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Social Media in Language Learning Exploratory Essay Example

Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Social Media in Language Learning

We are living in the era of globalization where connectivity and communication has no boundaries now. Modern civilization treats social media as an inevitable part of life. An access to information is of the highest importance as it ensures connectivity and responsibility. Communication, which is a crucial aspect of our daily life, has been undergoing a process of constant changes. The rise of networking communication and social media helps people get connected with relatives and friends, and keeps them aware of events that happen around the globe. It also provides entertainment, and helps to find a job. Social media is a powerful tool affecting people’s lives in various ways.

The social media is playing a very vital role in escalating this socialization. It is affecting the ways students learn, interact, and communicate with their peers and teachers. Many schools, colleges, and universities around the globe are equipped with computers. It has encouraged teachers to introduce digital media into a teaching and learning process. With this increasing popularity and usability of social media in almost all fields of education, it has become specifically important to analyze its impact on language learning. Moreover, measuring its effectiveness level and exploring the downsides the teachers are facing by using social media in their language learning classes should be analysed as well. The Internet provides language learners with a variety of resources of audio and video materials, supplement lessons, and others. In addition, educators can find there helpful material for learners. An immense popularity of social networking has created new opportunities for learners. Nowadays, it has become possible to interact with peers fostering motivation and language acquisition. Further, we need to investigate which programs/apps are commonly under procedure by teachers and what their levels of effectiveness are. It will provide an excellent piece of research for teachers in future when they opt to use social media in their language learning.

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This study aims at exploring the impact of social media on students’ learning capabilities and the difficulties faced by teachers while using it as a teaching aid for language learning. The research purpose is to find out if using the social media would reduce the anxiety of ESL learners and increase their motivation. The essay should also investigate the extent of the social media daily use, the learners’ perception of social media use in the classroom, and difficulties of using it.

This research questions are as follows:

  • What are the learner’s attitudes toward using social media in an ESL classroom?
  • Does using social media promote the learners’ motivation and reduce their anxiety?
  • What are the downsides (difficulties) of using social media in language learning in terms of teaching?

Interview, survey and observation are the methods used to collect the research data. The survey participants were ESL students, while the interview members were two ESL teachers. In addition, a method of observation was used to analyze classes that used social media in their classrooms. Hence, the paper focuses on highlighting and discussing the advantages and disadvantages of using social media on ESL learners by analyzing the findings collected through an interview with an ESL learner.

Literature Review

Nowadays, there is an increased popularity of social media use for personal purposes. However, according to Chen and Bryer (2012), a low percentage of teachers and students use them for educational purposes. The scientists investigated the use of social media in the public administration discipline in the USA. It has been found that social media can be integrated in the process of language learning by teachers and educators. The research has shown that the use of social networking websites broadens connections, increases engagement of both students and teachers, and enriches discussions. The scientists have suggested strategies that could make a connection between a traditional and modern learning.

Since recent times, researchers have started conducting studies to investigate the influence of social network on students, the use of social networking websites, and their effectiveness in both learning and teaching processes. It has been found that online interaction with a teacher has a positive impact on the level of the learners’ motivation (O’Sullivan, Hunt, & Lippert, 2004).

The social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter have become extremely popular among students and closely associated with the student life, learning, and teaching processes. It has been found that any social website may become a helpful and valuable tool for both teachers and learners. First of all, the tool tends to promote an interaction between a student and teachers. Furthermore, it is widely used in online courses. According to Castaceda (2011), free online tools like blogs, YouTube, and Facebook may be used to enhance instructions of a foreign language course. They provide an easy access to the course curriculum replacing printed materials. The use of social media in the classrooms is often treated as a strategic approach to attach the learning process to the learners’ reality.

The use of social media in the process of learning is emphasized by Chartrand (2012). The scientist characterizes social networking websites like Facebook, Twitter, and Podcasts showing their role in a community building, an idea expression, and interaction. It is suggested that the most effective ways of improving the skills of language learning are instructional uses, social impact, the use of technology by learners and teachers, language learning pedagogy, and others. It is concluded that there are many ways that encourage the use of social networking websites and to enable language learners to share information and carry out activities via the Internet. The author mentions the barriers of using social networking like technical limitations and costs. However, it has been noted that they have been slowly fading providing better and wider opportunities for the social network use (p. 100).

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The increased popularity of social networking websites like Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, and others has caused numerous researches related to the application of social media in the learning process, particularly, language learning. It has been found that students find using social media websites enjoying as it helps them organize ideas and get various information. In addition, the use of social media promotes the interaction between students and teachers through comments, discussions, questions, and negotiations (Mazer, Murphy, & Simonds, 2007).

According to Kao and Craigie (2014), the use of English in social networking positively influences ESL students’ achievements and facilitates the language learning. In some countries students do not have an opportunity to communicate in English outside the classroom. Therefore, social networking has become a good way to improve language learning. Social media websites make it possible to connect to a large number of English speaking people around the globe. In addition, such websites help students overcome language barriers and the personal trait of shyness. In addition, they become feeling unrestrained by boundaries between students and teachers (Bosch, 2009). A relaxing and informal atmosphere of social networking positively influences the learners’ desire to express the thoughts and share ideas.

It has been found that students tend to show a higher level of a positive attitude towards the course when they are encouraged to use social media in the learning process. The study carried out by Mazer, Murphy, and Simonds (2007) has investigated the introduction of Facebook in an online language learning course. The scientists have aimed at revealing whether social media affects the students’ motivation.

Yunus, Salehi, and Chenzi (2012) have found that many teachers are too concentrated on the teacher-centered pedagogy that leads to the lack of interaction with language learners. They have analysed the advantages and disadvantages of implementing the tolls of social networking in the ESL writing classroom. It has been revealed that the services of social media can help in the ESL writing classroom as they broaden the learners’ knowledge, increase motivation, and enhance confidence. The scientists have found that some students find it difficult to concentrate on the learning material while using computers. However, another disadvantage of social media integration was the insufficient time paid on the interaction with learners from the teacher’s side.

The integration of social networking into language teaching has become a trend of modern education. Dieu (2004) has explored the network technology application in the process of language teaching. The scientist has emphasized that the network English teaching motivates the language learners’ interest, improves teaching and learning efficiency, creates a better communicative environment for language pupils, and improves a teaching mode in the language teaching process. However, the author has found some disadvantages of social media use including adapting difficulties, financial barriers, vexation of some teachers, and others (p. 17).

According to Kabilan, Ahmad, and Abidin (2010), social media enhances the skills like discussion, evaluation, information search, and others. Nowadays, some teachers and learners tend to make discussions and assessments through social network technologies. It has been found that Facebook positively influences the motivation of language learners. In addition, this social networking tool provides a connection between students outside a classroom and enhances them to discuss classroom events, assignments, and others. However, there is an idea that the use of social networking websites, for example Facebook, can waste time (Kabilan, Ahmad, & Abidin, 2010, p. 182). In addition, it may encourage negative attitudes and have a detrimental impact on the social growth of language learners.

Social media means that there is a variety of new ways to improve the process of language learning, language skills, and make friends. Thus, scientists have both a positive and negative attitude to using social media in the process of language learning. Social media in while learning any language is a community where students and teachers interact and discuss different issues having no face-to-face communication. It is a new way of language learning that has a positive influence on learning and teaching environments. The main social media activities include reading news, reviews, and posts, sending private messages, and watching videos. Such ones as well involve sharing context, searching learning materials, and getting connected to friends, relatives, and the whole world. The Internet increases the learners’ motivation to use English in every day communication and equips them with valuable experience.

Methodology

This research work is based on a mixed method approach using the primary and secondary data. The primary data are the results of the interviews conducted. The secondary data have been collected from different online sources, books, articles, and periodicals. Among the strengths of the secondary data analysis is an ability to use search engines because it captures the comprehensive information and uses already the existing data.

The interview was conducted with 10 ESL learners being a student of one university of Kentucky’s universities. The survey was done with 10 ESL students. Participants were asked to rank the statements on four-point scales ranging from strongly disagree to disagree, agree, strongly agree, which measure the degree to which the participants agree with those statements. Both data collection methods were implemented in a campus; and the participants remained anonymous. The method of observation was used in the classroom.

The survey is divided into three sections. The first section includes 28 questions related to the use of social media, the frequency of use, the effectiveness of social media in the life of students, an addiction to social networking, and others. The participants were to choose one of the suggested answers (strongly agree, agree, strongly disagree, and disagree). The aim of this section is to find out about the attitudes of students towards the use of social media as well as their perception. The second section includes 7 open-ended questions that aim at revealing information about the difference of social media in America and the students’ home country, specific programs of social media, suggestions to use social media in the classroom, and others. The final section of the survey includes questions that require some personal information like gender, age, nationality, favorite social network website, and others.

The interview has included a mixture of 10 close-ended and open-ended questions. The questions have covered the issue of positive and negative aspects of social media, its significance for ESL learners, effectiveness in improving communication skills, and other related topics.

Observation was used to cross-checking the information about the use of social media in language learning, to get a better understanding of the investigated context, and to gain new insights. The researcher has used a non-participant direct observation taking notes and not making any influence on participants. The research data were interpreted to acquire the relevant information. Numerical data are represented in tables to make an analysis easier. Data Analysis and Discussion

As the survey was anonymous, we expect to receive reliable and valid results. Hence, the survey results have showed that only 5 participants (50%) were fluent in English. It has been also found that 6 participants (60%) use Skype to practice their English with people who they do not know. However, they have the same goal to learn the language. Social media in English is used to interact with international friends only by 40% of survey participants (4 students). Meanwhile, 60% (6 students) use it to communicate with the family and friends in their native language. YouTube is considered to be a helpful tools as it enables language learners see how to sue the language in the real life (30% strongly agree and 70% agree with this idea). In addition, most survey participants claimed to have many inline friends who they practice their English with (30% strongly agreed and 40% agreed with it). However, 4 participants (30%) did not have online friends to communicate with.

The research results indicate that some students do not feel comfortable when they participate via social media (10%). However, 9 participants that constitute 90% strongly agree that they feel more comfortable to participate via social media than in the classroom. None of the learners surveyed tweets every day. And only 1 participant (10%) has claimed that he is distracted while using social media. 30% (3 participants) of participants strongly agree; and 50% (5 students) agree with an idea that they practice English by using Facebook to interact with their classmates. Using social media makes it easier for some learners to discuss their homework with a professor (20% strongly agree, 30% agree, 10% strongly disagree, and 40% disagree). 7 survey participants (70%) have claimed that using social media makes them like studying more because they like using social media. However, 3 participants (30%) have not agreed with this idea.

It has been found that language learners can learn a lot from social media as it provides a large variety of books, articles, and journals needed for the process of learning. Thus, 50% strongly have agreed with this idea, while 50% have disagreed. In addition, 50% of learners (5 students) claimed that that they do not believe everything that goes on social media unless it has a good source. The same number of participants has rejected this claim. Survey results show that social media is treated as a good tool that helps to find new friends from all over the world. This idea was supported by 70% of participants (7 learners), while 30% (3 learners) rejected this claim. Watching videos on YouTube makes students learn how to pronounce words more clearly and how to use the word in the right context (60% agreed, and 40% strongly agreed with it).

The use of social media in the process of language earning may improve writing and speaking skills. Moreover, it may improve grammar and vocabulary. However, only 40% of participants (4 learners) agree with this suggestion, and 60% (6 participants) do not support this idea. Contrary to this, all participants have claimed that social media improves their writing, reading, listening, and speaking. 60% participants (6 learners) strongly agreed, and 40% (4 learners) agreed that Facebook makes them talk to new people and learn about their culture. In addition, social media helps improve their everyday language (80% strongly agree, and 20% agree).

A social networking website like Twitter helps language learners to know how people use the informal language. Hence, all survey participants have agreed with this claim. But empirical studies show that this may negatively influence the learning process as students have difficulties expressing their thoughts, forming sentences, and using the professional language in an appropriate way. It has also been found that all survey participants use social media and feel more creative if an assignment requires using one of the social media (70% agree, and 30% strongly agree). As many students are not native speakers and tend to make mistakes, they feel shy to participate in the classroom (20% did not support this idea, while 80% agreed with it).

One of the negative sides of social media is addiction. Hence, 40% of participants (4 learners) have told that using social media too much makes them addicted. It has a negative influence on learning outcomes. 60% of participants (6 learners) did not support this thought. Another negative feature of social media mentioned by survey participants was that fact that it influenced them badly taking most of their time. 70% of participants have supported this idea, while 30% did not agree with the claim. In addition, using social media in a process of learning distracts learners in the classroom (40% agreed, and 60% disagreed).

Interview results have shown that there is no difference between the American social media from where the language learners come from. In addition, there is no specific program of the social media they use regularly. All survey participants agree that the social media helps to progress in learning English. A teacher usually uses YouTube and blogs to improve language skills in the classroom. All respondents have suggested using more social networking websites in the classroom.

The survey results have also shown that the average age of participants was 25. They were of different nationalities including Turkish, Spanish, and German. The most widely used social networking websites were YouTube (30% of learners), Twitter (20% of learners), Skype (30% of learners), and Facebook (20% of learners) (see the Figure 4.1.). 6 participants were male and 4 were female. In general, they spend from 1 to 5 hours on using social media programs on a daily basis. All of them attended multi-level ESL classes.

Social Networking Use in Language Learning

It has been found that the ESL learners feel both positive and negative sides of using social media. Social media has proved to be an effective means of staying connected with friends, family, peers, and colleagues. But it has also become a time consuming exercise. International students tend to use the social media like Twitter, Skype, and Facebook as it helps them stay connected with the family and friends being far from the USA. In addition, it helps learners stay updated about different events and social activities as well as allows them to get used to a new environment.

The interview results have shown that a feedback about the use of social media is rather positive (90% of participants) than negative (10% of learners). The interview participants have claimed that social media helps them as an ESL learner. Communication via social media websites improves listening and communication skills making the learning process easier. It proves to be a light and informal sort of the learning process, in which students get to learn English by reading posts and comments, listening to video and audio shares.

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Hence, social media provides ESL learners with an opportunity to get a better sense and an understanding of a sentence structure. They also get to know how people communicate with each other in an informal way. They are able to improve their communication skills and enrich their learning experience. In addition, there exists a number of features that not only prove to be entertaining, but also informative. Social media enables learners to chat, comment, post, and share their views.

The interview participants have claimed that there are no negative features of social networking use in language learning. However, it depends on the fact how people use social media. Sometimes, people start criticizing or making fun of others, which makes it a forum without any restrictions or regulations.

The mostly positive attitude towards social media shows that it seems to be a friendly medium of communication and sharing ideas. Second language learners should not hesitate whether to participate in social media activities as they give them a chance to learn from others through audio and written posts. Furthermore, learners get an opportunity to practice their language use. Hence, social media is a very effective tool and should be used to overcome language and social barriers.

The interview participants treat social media as an effective form of learning and awareness for ESL learners. In addition, it encourages them to participate in such kinds of virtual activities in order to boost their confidence and gain a command over the language. Thus, social media has proved to be an alternative and informal form of learning experience, which not only serves socializing purposes. It also allows ESL learners to improve their language skills and proficiency level. The negative aspect, mentioned by participants, is not significant compared to the positive aspects, which help ESL learners to successfully undertake their transition into another setting and get familiarized with it.

Conclusion

The development of social media and network technology has caused great changes in a field of education. It makes both teachers and students reconsider traditional methods of teaching and learning. Hence, social media has been applied into language learning and plays an important role in the teaching and learning processes. It has been found that social media is used to increase teaching efficiency, enrich the content of teaching, and promote motivation.

The use of social media in the process of language learning has many advantages. It encourages students to engage with each other, to express thoughts and ideas, create their own communication environment, and improve their communication skills. It has been proved by an interview, survey, and observation results. There are a number of ways to use social networking to encourage ESL learners carry out activities that will improve their language skills. The research results have shown that social media is a useful tool that helps language learners improve communicative and writing skills. The tool encourages pupils to take part in discussions and improves a process of learning providing a variety of learning material. In addition, social networking helps learners find new friends with whom they develop communicative skills and learn about new cultures and traditions. It also helps them develop reading and listening skills as students have an opportunity to read posts, comments, listen to the music and videos. Language learners actively participate in social networking as it helps to overcome language barriers.

However, an analysis of literature and research results has shown that social media offers its users communication without any boundaries. Hence, there are some negative points in the integration of social networking in the process of language learning. Social networking substantially reduces face-to-face communication. Even when two learners are sitting close to each other, they are too busy to interact in the real life as they are networking. Another negative feature is that social networking may be addictive. Addiction distracts the students’ attention and negatively influences learning outcomes. Spending too much time at computer makes students isolated. In such cases, students waste their time checking useless information and posts. Thoughts about the virtual world distract them from focusing on real problems that they may have at school or university. In addition, language learners tend to learn slang, abbreviations, and incomplete words which are not found in dictionaries. In most cases, social network users communicate using a message of a written context. It makes students face problems when they want to talk in the real life and use professional English. It becomes difficult for them to make up correct sentences and avoid mistakes. Hence, the conversation may break apart.

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