Thursday, January 20, 2011

Blog Assignment #1: Case-Study of Social Software

Minocha, Shailey. "A Case Study-Based Investigation of Students' Experiences with Social Software Tools." New Review of Hypermedia & Multimedia 15.3 (2009): 245-65. Print.

Teaching at a 1:1 laptop school, I have used “social software” extensively in my classroom. As Shailey Minocha writes, “the key aspect of a Web 2.0 or social software tool is that it involves wider participation in the creation of information which is shared” (245). Blogs, wikis, nings, Google Docs, Twitter – all are social software. Researchers and teachers are intrigued by how these creation opportunities can stimulate higher student engagement and learning, particularly with writing.

I have done my own reflection after using Web 2.0 tools, from determining whether students reached curricular goals to asking them for their thoughts on the use of the software. However, I have not done formal research into the measurable efficacy of social software in the classroom; therefore I was extremely interested to read Minocha’s article. This article will be equally interesting for others using or studying Web 2.0 tools in classrooms. More importantly, it is also an excellent introduction to using these tools, so a novice teacher will gain much too.

Minocha and her colleagues carefully designed their research plan around empirical case studies. The article delineates their methods plus possible limitations; as a result, Minocha’s findings are credible and verifiable, thus highly instructive to readers. Teacher-scholars are Minocha’s particular audience because the study focused solely on schools.

Minocha and her colleagues had no preconceptions entering this study. This is clear when she presents her research goal: to study the “educational goals of using social software; benefits to the students; and the challenges they experience” (245). Minocha and her colleagues did find both benefits and challenges. They present these in narrative form along with a chart connecting possible solutions to each challenge (this chart is the main reason this article is so helpful for novice teachers because they can see possible pitfalls before they even begin).

Ultimately, this study found more positive results of using social software than negative. The negatives, such as ownership concerns and equal participation complaints, are ones the authors clearly feel, through their solutions chart, can be addressed. I would like to add that I have seen some of the negative concerns become a reality, such as students feeling like they are “being forced to comment” (257), and I agree with Minocha’s overall recommendations: “For a social software initiative, it is important that educators align the usage of the tool(s) to the learning outcomes of a course or programme. Next, it is important to explain to the students the rationale of the tool and how the tool will support their learning and skills development” (260-262). Careful planning is rewarded by benefits ranging from “engagement of students” to “inspirational learning” to a “sense of … ownership” (252-253). If my students are engaged and inspired by work they feel is truly theirs, I have helped to create true writers.

(Note to readers of my blog: I will be posting article and chapter reviews for the next few months as part of Dr. Kevin DePew's Pedagogy and Instructional Design class for the PhD program at Old Dominion University. I hope these give you some interesting reading to explore!)

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