Universitat Rovira i Virgili (SPAIN)
About this paper:
Appears in: INTED2016 Proceedings
Publication year: 2016
Pages: 4146-4152
ISBN: 978-84-608-5617-7
ISSN: 2340-1079
doi: 10.21125/inted.2016.2014
Conference name: 10th International Technology, Education and Development Conference
Dates: 7-9 March, 2016
Location: Valencia, Spain
In educational research, it is acknowledged that one the biggest problems in any level of education is the lack of academic literacy. At higher education, it is commonly accepted that students that join university lack the academic literacy skills that are necessary in order to succeed in the academic life. One of the most important skills of academic literacy is the writing skill. Writing is a very complex task. Due to its complexity, many university students find writing challenging. Usually, they are not prepared for the most frequently assigned writing tasks, as for example analyzing and synthesizing information from several sources; they fail producing texts free of grammatical errors; and, very often, they have problems to express their thinking clearly and accurately.

A big challenge, in education, is to find methods to effectively teach the writing skill. One of the main problems is the lack of opportunities that teachers find in order to explicitly teach this ability in their courses. In general, degrees not related to language topics do not include the writting subject in their programs. Taking into account these problems, in this paper, we propose to use social media as a tool for writing teaching. We defend that media such as social networks, blogs, forums, etc. can become arenas for promoting writing practices that may help students with different backgrounds to acquire writing skills.

Considering the specific linguistic features and constraints of social media, we think that by using them most of the important writing skills can be taught. Social media offer tools for working on writing strategies, such as planning, revising and editing. They allow developing the capacity of synthesis. Through the practice of social media writing, the logical order of the text may be drilled; lexical decision can be mastered; semantic relations can be learned. Moreover, pragmatic aspects of the text –such as the power of implicit sense, politeness, speech acts, etc.—can be illustrated. Finally, since social media offer a great variety of purposes and audiences, students can master the sociolinguistic perspective of writing, by learning the importance of the audience and the purpose for the choice of style and register.

The goal of the paper is threefold. Firstly, we will show what makes of social media a good tool for writing teaching. Secondly, we will determine the aspects of writing that can be explicitly taught by using social media. Thirdly, we will present specific tasks for implementing flexible writing practices that meet the needs of students and that may be effective for solving the most common problems.

As many researchers will acknowledge, students learn to write by writing. This means that in order to teach this ability it is not enough to provide theoretical lectures about how to write. We cannot limit ourselves to give grammatical instructions in order to improve the writing skills of students. Currently, with the explosive growth of social media, we use the written channel more than ever. Our students are constantly interacting by using written language. We cannot lose the opportunity of teaching one of the hardest skills of academic literacy by using an integral part of young people lives. Usually, teachers criticise the use of language in new media. Now, we have the chance to turn the foe into the friend: social media can be the basis of effective methods for teaching writing.