Facebook and Learning

TN News

Email Print

Social media tools such as Facebook are used in advertising, marketing and commerce. But could it also help you with your studies? I think it may.

"Social media" is a bit of a misnomer as it seems to conflate being social with using media. We can certainly be social without platforms like Facebook. However, many of us, including students everywhere, use Facebook frequently to find out what other people are doing, saying and liking. We are afraid of missing out on this information or not knowing what many other people know. This is called "FOMO" Fear of Missing Out.

Sherry Turkle, author of the book "Alone Together," gives a description of FOMO as including a nearly constant need to check Facebook posts, twitter feeds and text messages, and once checking them, feeling that what your friends are doing is better than what you are doing. Does any of this sound familiar?

If it does, it may also indicate why social media like Facebook distracts from your efforts at revising, reading or working on an assignment. Social media and FOMO create distractions for many students trying to study, read or write either in our outside of class. Facebook does not have to be an obstacle to learning, however. It could actually help you.

Learning takes time and space, two things Facebook can reduce when used as a distraction from your studies but can enhance when used to gather information or collaborate on an assignment. And no, I do not mean collaborating to cheat that simply is not learning.  A study from the journal Computers in Human Behavior indicates that using Facebook mostly for chatting or updating statuses was connected to a lower GPA, while using Facebook as an information gathering tool or "discovery engine" was connected to a higher GPA.

Students can benefit by ignoring Facebook when reading, writing and revising, and by using it to aid their learning in group projects and discussion. Group work, collaboration and communication could all be supported by using Facebook. I am aware this may not happen much and that is why I have written this article. For example, have you ever used Facebook in these ways to support your studies? I can hear many of you saying "no."

Learning Matters is a monthly column aiming to provide useful thoughts on learning and education in the hope of informing the broader discussion of educational development in Vietnam. The column is written by the Learning Skills Unit at RMIT International University Vietnam (www.lsuvietnam.com).

Readers' feedback and questions can be sent to learningmatters@thanhniennews.com.

Facebook can act as a distraction and take up the amount of mental energy and time we devote to it this is sometimes called "mindshare." Mindshare is limited and in his book "Enough," John Naish makes a convincing point that we can become buried in information because when we do not understand the information we are given, we want more of it. 

Similarly, when we learn, we have competition from many sources for this mindshare, and if we are time poor because of an onslaught of information from the likes of Facebook, then this competition intensifies. Students using Facebook then have to be discerning with their use of time in order not to get buried in the information they do have. Students can use Facebook as a distraction, or let what distracts them also make them more productive and effective in their learning by gathering information that could clarify concepts or problems, further their understanding, and help them to evaluate existing ideas and create new.

So, here is what students can do to achieve this:

"¢ Log out of Facebook when reading or writing at home this will help you resist the urge to update your status or chat.

"¢ Schedule in time for status updates and chatting on Facebook if you are good at self-discipline.

"¢ If you're not good with self-discipline, then go to a local coffee shop or place on campus where you do not have access to the Internet (this may mean turning off your 3G).

"¢ In an informal study group or formal group for an assignment, use Facebook to keep each other updated with useful information on the class topics, readings or assignments through the chat feature or messaging.

"¢ Set up a page specifically for an area of study, subject or assignment you are working on and use this page to communicate and gather useful information.

"¢ Use Facebook to help your studies form a page for your class/study group and use it to share, discuss and collaborate (as appropriate for the assessments and subject).

"¢ Check out a great post from the Techknowtools blog (techknowtools.wordpress.com) with more information on using Facebook groups and pages for learning.

Like us on Facebook and scroll down to share your comment

More Education/Youth News