The use of social media as a way of teaching English to L2 students has been reviewed by several studies. In a study conducted by Mahmud and Ching (2012), the question whether Facebook has any effect on the learning of English by L2 students was examined empirically. Participants in the study undertook a series of tests in order to determine whether there is any value in the use of Facebook in learning for English L2 learners. Results indicated that there was a significant rise in the writing and reading abilities of the L2 due to the use of Facebook. Mahmud and Ching (2012) attributed this to among other things the fact that Facebook contained information that the student found relevant and interesting, and were therefore engaged. Mahmud and Ching (2012) suggested that the impact of Facebook on L2 learners is not even necessarily limited to the direct impact the social media platform has on the mechanics of grammar noting instead that when Facebook is used to create some informal discussion group between the instructor the students become more engaged and therefore tend to have a positive attitude towards the instruction.
The use of Facebook to complement regular classroom curriculum has been found to have a positive impact on grammar by scholars such as Kabilan et al. (2010). For the purposes of this research proposal, grammar is used to refer to language rules and terms and their memorization as defined by Newkirk quoted in Suthiwartnarueput and Wasanasomsithi (2012). Going by that definition, the line of inquiry that Suthiwartnarueput and Wasanasomsithi (2012) follow seeks to determine whether Facebook can help improve grammar for L2 students. The study conducted was highly statistical with findings indicating that students did get a better grasp of grammar off the use of Facebook. Interesting, the study model allowed the students to use their first language-Thai-to discuss English grammar. Suthiwartnarueput and Wasanasomsithi (2012) point out that different languages share some aspects of grammar such as parts of speech, and that significantly helped the students understand English grammar. In a concept similar to what Mahmud and Ching (2012) called the ‘known entity’ when referring to use of what a student already knows as a basis for teaching new things, the use of Thai in the Facebook discussion on English allowed for better understanding of English grammar for the L2 students. The other finding reported from the study was that part of the reason whythe students improved in their mastery of English grammar and writing after using Facebook as a learning aid is because they had a positiveattitude towards the platform, with many of them mentioning that Facebook allowed them to study at their own pace and time in what Clarke and Clarke (2009) refers to as digital pedagogy.
The place for digital pedagogy as observed from the perspective of the student can be examined through several theoretical perspectives. One of the theories floated is the theory of incidental learning. Incidental learning as discussed by Kabilan, Ahmad and Abidin (2010) refers to the learning that occurs as a side effect of engaging in another activity. Incidental learning best happens when the student is around the internet (Clarke and Clarke, 2009). As the student engages in interaction over the internet, he or she is forced to learn how to construct sentences that communicate clearly, develop good writing skills and learn how to decode messages from the internet. These activities inadvertently result in the student mastering communication. Kabilan et al. (2010) notes that the holistic way of learning that was proposed by Plato is in practice in today’s digital learning environment. They also found that students who use Facebook improve their confidence and develop a positive attitude towards communication. Students who participated in the study also acknowledged the value of Facebook to their learning process with 71.6% stating that Facebook could indeed be used to practice writing skills (Kabilan et al., 2010). What students might not have realize is that when they werecommunicating online they wereincidentally learning writing(Clarke and Clarke, 2009). Considering that a majority of university students use Facebook more than any other social media platform then it follows that Facebook is a leader in the incidental digital pedagogy space (Kabilan etal., 2010).
There being several studies that have demonstrated the value of using Facebook posts to supplement the efforts of the curriculum in the teaching of English to L2 learners, Lin, Kang, Liu and Lin (2015) found the need to investigate the effectiveness of the models used in the process. The two ways through which Facebook is used is by use of teacher initiated posts and student initiated posts. Teacher initiated posts inspired responses from the teacher as well as fellow students while student initiated posts did not attract teacher responses (Al-Ghazo, A., & Smadi, 2013). The implication of this is that the teacher initiated posts resulted in a high teacher student interaction which Al-Ghazo and Smadi (2013) note is a desirable outcome since the teaching of English in Jordan relies on the teacher to a large extent. Further, Al-Ghazo and Smadi (2013) note that the Jordanian curriculum approaches the teaching of English as a foreign language as the teaching of a culture.Beetham and Sharpe (2013) says that language is the expression of a people’s culture, and it therefore makes sense that the Jordanian authorities would want to make the learning of English an exercise in teaching British culture. Teaching a culture presents a unique set of problems of problems because some student’s might be averse to learning another culture (Beetham and Sharpe, 2013). Fortunately Dweik and Al-sayyed (2015) reports that English teachers and students have a positive attitude towards teaching and learning English, with the student rate of acceptance being reported at 67%. Dweik and Al-sayyed (2015) further note that some difficulty might be presented by the use of text books whose material student’s do not find relatable. Freahat and Al-Faoury, (2015) says ‘many university students in Jordan complain about the difficulty of the reading component in EFL courses’ showing that there is a problem with the approach towards teaching English as it is done today.
For Jordan, therefore, there is a need to change the way that English is taught. The problem is not with the innate attitudes of the students and the teachers but rather with the channels of delivery. Considering that 4.1 million Jordanian’s use Facebook and a large number uses YouTube coupled with the overwhelming evidence that L2 English learners are benefiting from Facebook and the internet’s social platforms then it is only logical that these tools be incorporated into the teaching system (Fyfe, 2011).
Results and Discussion
Given the pattern shown in the literature review, it can be expected that the students in Jordan would be receptive to the idea of using Facebook and YouTube to supplement the efforts of teachers in teaching English. Given that empirical studies show that the typical rate of acceptance to learning a new culture is at 67% then it can be expected that more than 40 students will want to try the different approach. It has been pointed out that the challenge in teaching English to L2 students is not in the content itself but rather in limitations which the content brings about. Some of the issues which the students raise in regard to the leaning of English include the lack of material that they can relate with in the text books beings used today. The internet typically has the latest information be it in technology, socialissues, politics or natural disaster. Conversations around these common subjects arecarriedout in English. With the conversations being current and highly relatable,and with the students taking part in the commenting and discourse around these issues on platforms such as Facebook, itfollows that they would learn some new things in language.
Conclusion and recommendation
From the deliberations precedingthis section, it canbe inferred that there is a need to change the way English is taught to L2 students. The areas that need addressing include the attitude of the student,motivation,student engagement and ease in accessing help. There are two main ways through which the social media platforms can help; by allowing the setting up of pages dedicated for interaction between students and teachers on matters English and by allowing the student to learn certain skills as a byproduct of communicating when socializing in English. If either of these are incorporated into the curriculum then it follows that English will be better learnt by L2 learners.