Investigating the Affordances of Facebook for Collaborative Learning

Project Number
OER 07/08 WQY

Project Duration
April 2009 - February 2012

Status
Completed

Abstract
In the new information age, work becomes more knowledge-based, interdisciplinary and complicated. It is hardly possible for an individual to complete a sophisticated task without the help of others. The ability to work collaboratively becomes crucial in the workplace (Barron, 2000). To prepare our school students to become proficient team workers in the future, they must start to develop competency in collaboration as well. Facebook is a free and new web-based social environment. Its primary purpose is to provide a virtual space for users to make new friends and interact with them. Nowadays, many young people have Facebook accounts and use Facebook to communicate with their friends. In NIE, more than half of the PGDE student teachers I taught this semester have their own Facebook accounts and have experience using this web-based tool. Given this conducive background, it would be useful to capitalize on its existing usage and extend its potential to teaching and learning. Also, Facebook has great potential for teaching and learning. At present, there are very few known empirical studies conducted on the use of Facebook in education. This makes it more imperative to conduct research into the affordances of Facebook for teaching and learning especially in the area of collaborative learning. This proposed research project aims at exploring the affordances of Facebook for teaching and learning. As Facebook is built to provide a social networking environment, our focus will be on using Facebook to promote collaborative learning. This will be done by identifying and examining the affordances of Facebook from three perspectives: pedagogical, social and technological. In terms of pedagogical affordances, we intend to investigate if a learning environment created using Facebook can help students to achieve predetermined learning objectives. Specifically, we will study if it can integrate learning resources and activities that support students' group learning; and if it can allow teachers to track the learning process and facilitate learning. Regarding social affordances, we want to study how Facebook-mediated collaborative processes can remain as a safe and comfortable environment in which students are willing to communicate and collaborate with group members, peers, and the teacher without undue worries and concerns; if the Facebook-mediated learning environment can provide group members with multiple ways (synchronous and asynchronous) of communication. Also, it concerns the cyberwellness of using Facebook in a learning environment. With respect to technological affordances, we aim to explore if the learning environment is easy to access and use; if the interface is attractive and customizable; and if there is any technical problems or difficulties that students may encounter when they are using the tool. This project will be conducted in NIE with student teachers as the participants. It also seeks to extend its scope of collaboration to include international participants. Tentatively and subject to availability, the plan is to invite a group of graduate students from South China Normal University in Guangzhou to collaborate with NIE local participants in one semester. We will investigate the cultural impact and effects when two distinctive groups of students working collaboratively in a Facebook-mediated environment. Hopefully through the research, the pedagogical, social, and technological affordances of Facebook will be identified and recommendations for effective use of Facebook for collaborative learning will be suggested.

Research Themes
Learning Science & Pedagogy

Funding Source
NIE

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