U.I. Ogbonnaya, A. Mji

Tshwane University of Technology (SOUTH AFRICA)
Social media is the interaction among people in virtual communities and networks in which they create, share, or exchange information and ideas. They provide platforms for millions of people from different geographical locations to be connected. Some studies show that students can use social sites to research, get online tutorial classes on topics of interest and also collaborate with other students even in different communities (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012). Users of social networking sites generate content, share, co-create, co-edit and co-construct knowledge reflecting the collative intelligence of the users. The type of learning that these technologies facilitate challenges the traditional classroom paradigm (Gunawardena et al. 2009). Some studies, mainly from outside Africa, have reported students’ usage of social media (e.g. Kirschner & Karpinski, 2010; Junco, Heiberger & Loken, 2011).

Junco, Heiberger and Loken (2011) investigated the effect of Twitter on college student engagement and grades. They found that use of Twitter led to increased students’ engagement as well as higher semester grade point averages and they concluded that Twitter can be used as an educational tool to help engage students. Paul, Baker, and Cochran (2012) examined the influence of time spent on social media on students’ academic performance as measured by course grades and cumulative GPA and found a small but significant negative relationship between time spent on social media and student academic performance. In a similar study, Junco (2011) found that time spent on Facebook was strongly and significantly negatively related to GPA, and that using Facebook for collecting and sharing information was positively predictive of the outcome variables while using Facebook for socializing was negatively predictive of outcomes.

There is a paucity of similar empirical studies in Nigeria. Greenhow et al. (2009) argue that the advancement in mobile technology and social networking may represent a fundamental shift on the ways students learn. Hence, there is need to explore students’ use of the social media technologies and their viability as a learning media in Nigeria.

This study investigates pre-service teachers’ awareness and use of social media. Specifically, the study explored the students’ perception and use of social media in their academic pursuits. Social constructivist theory, (drawn on the work of Lev Vygotsky (1896-1934), was employed as the theoretical background for the study. Social constructivism is a theory of knowledge and learning which advances that knowledge is created by social relationships and interactions. A survey research design is employed as the mode of inquiry for this study. Data is still being collected from pre-service teachers from two colleges of education in Nigeria using a questionnaire. Findings so far reveal that the pre-service teachers are aware of social networking site as media of socialising and connecting with friends and making new friends. Majority of the participants do not see the usefulness of social media in teaching and learning. On the average the participants spend about 2 hours on social media a day.

The findings suggest that students are keen users of Social media. Hence, it is recommended that lecturers and tutors should consider incorporating social media platforms in their teaching.