out-of-classroom activities like going to the library or the language lab to do some class presentations. Teachers are busy rushing to complete the syllabus and prepare students for examinations, and not much time is allocated to engage students in more interesting activities as they themselves are loaded with work and pressured to complete the syllabus. For educators, the question remains - can social networking sites such as Facebook be manipulated and used to enhance the classroom experience in learning languages?

Review of Literature

In the Malaysian context, there is a scarcity in research involving the use of social networking sites for educational purposes. However, in other countries for example, a study done in Turkey as well as one in India focused on Facebook and its use on language training (Akyildiz & Argan, 2011; Viswanathan, 2008). In the Malaysian context, a study found on teaching and learning English via Facebook was done by Ganapathy (2011) which focused on tertiary-level ESL teachers' use of Facebook. Questionnaires were distributed to teachers working in tertiary education institutions in the Klang Valley and Negeri Sembilan. The items in the questionnaire focused on determining if and how these teachers use Facebook for educational purposes, including language teaching. Semi structured interviews were also conducted to strengthen findings from the questionnaires. Results from the study showed that teachers use Facebook mostly for personal communication and only a few teachers use it as an educational tool. Interestingly, the findings also revealed that teachers do use Facebook to facilitate discussions about class work, assignments as well as a peer review tool. …

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