Learning with and from Facebook: Uncovering power asymmetries in educational interactions

Patient Rambe, Dick Ng'ambi

Abstract


Although social networking sites (SNS) are increasingly popular among students, their academic application is unfolding on trial basis and best practices for integration into mainstream teaching are yet to be fully realised. More importantly, is the need to understand how these sites shape academic relations and participation of heterogeneous students, particularly in resource-constrained African environments. The speculation about meaningful educational uses of SNS possibly rests on the complexity of grasping the multiple horizontal and vertical interactions that unfold via these sites. This study examines academic relations on Facebook with a view to generating a nuanced account of how power is reinforced or disrupted in interactions mediated by Facebook. The paper analyses the Facebook wall and forum postings of 165 first year Information Systems students and employs Anderson’s model of six types of interactions to explore student experiences of the enactments of social power in Facebook engagements. Issues relating to power that emerged from Facebook interactions concerned asymmetrical engagements based on gender, breaching of hierarchical boundaries, compulsive academic use of Facebook, perceptions of vertical surveillance, lecturer and student projection of themselves and impression management. The paper recommends that learning with and from Facebook demands identification of leverage points in various stages of Facebook interaction.

 


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DOI: https://doi.org/10.14742/ajet.116