Distance learning, e-learning, mobile learning, blended learning. There are a slew of educational learning trends that have been happening for years now. And now, we’re adding social learning to the mix. The something-learning trend is continuing to move forward, this time putting popular social media to use. Social learning employs things like gamification, peer feedback and review, ranking, and awards to engage students in the material and learning process.
The handy infographic below takes a look at the growing number of internet users worldwide, the proliferation of smartphone usage, and how leveraging these tools can benefit both students and teachers.
The term Social Learning was coined by Bandura, a behavioural Psychologist, in 1977. His Social Learning Theory states that children learn through observing the behaviour of adults and copying, or modelling their behaviour. We learn by observing the behaviour of others in our environment and seek acceptance in society by imitating others.
Peer review, which is when students check each others’ work, uses the Social Learning theory by giving students a chance to copy the behaviour of each other, in addition to a teacher. There is much evidence that peer review aids the retention of information and improves written work. Ho and Savignon (2007) found that students’ writing ability improved by using peer review and Moloudi (2009) found that not only do students improve, but they recognise the improvement in their studies that comes from peer review.
Another important element of peer review is repetition, a technique which is well-established in memory enhancement. Ebbinghaus’ Forgetting Curve shows that with each repetition, memory improves by around 20% (1895). A Social Learning Platform provides a space for learners to repeat what they learn in class later on with their peers, and makes it easy for teachers to improve students’ learning & attainment by adopting the use of peer review via social media-like technology. Educational research shows the very positive attitude that students have to peer review and the pedagogical models that emphasise what enhances the retention of key knowledge by students.
The world is coming online and cheap smartphones and tablets are facilitating this move. The proliferation of social media users shows that young people around the world are eager to connect with their peers and are highly proficient at doing so in personal contexts. These developments in web technology can be used for an education purpose, particularly peer review – supporting & encouraging each other and reflecting on the key learning points as they do so.
There is a generation whose starting point for information & engagement is not printed materials (a book, a newspaper) – but online social platforms: Google, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter. Students’ learning of English in schools and universities needs to capitalise on this new form of literacy. It is important for students to be able to keep practising outside of class in a medium which engages them and prepares them for the emerging mobile and social web technologies.
Have you used a social learning platform (or at least the premise of social learning) in your classroom? How did it go? Leave us a note in the comments to share!