Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Social media use among high school students - is it a useful way to set up a learning blog?

Which social media platforms are most popular with students? Clearly most, if not all, of our students are using social media of one kind or another, and for a variety of reasons. I hope to utilise social media as a tool for engaging learners, and for setting up a learning blog, so it seemed logical to find out which platforms are most popular, then use that knowledge to proceed with my plans.

I carried out a survey of upper high school students (Grades 10-12) in the Maths-Science stream at my school. The survey instrument was administered using a Google Form. 

Out of a possible 70 students, 64 responded, and the results are shown below. These results show all social media platforms used by each student who responded.

The most popular social media platform among students was Line, with 94% of respondents reporting that they used it. Originally developed in Japan, Line is very popular here in southeast Asia. This was followed by Facebook (86%), then Instagram (64%). Twitter proved to be much less popular (27%), as did Google+ (20%). 

My original thinking before carrying out this survey was to use social media in order to encourage my students to discuss and reflect on what they have learned each week. Essentially it will be a kind of informal learning blog. I decided to use Facebook for this purpose, as it is clearly popular with students, and I feel it lends itself better to what I want to achieve than Line. I have set up a class Facebook page, which I have asked students to join. (I do not accept friend requests from my students, so the page is strictly limited to classroom-related activities). 

Each week I plan to ask one student, at random initially, to post a brief summary of what we learned in class that week. I will then encourage other students to discuss with each other what they feel they have learned, and hopefully help each other out with any areas of concern. I will also participate and use the students' posts as part of my formative assessment. 

However, the class Facebook page has been up for a couple of weeks now, and there hasn't been a huge amount of enthusiasm shown by students to engage with it. This may be because it is still early days. It may also be because they know I will be participating, and even though I have stressed that it is a safe (i.e. grade-free) space, they may still be reluctant to share openly in such a forum. 

There is another possible reason. As I mentioned earlier, I do not become Facebook friends with students - as much as anything, I want Facebook to be a place where I can interact with friends and family without a work aspect to it. My students have various ways they can contact me, for example via email or our LMS. Therefore it may simply be that my students also view Facebook as a leisure pursuit, and do not want it linked with school work to any great degree. 

I plan to continue with this trial for the rest of the semester - if it is still proving to be an unpopular way to conduct a learning blog I will try a different approach.