Facebook as a Learning Tool: Appropriation of Social Network Sites from Mobile Phones in Developing Countries

Pages: 21 (7419 words) Published: August 23, 2013
First pre-publication version submitted to BJET. Download final version from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1467-8535.2012.01351.x/abstract

Facebook as a learning tool? A case study on the appropriation of social network sites from mobile phones in developing countries.

Christoph Pimmer, Sebastian Linxen, Urs Gröhbiel Christoph Pimmeris research associate and has interests in technology-enhanced learning and medical education. Email: christoph.pimmer@fhnw.ch. Sebastian Linxen is research associate. His work centres around the influence of culture on Human-Computer Interaction. Email: sebastian.linxen@fhnw.ch; Urs Gröhbiel is professor for elearning with interests in educational research in the context of human development. Email: urs.groehbiel@fhnw.ch; All based at learning.lab/Institute for Information Systems, School of Business, University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland Peter Merian-Strasse 86, 4002 Basel - Switzerland.

This exploratory research investigates how students and professionals use social network sites (SNSs) in the setting of developing and emerging countries. Data collection included focus groups consisting of medical students and faculty as well as the analysis of a Facebook site centred on medical and clinical topics. The findings show how users, both students and professionals, appropriate social network sites from their mobile phones as rich educational tools in informal learning contexts. First, unlike in previous studies, the analysis revealed explicit forms of educational content embedded in Facebook, such as quizzes and case presentations and associated deliberate (e-)learning practices which are typically found in (more) formal educational settings. Second, from a socio-cultural learning perspective, it is shown how the participation in such virtual professional communities across national boundaries permits the announcement and negotiation of occupational status and professional identities. Introduction and background Technologies for development and health in "resource-limited" environments Technological innovations have given hope that new ICT tools will result in the overall progress and well-being of developing countries, in particular with respect to health and education services. Great expectations are attached to the spread of mobile communication technologies. The number of mobile cellular subscriptions worldwide is currently 4.7 billion and increasing. Thisincludes people in remote and rural areas and "resource-limited" settings (The World Bank, 2011). To a much lesser extent there is also a discussion on affordances of social network sites (SNSs) in such contexts (Marcelo, Adejumo, & Luna, 2011). Discourses and projects on ICT(4)D (information technology for development) or mHealth (mobile technology for health) tend to be based on techno-centric and deterministic approaches where learning materials, either software or hardware, are distributed by central authorities or knowledge is "delivered" according to "push-strategies"; or, using the words of Traxler, information is pumped through the infrastructure, often in "educationally naïve" ways (in press). Similarly, the main direction of techno-centric and transmissional approaches appears to be from developed to "developing" countries, respectively from experts to novices. In spite of all efforts the situation is still problematic and ambitious visions have been only realised to a limited extent. For example, the goal of providing every person worldwide with access to an informed and educated healthcare provider by 2015 is unlikely to be realised. In particular, little progress has been made in meeting the information needs of frontline healthcare providers and ordinary citizens in low resource settings (Smith & Koehlmoos, 2011). Very often it is basic knowledge that is needed, related for example to the treatment of childhood pneumonia or diarrhoea, which cannot be...

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