Monday, March 26, 2012

Media and Technology Critique

Who would have imagined that social networking websites would greatly boost the evolution of human social interaction in the 21st century? Among them, Facebook, enjoying a global user population of 600 million, stands out distinctively. Since it has become an inseparable part of many adolescents’ daily life, teachers should build the link between the technologies so often used by today’s youth to enhance their educational development. Although challenges may hinder its successful practice in education, this continuously developing modality of technology is what interests me most.

With Facebook, users from anywhere around the world can, not only chat with someone by a simple click, but also have quick access to their friends’ latest news. Once logged into Facebook, users can clearly see what their friends are doing, how they felt recently, what they like or dislike. In summary, this social media platform establishes the most encompassing tool for its users to speak out their voices with their real identities. Collaborated with the third party, Facebook also enables people to update their latest news via other channels, especially through the third party applications installed on smart phones. Besides its convenience for communication, it also plays the role of conveying multi-dimensional information, including movies, music, pictures, articles, and so on. Moreover, it creates a unique opportunity for people to organize activities and make them public. In general, the invention of Facebook has dramatically facilitated social interactions.

Although it contributes to building friendships and spreading information, it is not without its problems. Users, especially young people, spend considerable amounts of time on each of their visits to its website, either via mobile or non-mobile devices. They constantly visit their friends’ homepages, and add comments to people’s status and passages. Some of them even rely on Facebook or have developed some addiction to it. Additionally, adolescent users are easily exposed to age-inappropriate information, including violence, racism, and pornographic messages.

In this scenario, with social media becoming an intricate part of adolescents’ lives, how should teachers use this double-edged sword wisely in their instructions? Since Facebook is a perfect stage for students to share their ideas with each other, teachers can establish a homepage for the class in order to help forge positive relationships amongst students and teachers. In traditional classroom settings, many teachers find it challenging to get along with their students well. While on Facebook, teachers and students get to know each other better in a more casual way. As a result, students are more willing to consult their teachers, and teachers know students’ academic needs more clearly. As we all know, the harmonious and interactive atmosphere will serve as the base of the successful teaching in the future.

Besides boosting mutual understanding, Facebook is a useful tool for foreign language teachers like me to give students language trainings. As a Mandarin teacher, I think that a natural language environment can be created on Facebook. Since people use Facebook for communication, communicative goals in a language class can be partly achieved through Facebook. By setting up weekly discussions and establishing certain rules for assessing students’ comprehension and language proficiency, students are required to respond to their teachers’ status or articles in Chinese. Since students are technology savvy and accustomed to visiting the site, they are more willing to complete their assignments and practice typing Chinese characters in this way. Meanwhile, teachers can also moderate and control the access to the homepage, and maintain focus on the topics under discussion.

In addition, they can also post assignments, useful links, and samples of work on Facebook regularly. Music, videos, and pictures related to the target subject or the current lesson can motivate students’ interest. For my language class, I will post songs (Chinese lyrics), movies (Chinese transcripts, culture), pictures (word flashcards, culture) on Facebook in order to create a multi-sensory language-learning environment for students. Various language exposures through different media can stimulate students to acquire knowledge more quickly.  Moreover, teachers can organize certain academic or social and subject-related events on Facebook. For example, teachers can arrange a visit to the Museum of Chinese in America, and let them know the history of China and early Chinese immigrants’ life in the U.S. As a language teacher, I believe this gives students an access to various learning experiences and language producing.

Although Facebook does have a potentially negative side, such as overuse and distraction, these could be overcome through appropriate management and regulations. As for teenagers who tend to lack self-control and be more immature, teachers and school counselors can work together in aiding students to moderate their use of the Internet. Peer supervision may also be a good alternative in this case.

Generally, teachers and students can both benefit from the powerful functions that Facebook possesses on a daily basis if this social networking website is adopted wisely. Although Facebook appears as relatively new tool in the modern education, what teachers should bear in mind is that they always use such a tool to lead students on the way of becoming responsible and self-motivated learners ultimately.

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