In this information age people are interacting with a variety of new technologies that people in different positions try to use them to facilitate their jobs and come up with good results. Educators are also tending to use those technology tools for more effective teaching and learning by engaging and motivating learners in the learning process. One of those technological tools is social networking websites. Among social networking websites facebook is the most popular one which has sucked a huge amount of youth to use it for communication and virtual social interaction. As a consequence, many teachers are attempting to make a use of facebook to improve the learning out comes and make the learning more interesting to the learners regarding to the youth engagement in the facebook usage and the massive amount of time which they spend in this virtual environment. On the other hand, it is crucial for the educators to know which type of learning style can benefit more from using this kind of technology or whether there is a big difference in willingness of different learning styles for spending time in facebook or not.
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Facebook is the most used social network by worldwide active users which was founded by Mark Zuckerberg in February 2004 as Harvard-only social network site. This social network website was able to attract a huge amount of users specially youth in a short period of time. Right now it has more than 500 million active users around the world. Actually, Facebook is defined as "a social utility that helps people share information and communicate more efficiently with their friends, family, and coworkers" (facebook.com). Although at first facebook was launched as Harvard social network but developed to involve and engage other high school students, professionals inside corporate networks, and eventually everyone who have access to the online world (Cassidy, 2006).
Facebook allows users to create a personal profile while allowing for information sharing, communication, photo albums, creating a friends list, forming or applying to social interest groups, and different kinds of online games. In summary, Facebook members can share their photos, send messages, chat, tag themselves or others on photos, write on friends' walls, join groups, create new groups, share ideas in group discussions ,add kinds of applications, and play games in Facebook. Facebook has been accessed by millions of users in a short time while becoming a part of users' daily lives (Ellison, Steinfield, & Lampe, 2007; Selwyn, 2007a).
Some functions and capabilities of facebook such as enabling peer feedback, goodness of fit with social context, and interaction tools make facebook an educational tool (Mason, 2006).
The notion of learning styles is all about the ways which a learner prefers to use when he/she is learning and remembering new knowledge (Funda Dag & Aynur Geçer, 2009). Furthermore, Simsek (2001) stated that learning style is a group of factors which determines how the students psychologically perceive, interact and response to learning environments. According to Felder (1996), every learner prefers to learn differently. Some learners can learn in an interactive relationship with their friends and teachers and experiencing things by themselves, the others learn with a visual presence of materials and information, and some learners prefer to make use of written materials and they agree that verbal explanations are more helpful to them. Thus knowing about the learning styles of the learners is important either for educators or learners. It could be useful for teachers because they will get a clear idea about how to teach individuals with different learning preferences and also it would be effective for learners to know how they learn better and easier. Indeed, there are some popular models to categorize learning styles such as; David kolb's model, Honey and mumford's model, Anthony Gregorc's model, Sudbury model of democratic education, and Fleming's VAK/VARK model of learning styles. For the aim of this study Fleming's VAK/VARK survey was used to explore different learning styles of research participants and see how different learning styles spend time in facebook. VARK survey tool was created in 1998 to explore individuals' different learning styles. Alkhasawneh, Mrayyan, Docherty, Alashram, Yousef, (2007), described;
"â€¦VARK is based upon cognitive development work by Bruner (1967) and piaget (1990) who argued that humans assimilate environmental knowledge through four sensory modalities: visual, aural, reading and writing, and kinesthetic (using tactile sensory abilities such as a smell and touch). VARK is an acronym for Visual, Aural, Read/Write, and Kinesthetic (Fleming, 2004). VARK is an instrument that is quick and easy for students to use and understand. It creates an awareness of learning styles and provides motivation to seek improvements in their learning preference."
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Data is collected by administering an online and manual survey. The survey is consists of two sections, the first section leads participants to an online VARK questionnaire (http://vark-learn.com/english/page.asp?p=quetionnaire). Students are required to report their scores in an online VARK learning styles questionnaire in the manual questionnaire. The second part of the manual questionnaire consists of two parts. In the first part, participants were required to answer five demographic questions include of their name, age, email address, gender, facebook ID. Furthermore, the place where they have usually access to the Internet, length of time spent online in facebook, and their membership in any academic group were collected. The second part, 5-point Likert scale with 6 questions, was measured participants' time spent for different activities in facebook. These six questions were developed by researcher based on different functions exist in facebook and different activities that a facebook user is able to do.
Data was collected from 36 form four Malaysian Chinese students (14 Male and22 female) from SMJK Kwang Hua School in state of Selangor, Kelang. The whole of participants are at the age of 16 years old. Two students of these 36 are not facebook users. The questionnaires were distributed among students and they were expected to fill up them at home regarding to their access to the Internet at home to fill up learning styles questionnaire.
Date analysis and results
Table1: Frequency of each learning style among participants
According to students' reports on their learning styles scores, among 36 form 4 students, there are fourteen kinesthetic (39%), six read/write (17%), eight aural (22%), and eight visual (22%). The results validated this statement from Suffolk County Council (2002), "It has been estimated that up to 37% of the population are kinesthetic learners ...."
Different learning styles and time spent in facebook
Data was collected shows that there are some differences among different learning styles on time spent in facebook and different activity preferences. The bellowing table shows
average of time consuming in fb
Table 2: Average of time spent for each activity in facebook by different learning styles learners
Indeed, this table shows visual and kinesthetic learners spend the highest time (8.1&8.2hour/week) among other learners in facebook whereas, aural learners spend the lowest time in facebook (5.5hour/week) among other learners. Another result which is interesting is that read/write learners spend about 72 percent of their time online in facebook.
Chart 1: Different activities in facebook;
Q1: E-P: Educational Purposes Q2: CHA: Chatting Online With Friends
Q3: OBS: Reading or Observing What Others Do Q4: ACT: Doing Activities in Facebook
Q5: W-V: Watching Videos Q6: SHA: Sharing News and Information about School
According to the above table and chart visual, aural, and kinesthetic learners spend the highest time in facebook "lurking" or reading others' posts while read/write learners spend an equal time in facebook lurking and also to do activities such as writing a status or uploading a picture. In fact, students with different kinds of leaning styles spend the highest time in facebook to observe and read whatever their friends do or lurking. On the other hand, students with any learning styles spend the lowest time in facebook for educational purposes. In fact, visual learners spend the highest time (1.25 hour/week) for educational purposes among other learning styles where as kinesthetic learners spend the lowest time (0.61 hour/week) for educational purposes. Kinesthetic learners spend the highest time (3.38 hours/week) to chat with their friends while read/write learners spend the lowest time (1.6 hours/week) to chat with their friends among other learning styles. Kinesthetic learners spend the highest time (4 hours/week) to observe and read others' activities while read/write learning style learners spend the lowest time (2.4 hours/week). Kinesthetic learners spend highest time to do activities in facebook (3.38 hours/week) while read/write learning style learners spend the lowest time (2.4 hours/week). Kinesthetic learners spend the highest time to watch video in facebook (2.93 hours/week), while visual and read/write learners spend the lowest time (2 hours/week). Read/write learners style spend highest time (2 hours/week) to share news and information about school and courses while visual learners spend the lowest time (1 hour/week). Students with read/write learning preference spend 72% of their time online in facebook which it shows although they are not online as much as others but they spend most of their time in facebook.
Findings and Discussion
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This study aimed to figure out the amount of time spent in facebook for students with different learning styles and also to find out activity preferences of facebook users with different learning styles. Regarding to the results there are some differences in time spent in facebook for different learning styles. For instance, the results show that visual and kinesthetic learners claimed more time spent in facebook so it can be concluded that this environment is more interesting and engaging to these types of learners but it doesn't mean that this environment is not suitable for the other types of learners with different learning styles like aural or read/write learners. So any type of learning styles can benefit from this environment and teachers can make a smart use of this social network web site to engage students in learning process and also to enrich their learning. Furthermore, results show that each type of learning styles is interested in lurking or reading and observing whatever others do. In this regard, teachers should take into consider this kind of students' interest in their teaching strategies and pedagogies. Actually, this is the teacher role to design, structure, and plan in a way to make the facebook an educational environment. It can be done when a teacher uses facebook in a way it is and in a way that it engages students to stay in it for a long time. Teachers should look at the nature of facebook and ask themselves what has made the facebook popular like this. What is the facebook power that keeps people interested about it? To answer these questions some researches should be done. According to some studies that have been done, social presence and interaction among people could be a reason for this attractiveness. People enjoy of social interactivities and expressing their opinions in social environment. They like to speak out to express themselves and they have curiosity to know about others. Many teachers tend to use facebook for educational aims because they know most of students are interested in using facebook but they face some challenges in the way of using it because they want to use it in a similar way that they use any other online tools like wikis, moodle, or educational web sites whereas, facebook has a different nature. Teachers can think about facebook in a different way. In a way to reinforce face to face classroom learning. They should ask students to come to the facebook and share their perceptions, believes, ideas, opinions, and definitions about different concepts and subjects to get more familiar with each other's perceptions, get more ideas about different educational matters and open up their minds about different matters. For instance, a mathematics teacher begins teaching fractions in classroom and then asks students to participate in their course facebook group and answer the teacher's question. The question could be why do we have to learn fraction? Why it is important to learn about fraction and it can be used in our life? To answer these questions students have to think, search, and explore and then come up with different answers and discuss with their classmates about their findings. Right now, the teacher can make sure that they are more interested in learning fraction because they know how important is the learning of this topic and furthermore they will be more curiose to see is their opinions and ideas about fraction comes true or not. Actually this study has some limitations. Firstly, because the data was collected from just 36 Chinese race students, it could not be generalized. In addition, it has been limited to a survey method. The results could be more accurate if there were some qualitative methods of data collection.
Social networks, especially facebook are used by a huge amount of students anywhere in the world. As a result, most of teachers are interested in using this social environment to engage students in learning process. It is crucial for teachers to know whether facebook is suitable for all students with any type of learning preferences or not. This study showed that visual and kinesthetic learners spend more time in facebook but it doesn't mean that the other types of learning styles don't use facebook. Indeed, it depends more on teachers to choose the best strategy to fit the needs of any type of learning preferences. Teachers should answer this question; "How to engage my students in an academic facebook group?" or "what makes the facebook so popular among youth and how to make a use of this characteristic to engage students in learning activities?" This study has been done on a small group of participants (36, 16 year old students). Further studies should be done on more amounts of samples. Furthermore, some studies should be conducted to find out in which way educational use of facebook can be more interesting for learners.