Research aim, statement of the problem, research question, scholarly context, and justification for the research
Statement of the problem
It is undeniable and irrefutable that the world is moving and undergoing evolution at a very fast speed in every context, including economic, political, social, and most importantly the technological context. With the focus on technological evolution and development, the modern world and society have seen the invention and inception of every form of technology that has not only changed the way human live but have also made life easier than before. One of the technologies that have played an integral role in changing society and the world in entirety is the Internet or Web. Arguably, the advent of the Web, as one of the technologies in the sociological perspective has resulted in the creation of informal learning environments (Boyd & Ellison, 2012). However, the advent of the Web or Internet has been accompanied or has placed greater demands on students in learning contexts as compared to traditional instructional modes where learning only took place when the learners and instructors were in a one-on-one context. One of the demands that have accompanied the embrace of the Web in learning environments is that learners or students must have the knowledge of handling or deal with the internet. The growth of social media, which is one of the Internet platforms, is unprecedented, and in fact, social network sites have become an integral part of learning environments (Miller, 2012). In recent years, social network sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp, and Twitter, have played a role in learning environments, especially for EFL learners (Lamy & Zourou, 2013). For this research paper, the focus is on the effectiveness of social networking sites on the English proficiency of higher education EFL students in Jordan.
This research aims at highlighting the significance and the effectiveness of social networking sites in learning environments, and in particular on the English proficiency of higher education EFL students in Jordan. Jordan being a non-English speaking country has several learners with the interest and passion in learning English as a foreign language, and this has been made easier by the advent of the Web, through which social network sites such as Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Whatsapp, have enhanced the learning of the same.
The research will investigate the following questions:
- To what extent do Higher Education EFL students in Jordan use English to communicate on Social Network Sites?
- How and in what contexts do Higher Education learners in Jordan use English on social networking sites?
- What are the students’ attitudes and beliefs to using English as a foreign language on Social network sites?
- What are the students’ and teachers’ opinions about using social network sites as teaching tools in EFL pedagogy?
Scholarly context and justification for the research
As already mentioned, with the speedy technological evolution of the world, which has seen the advent of the Internet or Web, the field of social networking sites, mainly Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, and Whatsapp, has grown and continues to grow dramatically with the minute every day (Rennie & Morrison, 2013). Social network sites have great potential and pedagogy for teaching and learning of languages such as English as well (Dron & Anderson, 2014). Therefore, there is a need for rigorous research into the effectiveness of social network sites as learning tools on the English proficiency of EFL learners especially in the context of Jordan.
The fact that social networking sites play an integral role in the learning environment in modern society has seen myriads of studies focus on the same. The literature review of this paper is in 6 main sections.
Learning Theories and Social networking sites
Learning is one of the most important processes in modern society as it enables individuals to acquire new knowledge and skills in various perspectives. In the article by Ertmer & Newby (2013), learning is viewed as a complicated and complex process, which has seen people come up with different theories as well as interpretations of how effectively it ought to be accomplished. The article defines the learning process as an enduring change in the behavior of an individual, which is as a result of practice or other forms of experience. The article highlights three key learning theories, which are behavioral, cognitive, and constructivist theories. First, the article mentions that the behaviorist theory of learning views learning as a process that influences change in either the frequency or form of observable performance in an individual. It goes ahead to mention that behaviorists have the perception that for learning to occur, there must be a demonstration of a proper response that follows the presentation of a particular environmental stimulus. According to the article, the behavioral learning theory concentrates more on the significance of the consequences of performances and is in agreement with the fact that responses, which are followed by reinforcements or rewards are likely to occur again in future. As such, the behavioral theory contends that reinforcements or rewards play an integral role in the learning process.
Another learning theory according to the article is the cognitive theory, which stresses more on the acquisition of internal mental structures and knowledge than the change in behavior or performance (Gray & MacBlain, 2012). This article proceeds to mention that the cognitive theory equates the learning process to discrete changes between states of knowledge as opposed to the behavioral theory that equates learning to changes in the probability of response. Moreover, according to this article, with the cognitive theory, the focus is on how learners conceptualize the learning process and handle or address issues related to the reception, organization, storage, and retrieval of information by the mind. The final learning theory according to the article is the constructivist theory, which tends to equate learning with the creation of meaning from experience. In essence, the constructivist theory of learning perceives the mind as a reference tool to the real world and has the belief that the mind has the responsibility of filtering input from the world and produces its unique reality in the long run. Most importantly, the article highlights how modern technology such as social networking sites has changed people’s approach to the learning process.
The article by Al-Jubayer (2013) focuses on social networking sites, giving an explanation of who uses them and how they are used in everyday life. The article states that technological forms of social networking on the Internet such as Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube and others are gradually becoming popular among young adults and teenagers. This article suggests that one of the most influential and mostly used social networking sites is Facebook, which was incepted in 2004 and had limited access solely to universities in the US, and is today open to the general public and has also become a learning tool in educational contexts. According to this article, Facebook alone had over 21 million registered members in 2007, and with the fast growth of technological advancements, there is no doubt almost the entire global population communicates or interacts through social network sites. The article goes ahead to highlight that the ultimate aim of social networking sites is to champion for the embrace of new ways or channels of communicating and sharing information.
The application of SNS in EFL setting
According to Nikbakht & Boshrabadi (2015), the speedy technological revolution that has been witnessed in the world in recent years has significantly changed the teaching methodologies applied in every learning context or environment, and the field of language teaching and learning has not been left behind. The advent of technological platforms such as the Internet has seen learners get deeply involved in the process of learning. The article states that foreign language learning in online platforms has been favored by most learners, and this has been influenced by the growth in the global computer networks. In fact, according to the article, Social networking sites including Twitter, Facebook, Whatsapp, YouTube, and others, play a significant role in the development of foreign language learning, and this occurs both in dynamic and interactive contexts. This article notes that EFL learning via Social networking sites occurs unconsciously, and this evident when individuals create and share profiles with friends who then comment on the same. For instance, when a comment is made in the English language, then every person commenting on a given perspective will have gained some knowledge or had a vague understanding of the English language in the long run. This article is in agreement with the fact that EFL learning and the learning of other foreign languages, as well as teaching methodology for the same, is gradually moving from a cognitive, behavioral, and constructivist orientation to a more social orientation. Social networking sites have become better platforms for EFL learning than traditional classrooms and also offer and opportunity for learners in EFL settings to improve their language proficiency (Barton & Lee, 2013). This article notes that as compared to traditional EFL settings, social networking sites align with the interests and tendencies of EFL learners, and this, in turn, increases their motivations in the EFL learning process.
The article by Chartrand (2012) also focuses on the application of Social networking sites in EFL settings. It argues that social networking sites have taken modern society by storm as they potentially maintain and develop online relationships. The article emphasizes that SNs not only give users the opportunity to view pictures of friends but also provides a platform for expression, community building, and interaction. The article also mentions that SNs emphasize the use of the target language as a resource to oversee the building of interpersonal relationships.
The application of Social Network sites in Jordan context
Jordan is one of the Arabic countries that have in recent years embraced Social networking sites in learning contexts, and as a result performance of learners in these contexts has improved significantly. In the article by Alarabiat & Al-Mohammad (2015), a social networking site is described or rather defined as an service that is based on the internet, which gives people the abilities of constructing a public or semi-public profile, identifying a list of other users with whom a connection or relationship is shared, as well as viewing and tracking individual connections of oneself as well as those made by other individuals of SNSs. The article argues that one of the most important and widely used Social networking sites globally is Facebook, which by 2014, had over 1.3 billion users worldwide, with 82% of these being located outside Canada and the US. From a Jordanian context, the article suggests that approximately 5 percent of Facebook users in the Arab world are from Jordan, making it the second among Arabic countries that are high considered high-penetration countries. The article proceeds to mention that majority of undergraduate students in Jordan, aged between 18 and 24, give preference to the use of Social networking sites such as Facebook, which is regularly used in the country. In fact, the interest that young learners have in Social networking sites has seen several universities in Jordan invest intensively in information and communication technologies with an eye on the improvement of the quality of the learning experience of students. Essentially, Social networking sites such as Facebook have provided popular and cost effective alternatives for the enhancement of the learning experience provided by most learning institutions in Jordan. However, Jordan places emphasis on the fact that favorable attitudes and perceptions are vital to the embrace of SNSs in learning contexts, including EFL learning contexts.
Openness, affordance, and collaboration of SNSs
Gibbs et al (2013) opine that social media tools particularly social networking sites are being used in organizations and learning institutions, and have provided platforms and sites of collaboration, community, and coordination. The coordination of SNS s has enabled the sharing of knowledge through assisting individuals with the location of relevant content and expertise. The article proceeds to mention that with the collaboration of Social networking sites, they have increased awareness and contact among individuals especially in learning contexts. Moreover, Social networking sites are characterized by an ideology of openness, which has seen social networking sites have positive impacts on knowledge sharing, which in turn, has played a crucial role in EFL learning contexts. The article defines affordance as a concept, which takes into account the material features of SNSs and the subjective perceptions and goals that the user of the sites has. The article highlights that the perspective of affordance explains why different social networking sites are used in similar ways in different contexts. This is an insinuation that the affordance of SNSs will see users in learning contexts give preference to Facebook while ignoring other platforms or sites such as YouTube. Majchrzak et al (2013) are also of the opinion that the affordance perspective of social networking sites has seen them embraced and play an integral role in learning contexts. The article states that the affordance perspective provides a platform from which social network sites and their roles in the process of online knowledge sharing can be examined. Essentially, with the affordance of social networking sites, they have been used extensively in every context, including EFL learning contexts to allow the online knowledge sharing process, and this is evident in the fact that individuals leverage on SNSs such as Facebook, Twitter, and other to post information whenever they want in both formal and informal ways, which in the long run help in the learning process (Issa et al, 2015).
Online informal learning of English within Social networking sites
Sockett (2014) defines informal learning as a type or means of learning that results from day-to-day activities that are not organized or structured objectively or in terms of time or learning support. In essence, this article states that social networking sites provide out-of-classroom platforms through which English can be learned or acquired as a foreign language. The article is in agreement with the fact that online informal learning occurs voluntarily as people carrying out activities in online platforms such as Social networking sites do not have the intention of learning English through the platforms although language development takes place in the process.
Incidental learning in Social Networking Sites
In the article by Jahnke (2013), incidental learning is defined as a learning process that usually takes place when an individual has unsolved issues outside of the teacher-provided formal instruction. The article proceeds to mention that informal learning indicates that learners are their pace-makers and make choices of the contexts and topic of learning. This article underscores the fact that the emergence of social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, has enhanced the informal learning process, and this because they have enabled the collection and storage of significant data in everyday life such as words, videos, numbers, texts, and other forms of information. Yaşar & Karadeniz (2012) also underscore the influence of Social networking sites on incidental or informal learning. In the article, incidental learning is defined as a learning experience that occurs when a person talks with a colleague, watches a TV show about a hobby, or searches specific information on internet platforms. The article opines that incidental learning requires enthusiasm and self-motivation, and thus, can be considered the most effective way of learning. This article agrees with the fact that the internet, through Social networking sites, has become a critical source or medium of incidental learning, and this is because it gives people an opportunity of sharing knowledge and interacting, perspectives that are not part of formal or traditional learning.
The methodology section of the research discusses three key methods that will be used to collect data and information on the effectiveness of social networking sites on the English proficiency of higher education of EFL learners in Jordan. The methods of data collection that will be used are as follows:
- Examination of social networking sites
- Questionnaires and interviews
According to Sockett (2014), whereas quantitative methodologies play a crucial role in research where there is the need for quick presentation of data in an article or paper, the research design of most online informal learning of English ought to involve qualitative or rather longitudinal data, and should have the ability to reflect rather than average out the great diversity exhibited by online informal learning of English practices as well as the impacts they have on communicative skills over time. For this research, the focus will be on the effectiveness of social networking on the English proficiency of higher education of EFL learners in Jordan, research that would involve qualitative data. Therefore, one of the approaches that will be effective in the research is ethnography. With ethnography, the researcher is tasked with observing and interacting with participants in a study in their real-life environment (O’reilly, 2012). For this research, to gain a deeper understanding of the problem at hand, the researcher will sample 100 EFL learners in Jordan, with whom he or she will interact for 3 months (Suryani, 2013). The researcher will then analyze and carefully study the Facebook profiles of the sampled 100 higher education EFL learners to determine how they use the English language to interact with their friends. This will enable the researcher to determine the effectiveness of social networking sites on the English proficiency of higher education EFL learners in Jordan.
Examination of social networking sites
Bearing in mind the fact that activities and operations in modern society revolve around social networking sites, for this research, the researcher will take time to examine the social networking sites that are widely used in Jordan. Of course, one of the social networking sites that will be examined by the researcher is Facebook. As mentioned earlier, a significant percentage of social networking site users prefer Facebook to other sites such as Twitter, Whatsapp, and YouTube. As such, the researcher’s focus will be on the role that the already mentioned social networking sites play in EFL learning contexts.
Questionnaires and Interviews
Other than the already mentioned data collection methods, in-depth interviews and questionnaires will also aid in the collection of data in this research. Questionnaires will be developed and used in every interview that will be conducted with the sample participants of the study. Interviews will be conducted in selected EFL learning institutions in Jordan. It is expected that the interviews will be procedural to enhance the validity of the findings of the research.
Alarabiat, A., & Al-Mohammad, S. (2015). The potential for Facebook application in undergraduate learning: a study of Jordanian students. IJIKM, 10.
Al-Jubayer, S. M. (2013). Use of social networking sites among teenagers: A study of Facebook use in Dhaka City. Journal of International Social Issues (March 2013), 2(1), 35-44.
Barton, D., & Lee, C. (2013). Language online: investigating digital texts and practices. Routledge.
Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2012). Social network sites. Online Communication and Collaboration: A Reader.
Chartrand, R. (2012). Social networking for language learners: Creating meaningful output with Web 2.0 tools. Knowledge Management & E-Learning: An International Journal (KM&EL), 4(1), 97-101.
Dron, J., & Anderson, T. (2014). Teaching crowds: Learning and social media. Athabasca University Press.
Ertmer, P. A., & Newby, T. J. (2013). Behaviorism, cognitivism, constructivism: Comparing critical features from an instructional design perspective. Performance Improvement Quarterly, 26(2), 43-71.
Gibbs, J. L., Rozaidi, N. A., & Eisenberg, J. (2013). Overcoming the “ideology of openness”: Probing the affordances of social media for organizational knowledge sharing. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 19(1), 102-120.
Gray, C., & MacBlain, S. (2012). Learning theories in childhood: Volume 1. London: SAGE.
Issa, T., Isaias, P., & Kommers, P. (2015). Social Networking and Education. Springer.
Jahnke, I. (2013). Informal Learning via Social Media: Preparing for Didactical Designs.
Lamy, M. N., & Zourou, K. (2013). Social networking for language education. Palgrave Macmillan.
Majchrzak, A., Faraj, S., Kane, G. C., & Azad, B. (2013). The contradictory influence of social media affordances on online communal knowledge sharing. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 19(1), 38-55.
Miller, D. (2012). Social networking sites. Digital anthropology, 156-161.
Nikbakht, E., & Boshrabadi, A. M. (2015). Analysing the Potential of Social Networking Sites on EFL Learners’ Vocabulary Mastery: A Situated-learning Approach. Theory and Practice in Language Studies, 5(8), 1635.
O’reilly, K. (2012). Ethnographic methods. Routledge.
Rennie, F., & Morrison, T. (2013). E-learning and social networking handbook: Resources for higher education. Routledge.
Sockett, G. (2014). The online informal learning of English. Palgrave Macmillan.
Suryani, A. (2013). Comparing Case Study and Ethnography as Qualitative Research Approaches. Jurnal Ilmu Komunikasi, 5(1).
Yaşar, Ö., & Karadeniz, Ş. (2012). The power of social media in informal learning. Education in a Technological World: Communicating Current and Emerging Research and Technological Efforts, Formatex, Badajoz.