Dr. Rey Junco Encourages Social Media In Classroom
Published: Thursday, October 27, 2011
Updated: Thursday, October 27, 2011 10:10
The next time a professor reprimands you for tweeting in class, respond that tweeting could actually boost your GPA. On Oct. 24, 2011 Providence College hosted Dr. Rey Junco, associate professor and the director of Disability Services at Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, to speak about the use of social media and student engagement. Junco discussed his study on the use of social networks, in particular Facebook and Twitter, and their effect on student engagement and a student's grade point average to a crowd of about 50 in '64 Hall.
The lecture and discussion was part of the college's series on student engagement and was sponsored by a grant from the Davis Educational Foundation. The discussion included a panel of students Meg Van Name '12, Alexandra Sexton '12, and Margaret Wakelee '13G, and professors Dr. Maia Bailey of the Department of Biology, Dr. Robert Barry of the Department of Theology, and Dr. Deborah Levine of the Department of Health Policy and Management.
Junco had previously done research on how the use of emerging technology, in particular social media Web sites, has impacted student engagement in the classroom. Junco defined an engaged student as one that does more than just attend class; an engaged student is one who participates in class, interacts with other students, and is involved in campus activities outside the classroom.
The research conducted by Junco came to the conclusion that certain activities on Facebook had a positive association with student engagement, and other activities had a negative effect. Activities such as looking at photos, commenting on posts, and attending events indicated that a student was more engaged, and activities like posting photos, chatting, "lurking," and playing games were a stronger indication that the student was less engaged.
Junco noted that it was important to realize that simply checking Facebook did not have a strong indication of student engagement; "a student could check Facebook five times for two minutes each time" as opposed to a student who may check their page once, but stay on the site for several hours.
After finding that certain Facebook usage was linked to an increase in student engagement, Junco then decided to replicate the experiment with freshmen pre-medical students at Lock Haven University. The freshmen were organized into seminars, and all took identical courses. Junco had four of the seminar groups use Twitter, and the other three seminar groups use Ning, a customizable social network similar to Facebook.
The students used the social networks to follow an account based about their class. Junco says that students used Twitter to ask questions about the class, discuss common reading among different seminars, receive emotional support during stressful times, and form study groups outside of class. Junco said that he was particularly excited that students formed study groups on their own via the use of social media.
After the study was completed, Junco said that engagement had increased among the Twitter user group by 5.58 percent, compared to only 2.29 percent in the Ning group. Additionally, the average GPA of the Twitter users was half of a point higher than the Ning users, 2.79 to 2.29. Junco said that he was extremely surprised by the GPA boost of the Twitter users—he thought it would not have that big of an effect on grades.
"If you leave students to their own devices, they will use social media in beneficial and detrimental ways," noted Junco, but he added that if an educator is able to "co-opt" social networking, it can be extremely effective in the classroom.
Junco suggested that for social networking to be most effective that it be "required, integrated into the classroom, engaging with the students and (be used to) encourage collaborative learning."
The student panel was extremely diverse in its use of social networking. Sexton said she used a variety of social networks, including Twitter, Tumblr, and Facebook. She is on the executive boards of three clubs on campus, and she said using social media is effective in communicating with members, especially with event planning.
On the other end of the spectrum, panelist Wakelee does not use Facebook, and only had one for a year while her brother was deployed in Afghanistan. Wakelee admitted she was "skeptical" about social media's use in the classroom, but said that she "wasn't opposed" to its use. She noted that she was the youngest person in many of her classes, and questioned how effective a technology would be in classes like hers.
Van Name admitted to being a Facebook user and said she had blogged a few times for classes, but was otherwise not a big user of social media. She said that she thought that Facebook was "not primarily an academic thing."
All the professors on the panel had Facebook accounts, with Barry saying he got Facebook when the technology was in its infancy. Levine commented that she's currently writing a book, and that Twitter and Facebook are useful for keeping on top of things. She also said that friending people on Facebook seemed to "flatten" the relationship between a student and a professor. Bailey said that she uses Facebook to keep tabs on former students and has also used the network to maintain a youth group at her church. She said it "only leads to good" if students and professors talk.
Social networking is an emerging technology that has great potential to affect student lives. Keep tweeting—it may help your grade.