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Title:Impact of social media as an instructional component on content knowledge, attitudes, and public engagement related to global climate change
Author(s):Greenberg, Sallie E.
Director of Research:Abd-El-Khalick, Fouad
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Abd-El-Khalick, Fouad
Doctoral Committee Member(s):DeStefano, Lizanne; Dressman, Mark A.; Haythornthwaite, Caroline A.
Department / Program:Curriculum and Instruction
Discipline:Secondary & Continuing Educ
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Social Media
Climate Change Attitudes
Facebook Instruction
Public Engagement
Active Learning
Abstract:Social media (SM) are considered important avenues to reach citizens and engage them in social change. Given the widespread use of SM and their potential to enhance communication, they could also have significant influence when used as an educational tool. Educators are exploring whether classroom SM use has instructional benefits, such as enhancing interactivity and engagement. It is critical to understand the potential of SM for creating meaningful learning environments and public engagement pathways. Much work remains to understand the use of SM in this context and how to use them effectively. This study draws on active learning theory to examine the impact of SM as an instructional component with community college students learning to make connections among science, social responsibility, and global understanding in an environmental biology course (the Course). Using global climate change as a theme, the Course included a Facebook instructional component. A pretest–posttest, nonrandomized comparison group design was used to measure the impact of Facebook as an integrated component of the Course. The treatment and comparison groups were determined to be comparable based on demographics, access and ownership of digital devices, and SM use despite non-random assignment. No statistically significant differences were found between groups on these factors. The intervention consisted of semester-long required use of Facebook for the treatment group. The impact of the SM intervention was measured in three areas: (a) content knowledge, (b) attitudes toward climate change, and (c) public engagement actions and intentions to act. At the conclusion of the Course, no discernable difference was measured in content knowledge gains between the two groups. However, students who used Facebook experienced statistically significant differences in attitude, becoming increasingly concerned about global climate change. The comparison group demonstrated statistically significant differences in attitudes shifting toward more disengaged. Students who used Facebook showed considerably greater tendency toward action and expressed more intention to act than those who did not. Treatment group participants self-reported in interviews that the learning environment was enhanced in four areas: (a) convenience and logistics, (b) community and communication, (c) engaging learning environment, and (d) alternative participation pathways. Comments classified under the theme convenience and logistics provided insight into how the instructor and participants used Facebook in the intervention, such as to post maps and discuss assignment details. Comments categorized under the theme community and communication were those that made explicit who used Facebook and the impact of the intervention on communication and classroom community in areas such as creating dialog, carrying the discussion beyond the classroom, and having access to the instructor. Responses categorized under the theme engaging learning environment provided specific details about how Facebook use affected participants’ engagement in the learning environment, such as their contribution to the course content and increased interaction with the course content. Comments within the alternative participation pathways theme showed ways in which Facebook use facilitated the other three themes, including removing barriers for shy students, providing additional time for issues that arose during class discussions, and through passive participation by reading the posts of classmates. This empirical study demonstrated that the use of Facebook in an educational setting had an impact on student attitudes and engagement actions. Additionally, Facebook use enhanced the learning environment in meaningful ways showing that SM, when used intentionally, benefits active learning environments and provides an opportunity to enhance a sense of public engagement among college students.
Issue Date:2013-05-24
Rights Information:Copyright 2013 Sallie E. Greenberg
Date Available in IDEALS:2013-05-24
Date Deposited:2013-05

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