Friday, 1 May 2009

Teaching and learning through social networks

Teaching and learning through social networks

In 2007, the British Council conducted market research into how the Internet has affected the preferred learning styles of young people wanting to learn English around the world. The results of this research suggest that if teachers are to remain relevant and effective, then they need to use 'learning technologies' to help students reach the world outside the classroom.

69% of learners around the world said that they learned most effectively when socialising informally. This result suggests that a lot of students learn best from their friends and family. Perhaps that isn’t so surprising. The things we learn from our loved ones are often more immediately relevant to our lives than what we learn from a teacher in a classroom.
Also, when we are relaxed (such as when we are at home or in a café), then we are more open to suggestions and new ideas.

Does that mean teachers should start taking their students to cafés more? No, of course not. However, a lot of teachers take their students outside of the classroom once a term to try and create a different experience, atmosphere and dynamic for their teaching and learning.
There are other implications from the result above. For example, teachers might find they are more successful if they:

organise group work in their classes
make the exercises they give their students fun, since students are motivated when they are having fun
give their students work to do outside of the formal setting of the classroom
take on the role of 'facilitator' rather than the role of 'giver-of-knowledge'.

The average young person in the world today owns £500 of technology. It feels like everyone has a mobile phone today. In China, more people have mobile phones than land-line phones. In some African countries, people own more than one phone each on average.
What these findings mean is that sometimes young people get more new information from the technology they use outside of school than they do from their teacher in the classroom. Sometimes, young people learn more from using the Internet at home or in a café than they do at school.
When young people are on the Internet, they feel 'connected' to people and the world’s knowledge. In the classroom, they can feel 'disconnected' and 'isolated'. They sometimes feel that school isn’t particularly relevant to their lives.

The implications, therefore, are that teachers might:

try to use 'learning technologies' in the classroom whenever they can, to make the learning experience relevant to their students
show students how to find and access information and opportunities through technology
focus on developing students’ networking skills (both online and face-to-face) so that the students become 'connected' to people who can give them information, help them learn and keep the learning experience relevant to the student’s life
take on the role of 'trainer' rather than 'engineer'.

Students with strong social networks perform well academically,
The research done by the British Council showed that students who felt they were getting enough opportunities in their lives to socialise informally were also successful in their learning. You might wonder how a student finds time both to study and socialise as much as they want. Well, it’s important to understand that successful students combine studying and socialising, and that combining the two things helps them to be successful at both.

The implications here are that teachers might:

find out what social networking sites students like to use
show students what free learning opportunities are available through social networking sites
show students how they can set up their own blog site for free using sites
take on the role of 'network administrator' rather than 'materials writer'.

source: British Council
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