Investigating the impact of facebook-speak on the written academic work of learners in a Western Cape high school

Roelofse, Louis (2013-12)

Thesis (MPhil)--Stellenbosch University, 2013.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: This study examined the effect of language typically used on social network sites such as Facebook (referred to here as “Facebook-speak”) on the written academic work of a selected group of high school learners. The general aims of the study were to determine the prevalence of access to Facebook and thus of exposure to Facebook-speak amongst high school learners, and to establish whether any evidence of Facebook-speak features are identified in the written academic work of these learners. Eighty-eight learners from an English-Afrikaans dual medium school in a middle class region in the Western Cape participated in the study. The participants included 44 Afrikaans medium learners and 44 English medium learners of which 51 were in grade 8 and 37 were in grade 9. Questionnaires were completed by the learner participants to determine frequency and volume of Facebook use and self-reported recognition of features of Facebook-speak. Learners also completed a written exercise attached to the questionnaires for the purposes of discovering what counts as Facebook-speak features. The specific features the study anticipated were (deliberate) spelling errors, unconventional punctuation features, over-punctuation, the exclusion of functional words, the excessive use of abbreviations and acronyms and the incorporation of emoticons in written academic work. Additional features identified were the nonconventional use of tenses and sentence structure. The study hypothesised that high exposure to Facebook-speak and limited exposure to formal academic writing have an effect on the academic work of the learners. I considered a claim that the effects of Facebook-speak would be traceable in the schoolwork of the learners. The study therefore compared the actual academic marks the learner participants achieved in one semester for two of their subjects, namely their First Additional Language and History, and related these marks to questionnaire data. I assumed that in the language subject there would be more attention to aspects of grammar and writing, so that the effects of Facebook-speak were more likely to be seen in their History – and also reflected in their marks, i.e. I assumed weak writing skills would be more evident in History than in a language subject, and that weaker writing correlates with poorer marks. Five teacher participants from the same school also completed questionnaires regarding the visible features of Facebook-speak in the learners written work. They commented on new digital literacies and their impact on learners written academic work in an open-ended question put to them in the questionnaire. The results of the study indicate that learner-participants are ardent users of the social utility Facebook and that socio- economic and racial variables do not factor significantly into Facebook accessibility. The learners believe that Facebook does not have any negative impact on their History work. The data I worked with pointed to the contrary. The History marks were in fact lower than the First Additional marks across both grades and all the classes. This could be attributed (at least in part) to a lack of dedicated attention to grammaticality and writing style in the History classroom and an emphasis on factual correctness instead. Although they did not believe Facebook-interaction translated into weaker marks, almost half of the learners stated that Facebook does indeed have an impact on their written work. In considering the possible relation between Facebook-speak and academic performance, the study found that the Afrikaans L1 learners achieved lower marks in both their First Additional language (their L2) and History in comparison to the English L1 learners using the same measures. This possibly indicates not only high exposure to Facebook-speak, but also limited exposure to standardised forms of Afrikaans as it is used in other genres. The written exercise completed by the learners accounted for the majority of data that substantiated the hypothesis that Facebook-speak impacts the written academic work of learners at school. The Afrikaans medium learners scored weaker marks than the English medium participants. The overall non-formal language features were significantly more in the exercises written by Afrikaans medium learners. The abundance of non-formal language features represented in the learner participants’ written work can be related to any of a number of variables. Negative perceptions among teachers and learners regarding multimodalities and digital literacies do not allow the development of curricula or learning materials which integrate such new literacies in the learning process. The reality that learners’ world is one where digital communication and short messaging is likely to increase rather than disappear, obliges a search for effective ways of incorporating such real world uses of language into educational structures in a thorough and integrative way. Until tried and tested methods have been achieved, traditional literacies appear not to be developing, while the notion of new literacies is still on the backburner in South African schools.

AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Hierdie studie ondersoek die uitwerking van tipiese sosialenetwerk-taal soos die van Facebook (sogenaamde Facebook-speak) op die geskrewe akademiese werk van ‘n uitgesoekte groep hoërskoolleerders. Die Algemene oogmerk van die studie was om die heersende toegang tot Facebook en dus die blootstelling aan Facebook-speak van die leerders te bepaal en om vas te stel of daar getuienis van kenmerkende Facebook- speak in die geskrewe akadiemiese werk van hierdie leerders is. Agt-en-tagtig leerders van ‘n Engels-Afrikaans dubbelmediumskool in ‘n middelklas-omgewing in die Wes-Kaap het aan die studie deelgeneem. Die deelnemers het ingesluit 44 Afrikaansmedium-leerders en 44 Engelsmedium-leerders. Hiervan was 51 in graad 8 en 37 in graad 9. Die leerder-deelnemers het vraelyste voltooi om aan te toon wat die frekwensie en omvang van hul Facebook-gebruik was. Hulle eie herkenning van aspekte van Facebook- speak is ook getoets. ‘n Geskrewe oefening is by die vraelys aangeheg sodat die leerders self kon aandui wat hulle as kenmerke van Facebook- speak beskou. Die spesifieke kenmerke wat die studie voorsien het, was (doelbewuste) spelfoute, onkonvensionele punktuasie, oorpunktuasie, die uitsluiting van funksionele woorde, die oormatige gebruik van afkortings en akronieme en die insluiting van ikone vir emosies (sg “smileys”) in geskrewe akademiese werk. Bykomstige kenmerke wat geidentifiseer is, was die onkonvensionele gebruik van grammatikale tydsaanduidings en sinstruktuur. Die studie het veronderstel dat die hoë blootstelling aan Facebook- speak en die beperkte blootstelling aan formele akademiese skryfwerk ‘n uitwerking op die akademiese werk van leerders sou hê. ‘n Aanspraak dat die uitwerking van Facebook-spraak naspeurbaar in die skoolwerk van leerders sou wees, is ondersoek. Die studie het dus die werklike akademiese punte van die leerders in een semester in twee van hul vakke, naamlik Eerste Addisionele Taal, en Geskiedenis, in verband gebring met die vraelys-data. Die ondersoeker het veronderstel dat in die taalvak daar meer aandag aan aspekte van grammatika en skryfwerk gegee sou word, sodat die uitwerking van Facebook-speak in Geskiedenis meer waarskynlik merkbaar sou wees en dus ook uit hulle punte vir die onderskeie vakke sou blyk. Die veronderstelling was dat swak skryfvaardighede duideliker na vore sou kom in Geskiedenis as in ‘n taalvak, en dat swakker taalvaardighede met laer punte sou korreleer. Vyf onderwyser-deelnemers van dieselfde skool het ook ‘n vraelys voltooi oor die sigbare kenmerke van Facebook- speak in die leerders se geskrewe werk. In ‘n oopvraag-afdeling van die vraelys het hulle ook kommentaar gelewer oor digitale geletterdheid en die impak daarvan op leerders se geskrewe akademiese werk. Die studie laat blyk dat die leerder-deelnemers ywerige gebruikers van die Facebook-diens is en dat sosio-ekonomiese en rasse-veranderlikes geen beduidende rol speel in Facebook-toegang nie. Die leerders meen dat Facebook geen negatiewe uitwerking op hul Geskiedenis-werk het nie. Die data dui egter op die teendeel. Die Geskiedenispunte was inderdaad laer as die Eerste Addisionele Taal-punte vir beide graad-groepe en al die klasse. Dit kan dalk deels toegeskryf word aan ‘n gebrek aan doelgerigte aandag aan grammatikaliteit en skryfstyl in die Geskiedenis-klaskamers en ‘n groter klem op feitelike korrektheid. Ofskoon die leerders gemeen het hulle Facebook-interaksie lei nie tot swakker punte nie, het byna die helfte van hulle beweer dat Facebook inderdaad ‘n uitwerking op hulle geskrewe werk het. By die oorweging van die moontlike verhouding tussen Facebook-speak en akademiese prestasie, bevind die studie dat die Afrikaans L1-leerders laer punte gekry het in beide hul Eerste Addisionele Taal (hulle L2) en Geskiedenis vergeleke met die Engels L1-leerders. Dit dui moontlik op ‘n hoë blootstelling aan Facebook- speak onder die Afrikaanse leerders, maar ook beperkte blootstelling aan gestandaardiseerde vorme van Afrikaans soos dit voorkom in ander genres. Die geskrewe oefening het die meeste data opgelewer ter ondersteuning van die hipotese dat Facebook- speak ‘n uitwerking het op die geskrewe akademiese werk van skoolleerders. Die Afrikaansmedium-leerders het laer punte gekry as hulle Engelsmedium eweknieë. Die oorheersende nie-formele taalkenmerke was beduidend meer aanwesig in die oefeninge wat deur die Afrikaansmedium leerders geskryf is. Die oormaat nie-formele taalkenmerke wat in die leerder-deelnemers se geskrewe werk voorkom kan met verskeie veranderlikes in verband gestel word. Negatiewe persepsies onder onderwysers en leerders rakends multimodaliteit en digitale geletterdheid laat waarskynlik nie toe vir ontwikkeling van kurrikula of leermateriaal wat aansluit by nuwe geletterdheidsvorme in die leerproses nie. Die werklikheid dat die leerder in ‘n wêreld leef waar digitale kommunikasie en kortboodskap-flitse waarskynlik eerder gaan toeneem as gaan verdwyn, maak dit belangrik dat daar gesoek word na doeltreffende maniere waarop sulke gebruike van taal in die regte wêreld deeglik in die onderwysstrukture geintegreer sal word. Terwyl beproefde en bewese metodes nog buite bereik is en tradisionele geletterdheid skynbaar nie ontwikkel nie, lyk dit asof die idee van nuwe geletterdhede in Suid-Afrikaanse skole nog net toekomsmusiek is.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/85849
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