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New Vistas in Higher Education: An Introduction to Using Social Technologies

Increasing Student Engagement and Retention Using Social Technologies

ISBN: 978-1-78190-238-7, eISBN: 978-1-78190-239-4

ISSN: 2044-9968

Publication date: 1 November 2012


This book centers on several key areas of social engagement and social learning in higher education today, including social networking platforms and e-portfolios. In addition to these Web 2.0 technologies, rapid improvements in related communication technologies (e.g., broadband services, wireless, mobile phones, and tablets) have also provided the necessary infrastructure components by which educators implement innovative teaching and learning practices on a larger scale, in a more reliable manner, and in a more targeted fashion. These technologies are also transforming our views of what it means to learn in an increasingly globalized, interconnected, and pluralistic world. The authors have presented several perspectives on how to use social networking tools to better engage learners in more meaningful and authentic learning activities. Social networking sites like Facebook are not a panacea for effective learning, but they do provide instructors and students with a convenient platform for enhancing the teaching and learning process. Instructors also play an important part in modeling proper online behavior through their presence on the platform and their interaction with their students. However, these tools are only one piece of the learning puzzle. The ultimate goal is to enable students to become lifelong learners and to instill in them a high value for learning that matures over their lifetime. As such, these tools can be used to better engage students more deeply in authentic and personally meaningful learning experiences.

Contextualizing grammar in second language (L2) classrooms implies making grammar constructs relevant to the learners’ world; affording learners the opportunities to better comprehend and apply these concepts in their own milieus. This instructional design (ID) has been devised to contextualize grammar and to explore learner engagement of pre-service English teachers through Computer-Aided Learning (CAL) and Task-based Learning (TBL) in a technology-driven learning environment. CAL encompasses technology-aided discussions, multi-media presentations, online tests and exercises, and social media deployment. TBL, on the other hand, contextualizes grammar using technology and social network in planning, executing, and presenting four assigned tasks: picture essay, brochure design, dialogue composition, and comic strips illustration. Facebook is the e-portfolio of the class, archiving all group and individual output. The CAL-TBL tandem is propelled by group initiatives and class collaboration evident in group discussions and planning, microteaching, task presentations, peer reviews, and self-evaluations. These initiatives engage learners; empowering students to collaboratively take active part and responsibility for their own learning. The three-hour-class meets every week in a computer laboratory. The post-semester feedback and online poll course design review as well as the University Course Evaluation comments have shown that the ID, from the learners’ perspective, is effective in contextualizing grammar and in engaging learners.



Wankel, L.A. and Blessinger, P. (2012), "New Vistas in Higher Education: An Introduction to Using Social Technologies", Wankel, L.A. and Blessinger, P. (Ed.) Increasing Student Engagement and Retention Using Social Technologies (Cutting-Edge Technologies in Higher Education, Vol. 6 Part B), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Bingley, pp. 3-16.



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