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1.1 BACKGROUND OF THE STUDY
Early in the 21st century, we have seen a variety of changes regarding how people learn, access information and collaborate. These changes have been driven by a variety of factors, including cultural, political and demographic variables, to name a few. However, one could argue that, at least in the realm of education and learning, nothing has driven change as much as new technologies. Nearly a half century ago, Moore’s Law identified that computer processing power doubles about every 18 months, enabling changes that will positively influence all learning domains but challenge humanity’s ability to control technology (Bassoppo-Moyo, 2011). Additionally, as digital natives continue to populate our schools and our teaching ranks, schools will be under increasing pressure to include more 21st century methods and tools in the educational experience of students. One particular expression of modern life, technology and 21st century methods that is currently underutilized in schools is social media in general, and Twitter in particular
Social networks are considered as services that let the user create and share data with other users. Social networks replaced extensively message sending and phone calls, especially for students. Digital devices are being used especially from youngsters for the use of the social networks which help them communicate with each other almost instantly and with low cost. Moreover, educational use of Web 2.0 technology in general and social networks in particular could support effectively the process of learning and skills development (Altanopoulou, Tselios, Katsanos, Georgoutsou, & Panagiotaki, 2015, Altanopoulou, & Tselios, 2015). In specific, students have the ability for more personal research and organization of information. Those technologies offer tools that could enable students to learn in a personal way. Also, the users communicate with tools which fit at the education and improve collaboration. Finally, the technologies provide the ability to improve literacy in a way that students can express themselves and show their way of thinking. Digital tools provide new representation and expression possibilities with the use of different media like pictures, sound and video. Twitter is one of those Social media platformsand it belongs in the general category of microblogging, which allows users to share posts. An important characteristic of Twitter is the so-called “hashtag”. Hashtags are represented by the symbol of # and they are words or phrases without spaces. Users are able to follow a theme through hashtag where they could comment, share photos and videos etc. Twitter is a useful tool in real-time communication and the participation in it is influenced by peers (Costa, Bcham, Reinhardt & Sillaots, 2008). Twitter improves active learning and provides incentives to the students (Gao, Luo & Zhang, 2012). Students seem to gain confidence, reflection and collaborative learning and they improve their sociability (Chen & Chen, 2012; Smith & Tirumala, 2012). In a study conducted by Tiernan (2013) involving 75 first-year students at the Dublin City University three basic research questions were examined, for the educational use of Twitter. Firstly, they examined if students adopted Twitter and on which motives. Secondly, the influence of Twitter uses on student engagement with the course. Finally, the students’ preferences regarding the different possibilities to integrate Twitter in the learning process. Regarding the first question, students used twitter at a low rate due to technical difficulties and the absence of motivation. However, there was a high degree of use from shy and introvert students. The main reason was the feeling of comfort communication with a large number of users, without any fear or shame. As far as the second question is concerned, students reported that Twitter positively influences the interaction between the stakeholders of a course in four distinct ways. Firstly, they are able to submit questions for the course. Secondly, the brainstorming sessions between students. Finally, the third and the fourth way were about the comments and the conversations related to the courses from the students. For the third question, students mentioned three possible uses of Twitter in higher education. More specifically, 38% of the students want to use the tool not only in, but outside the classroom. 28% want to use Twitter as the official digital space of the course and 31% of students want to use it supplementary, as a complementary way to communicate with the educator. Junco, Heibergert and Loken (2010) investigated the Twitter use by students and its influence on their academic engagement and their final grades. 125 students participated in a carefully designed study. The results demonstrated that Twitter can influence positively, both students’ engagement as well as their final grades. Prestridge (2013) used Twitter to support freshmen and analyze types of interaction that arise, such as connectivity, academic culture and ingenuity. She identified a link between the student and the instructor. The most representative example of this link is the tweets by a student and the responds which occur by the instructor. Also, a novel academic culture emerged mainly by describing the content of the lectures by the students supported by publication of images, links and retweeting actions. The ingenuity, refers to the interaction of the student with the user interface of Twitter. The students while using this technology, experienced problems in applying academic protocols, in the limitation of 140 characters per tweet and while in the effort to handle multiple streams of tweets. Moreover, Junco, Elavsky and Heiberger (2013) studied the systematic introduction of Twitter in the learning process. Researchers from the survey have used questions from “National Survey of Student Engagement” (NSSE) questionnaire, which assesses the students’ perceptions about their involvement in the academic community. In this way, they examined student participation prior the Twitter use in the classroom. Alongside Twitter, some of the students comprised a control group which used the tool Ning. Junco, Elavsky and Heiberger (2013) used only 19 of NSSE questionnaire questions, which focus on the involvement of students in academic activities related to the curriculum and belong to the first of the five categories of NSSE. Questions comprising the NSSE questionnaire, collect information on five key issues, which are: (1) Participation in various academic activities, (2) Institutional requirements and nature of the courses (3) Perceptions of the University environment, (4) Assessment for educational and personal development from the beginning of the academic year (5) Demographics. The 19 questions used in the study are characterized by a significant degree of internal validity (Cronbach's alpha 0.80, Junco, Elavsky & Heiberger, 2013).
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE PROBLEM
With the increased influence of social media in the real world and increased usage of social media for personal learning and connections, social media has the potential to dynamically change the way learners learn and teachers teach. In education, social media can be used to supplement cognitive and meta-cognitive development (Blaschtke, 2014), to encourage and develop civic engagement (“Civic Engagement Through Digital Citizenship, 2012), challenge the status quo in educational practice and share new ideas among teachers (Cooke, 2012; Goodyear, Casey, & Kirk, 2014), build a learning community within a course (Feliz, Ricoy, & Feliz, 2013), and to promote interest among STEM fields (Judd & Graves, 2012), among other things using a limited number of characters (140 and recently 280). While the potential for application in education is far-reaching, at present due to the newness of the field, there are often more questions than answers. This is why the researcher decided to embark on assessing the influence of twitter on the reading ability of university undergraduates.
1.3 OBJECTIVE OF THE STUDY
1. The purpose of this study is to see if there is a relationship between students’ educational use of Twitter and academic performance of undergraduate students.
2. This study will determine if there is a relationship between the incorporation of Twitter and increased student engagement in the curriculum.
3. Lastly, this study will assess students’ perceptions regarding the usage of Twitter as an educational tool
1.4 RESEARCH HYPOTHESES
Ho: Twitter does not increase students’ engagement in the curriculum
Hi: Twitter increases students’ engagement in the curriculum
Ho: There is no relationship between students’ educational use of Twitter and academic performance of undergraduate students.
Hi: There is a relationship between students’ educational use of Twitter and academic performance of undergraduate students.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
While the findings of this study may be of interest to a variety of different populations, including people in communication, social change and various social sciences, this research will be of particular interest to educators in general, and educators of high school students in 4 particular. This study involved students who were high school juniors and seniors enrolled in an advanced, dual credit course offered cooperatively between a suburban school district’s two high schools and a community college in the region. Finally, this study will also be of interest to educational leaders, technology support specialists, and reformers, who are continually seeking ways in which to improve student engagement and performance. The results will be beneficial because they will allow educational stakeholders to compare the value of using social media to engage students with a course. Since more engaged students perform better in school (Hattie, 2009), adopting the best platform and methodology for increasing student engagement will invariably lead to increased student grades, graduation rates, better school evaluations and, most importantly, deeper student learning. Furthermore, if the tool being measured (Twitter) proves to be an effective tool, schools will be able to utilize that tool instead of other tools, and therefore save money since Twitter is free. Finally, the results will help to clarify how Web 2.0 tools in general and Twitter specifically present unique benefits and challenges in our educational system.
1.6 SCOPE AND LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
This study is primary concerned with the influence of twitter on the reading ability of university undergraduates. This study covers Bowen University, Iwo Osun State. The researcher encountered some constraints, which limited the scope of the study. These constraints include but are not limited to the following
a) AVAILABILITY OF RESEARCH MATERIAL: The research material available to the researcher is insufficient, thereby limiting the study
b) TIME: The time frame allocated to the study does not enhance wider coverage as the researcher has to combine other academic activities and examinations with the study.
1.7 DEFINITION OF TERMS
SOCIAL MEDIA: Widely used term for web-based platforms which allow users to interact, work together, exchange information and communicate (Holotescu & Grosseck, 2012).
TWITTER: A web-based social media platform which allows users to share and generate thoughts and information instantly (“About Twitter”, 2015).
TWEET: A thought, concept, or memory captured in a real time message on Twitter, often including a link, photo, video and/or text, limited to 140 characters (“About Twitter, 2015).
CHATS: A hashtag based and sorted conversation, usually among a group of people based around a common interest, which typically “meets” online on a specific day at a specific time each week. Users can follow and participate in the chats by following a specific chat’s hashtag, such as “#edchat” or “#ndedchat” (Herbert, 2012).
HASHTAG: Indicated with a number sign (#), hashtags are included in tweets usually at the end as a way to identify your information as being part of a specific topic (“About Twitter, 2015).
1.8 ORGANIZATION OF THE STUDY
This research work is organized in five chapters, for easy understanding, as follows
Chapter one is concerned with the introduction, which consist of the (overview, of the study), historical background, statement of problem, objectives of the study, research hypotheses, significance of the study, scope and limitation of the study, definition of terms and historical background of the study. Chapter two highlights the theoretical framework on which the study is based, thus the review of related literature. Chapter three deals on the research design and methodology adopted in the study. Chapter four concentrate on the data collection and analysis and presentation of finding. Chapter five gives summary, conclusion, and recommendations made of the study
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