Motivating English Learners via Social Media Websites

Abstract

This research paper delves primarily into the possible use of social media as means of teaching EFL students in Saudi Arabia. With the growing usage of social media platforms within the country, its usage has become ubiquitous among many students. As a result, this creates the potential opportunity for schools to capitalize on the popularity of social media in order to increase the interest and among of experience that EFL students have in the use of English outside of a classroom setting. This study was able to determine that while social media tools do hold significant potential as teaching tools, they lack the capacity to properly teach intonation and non-verbal cues, which are important elements in the English language.

Introduction

Introduction

The concept of “engagement” (i.e., the capacity of an educator to connect with students and have them actually desire to learn) when it comes to teaching EFL (English as a Foreign Language) students is problematic given the level of disengagement that often occurs when attempting to teach a subject that is unfamiliar to those that are being taught (McMullen, 2009). The attitude of multicultural students towards learning English has raised a lot of attention from researchers due to the increasing necessity of English as an international language for trade, communication, and cross-cultural collaboration (McMullen, 2009). As such, various researchers have taken a keen interest in determining what processes can be introduced in order to address the issue of disengagement of multicultural students learning English (Baleghizadeh & Shayeghi, 2014). In this examination, the primary focus would be on qualitative analysis done by previous scholars (i.e., document analysis). This study seeks to identify the best method of engaging students (i.e., creating interest) which would make them more receptive to learning English as a foreign language.

The concept of intercultural communication is an important starting point when it comes to researching the perspective and attitudes of EFL students when it comes to learning (Alavi & Janbaz, 2014). The reason behind this assumption lies in the fact that the inherent culture of a group that is being taught determines how each individual student encodes a particular message, the specific medium that they utilize in order to transmit such a message, and finally, the means by which such a message is interpreted (Alavi & Janbaz, 2014). Taking this into consideration and applying a broad categorization to present-day EFL students as a whole, one of the best all-encompassing cultural aspects for this particular type of student is the current predilection toward social media usage. While this is a mere generalization and not exactly indicative of the entirety of the population (i.e., not all EFL students utilize social media), the fact remains that enough students do use social media, which makes its use as a possible teaching method for English a viable one (Ferenz, 2005). The reason behind this choice is due to doubts about whether current practices, attitudes, and perspectives are in line with what is necessary to successfully teach a foreign student the English language (Baleghizadeh & Shayeghi, 2014). At present, social media usage has become a ubiquitous aspect of society to the extent that it has become the medium of choice when it comes to communication, at least in the case of informal messages meant to be sent between friends and family. It is based on this that a more in-depth examination will be undertaken involving social media and how it can be utilized for the benefit of teaching EFL students.

Background of the Study

One of the benefits of social media, as compared to other methods of teaching English, comes with its general ease of use and the prolific nature of social media among members of the general population (Ferenz, 2005). Simply put, social media has, in effect, integrated itself into the modern-day consciousness to the point that it is rare that someone within an urban area does not have a social media account in one form or another (Al-saadat, 1986). It has become the “go-to” method of communication, so to speak, for the younger generation, and, as such, this ubiquitous aspect means that many people are aware of the basic rules and methods of social media communication and can thus use such methods with little if any, training required. It is due to this that social media presents itself as a viable tool that can be utilized in order to help EFL students understand the basic rules when it comes to English sentence formation and gradually improve from there (Al-saadat, 1986). One of the reasons why such a strategy has a real chance of working is connected to the assumptions made in Tolman’s 1930s experiment involving rats in a maze (Shamir & Johnson, 2012). In the experiment, it was observed that latent learning (a type of learning behavior that does not have an immediate overt response but rather manifests itself later on during a similar activity) factored heavily into the responses of the rats to the maze. In one experimental setup, there was no “motivation” (such as food) set up. Instead, the rats were allowed to explore and learn the maze in order to reach the goal (Shamir & Johnson, 2012). In each succeeding experimental setup, more elements were introduced (i.e., white, black, and gray doors, etc.) with varying levels of difficulty attached to each one. It was discovered by Tolman that the rats in the experiment were able to develop a “cognitive map” of the maze based on their previous experiences and, as such, were able to factor this into their succeeding attempts at completing it, thus resulting in fewer errors and less time to complete it (Myskow & Gordon, 2010). From this particular perspective, it can be seen that learning is inherently different from the concept of “performance” in that the process of learning does not necessarily need to have an inherent motivator (i.e., food for rats, physical reward for humans) in order to be accomplished (Al-Hazmi & Norton, 2003). What actually occurs is that through active participation in events, an organism (human or otherwise) is able to learn about the surrounding environment, internalize such information, and implement it at a later date (Al-Hazmi & Norton, 2003). Such actions are not done with a motivating action in mind at the present but rather are internalized for the sake of doing better at the action in the future. This particular aspect of learning behavior can thus be adapted in the case of teaching EFL students (Abdelhalim, 2011). Due to the nature of social media and the various methods of communication associated with it, having students learn English through constant social media usage results in them getting better over time as they adapt to the method of communication that they are utilizing (Abdelhalim, 2011). They develop better levels of performance in terms of grammar usage, sentence formation, and appropriate contextualization through trial and error, as well as their inherent desire to get better at the method of communication that they are using (i.e., English). From this particular method of interpreting Tolman’s work, it can be stated that the motivating aspect of the latent learning process that also occurs in humans is the desire to get better at a particular set of actions (Al-muarik, 1983). This is applicable in the case of speaking, writing, and reading, wherein through constant exposure to various situations involving these practices, a person will eventually get better at doing it (Storch & Aldosari, 2013). It is based on this perspective that since social media usage has become a ubiquitous aspect of present-day personal activity, all that is needed in the case of EFL students is a primarily English oriented social media experience in order for them to get better at speaking English (Storch & Aldosari, 2013). This is not to say, though, that more complex learning activities that incorporate social media will not be utilized; rather, it is more accurate to assume that constant exposure would result in better EFL students rather than using social media as a learning tool yet in a sporadic fashion.

There are, of course, some issues to take into consideration when it comes to utilizing social media as a learning tool. For instance, the study by Mahboob & Elyas (2014) explained that Twitter is rife with the use of contractions and slang terminology that is due to the limited amount of characters that can be utilized to post news and information. Contractions, in this case, refer to the use of abbreviated textual words or sentences such as using the letter “U” as a replacement for the word “you” or utilizing abbreviated words in a contracted sentence such as the phrase “where are you now” being changed into “Wer r u nw” (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014). This, of course, presents itself as a considerable problem since you are teaching EFL students to use contractions and slang when they still have not gotten understood the various nuances and complexities that are inherent in learning the English language. However, it should be noted that the study of Ya-Ting & Gamble (2013) did explain that “less is more” when it comes to learning languages. Ya-Ting & Gamble (2013) refer to their findings wherein it was shown that it is important for students to learn how to make the best of what aspects of the language they have learned before moving on to more complex aspects (ex: subject-verb agreement, tenses, etc.). Under this particular context, the use of Twitter becomes a viable option as a teaching tool since it enables students to learn how to use the words and phrases they already know in a more creative way in order to get their message across. These two opposing viewpoints show the need to delve more into the topic in order to determine if social media can be used as an effective teaching tool when it comes to EFL students (Stone & Kidd, 2011).

Objective

Determine whether social media can be an effective tool when it comes to teaching English to EFL students within Saudi Arabia.

Research Question

Can social media be utilized as an effective teaching tool when it comes to EFL students in Saudi Arabia?

Study Limitations

The data collection process will focus on articles involving social media and learning that have been developed over the past ten years. The reason behind this selection is due to the fact that the development of social media as an indelible aspect of communication and collaboration has only achieved mainstream acceptance only within the past ten years or so. Its early iterations in the form of MySpace, Friendster, Multiply, etc., were developed nearly half a decade ago, with present-day social media giants such as Facebook and Twitter only becoming popular within the past five years. Since this study will focus on present-day popular social media applications as a learning tool, literature on the topic will be severely limited and will consist of literature that has been created from its onset till the present. Relevant books were also included in the review, and various websites should have several online articles which contain snippets of information that would be able to help steer the study towards developing the necessary assumptions or conclusions.

Significance of the Study

An English language coordinator is a person who has a passion for leadership, assistance, and positive communication to hold responsibility for the supervision and coordination of language instructors. Such an important role lays itself to be the steering wheel of important responsibilities in EFL institutes around the world. This research presents full descriptions of the support and administrative skills required from coordinators of EFL courses and focuses on the top and greatest areas of strengths to be considered and, at the same time, draws conclusions on the greatest areas of weaknesses to be fixed and enhanced in the coordinator’s performance. The findings of this paper will contribute to the development and enhancement of proper coordination systems in EFL programs in terms of multiple work skills needed from an EFL course coordinator and through the eyes of instructors being coordinated.

Methodology

Introduction

This section focuses on the methodological approach that will be utilized in this dissertation. Based on the needs of the study, it was determined that a qualitative approach would be the best since it is useful when it comes to explaining human behavior and the varying factors that influence such behaviors. This makes it an ideal research method to be utilized in this study since it would enable the researcher to examine the needs of EFL students when it comes to their learning needs versus the type of learning that can be provided via social media. The following are the qualitative research methods that will be utilized in this study:

Document Analysis

This dissertation will rely almost entirely on academic literature without other methods of external data collection. This is due to the inherent limitations associated with the topic of the study, wherein it would have been necessary to first test EFL students (200 at minimum) on their comprehension of English lessons without the use of social media tools and then progressively test them over the course of several weeks with the use of social media tools in order to enable them to properly adapt to its usage (Saeidi & Jabbarpour, 2011). The number of resources needed for such an endeavor is beyond the scope of this project and, as such, it was determined that document analysis which focused on academic literature detailing the use of social media as tools of education would be appropriate as a means of developing recommendations for future studies that would have access to sufficient resources to undertake a more expansive attempt at the subject matter (Saeidi & Jabbarpour, 2011).

Relying purely on academic literature in order to investigate EFL students and social media does have its advantages since it reduces the amount of time needed during the initial research and enables the researcher to justify the results presented by indicating that they had already been verified by professionals that have extensively examined the issue (Saeidi & Jabbarpour, 2011). It is based on this that this research project will primarily focus on document-based research as the method of examination for this study.

Self-study Research

In essence, self-study research is a methodological practice that is characterized by the way in which the role of the “self” is examined within the context of the research project (Rusanganwa, 2015). This is done in correlation with an examination of the “space” between the researcher and the practice is engaged. Basically, it is a means of written self-reflection from which contextual data related to particular psychological issues being examined are recorded (Rusanganwa, 2015). After which, they are analyzed in order to develop an understanding regarding particular predilections and “tensions” within the researcher, which are related to various contexts in biography and history. At present, self-study research has been considered an adequate means of approaching various psychological studies due to its overall compatibility with action research and the fact that self-study research utilizes a variety of qualitative methodologies in order to explore various substantive issues (Rusanganwa, 2015). Overall, due to the emphasis that self-study research places on reflection, it has been determined as an adequate method in helping to enrich various forms of two-tiered action research projects. Its proper application usually consists of researchers recording their reflections and conversations prior to performing a particular type of research and then doing so after the research has been completed in order to determine changes in opinion and to understand the myriad of complexities that are inherent to particular topics that are being examined (Rusanganwa, 2015). Another factor that should be taken into consideration when it comes to self-study research is that when it comes to gathering the necessary reflections, it is usually the case that methods of narrative inquiry are utilized, such as written reflections or writing emails. While it may be true that other methods of recording do exist (i.e., video or audio transcriptions), it is usually recommended that written forms of self-reflection be utilized due to their more insightful nature.

Study Limitations

The primary limitation of this study is that it relies on document-based research as the source for all the information and views that will be presented. The use of other methods of research and analysis, such as a survey, narrative analysis, or other forms of research, will be eschewed in favor of focusing entirely on the collected data and results of other researchers (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015). While each method of analysis does have its own level of strengths, such as in the case of a narrative analysis that enables a researcher to utilize learning and adaptation approaches in order to examine various types of data, it should be noted that document analysis is far easier to do and has a higher degree of academic veracity as compared to narrative-based research which can often result in mistaken conclusions (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015). Also, given the time and research limitations of this study, document analysis was determined as the most effective means by which this study could be accomplished within a reasonable amount of time.

Another limitation of the research in this paper is that it focuses primarily on EFL learners. The reason behind this is connected to the desire of the researcher to focus on the problems EFL learners encounter when it comes to learning English, such as motivation, understanding, and the need to utilize what they have learned in a real-life setting that resulting in the proper application (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015).

Reliability and Validity

Reliability in any research process implies that the same set of data would have been collected each time in repeat examinations of the same variable or phenomenon, otherwise referred to as consistency of measurement. To realize the reliability of the study findings, the researcher will certify that items incorporated in the study via a literature review will only capture data that are of interest to the broader objectives of the study (Danny & Hung, 2013). Various research study guides have determined that validity is a measurement that is used to describe a measure or instrument that correctly reflects the variable or phenomena it is intended to evaluate, thus reinforcing the conclusions, assumptions, and propositions made from the analysis of data. Internal validity, which denotes the soundness of a study or investigation, will be achieved through the establishment of a framework for the application of effective sampling techniques and employing a validated and reliable research schedule for the purpose of data collection (Danny & Hung, 2013).

Ethical Considerations

Possible ethical considerations that may arise through this study consist of the following:

  1. The potential for unintentional plagiarism
  2. The use of unsubstantiated information
  3. The use of a biased viewpoint on issues
  4. Using views and ideas without giving due credit to the original source.

This study will endeavor to reduce these instances by following the appropriate academic guidelines that have been set by the university.

Document Analysis

Introduction

This section focuses on the various academic sources that the researcher examined for this paper. The literature that was selected for this study focuses on aspects related to motivation, understanding languages, and lessons, as well as the utilization of social media as a means of creating and maintaining interest in a particular subject matter.

Understanding the Learning Process

Writing and speaking are the primary basis of the human language and, as such, are utilized on a daily basis to convey thoughts and ideas between two or more people (Al-gaeed, 1984). In the case of EFL students within Saudi Arabia, the primary method in which they have been taught English has been through written works or through speech practice. While the general content differs based on the lesson plan, type of teacher, and the academic institution, the methods generally stay the same, wherein students are taught the basics of how to read, write and converse in a foreign language and slowly build up from that skill set (Al-gaeed, 1984).

However, while students are capable of communicating ideas via lessons that are taught to them, it cannot be outright stated that all of them are capable of doing it well. Some limitations take the form of a student’s basic comprehension of a particular subject, their ability to take in knowledge, interpret what is being said and formulate it in a way that for them is more easily understood. A reflection of this can be seen during lessons when there are gaps seen in the individual capabilities of local students within Saudi Arabia, wherein some do better than others when it comes to learning the English language (Al-gaeed, 1984).

This particular process is inherently connected to an individual’s internalized vocabulary and, as such, is an essential aspect in all matters related to verbal and written communication (Huang, 2012). The main difference between learning English and learning more about the local language (Arabic in this case) is that most EFL students in Saudi Arabia have already internalized several thousand words for use in everyday conversations and written work from their local language, while in the case of English they have internalized only a few hundred at most (Huang, 2012). Studies such as those by Lu & Luk (2014) have shown that despite the several thousand words an individual already knows when they enter into various levels of educational attainment (i.e., grade school, high school, and college), the breadth and depth of their internalized vocabulary are still insufficient given the academic levels they are attempting to attain. Progressive learning has been necessary for several decades, and its use in everyday conversations is necessary in order for an individual to be considered fluent in a language (Hakeem, 1985). Taking this into consideration, the limited amount of exposure that EFL students are subjected to during lessons results in a reduced capacity to be able to use the English language. Not only that, but the relative lack of use of English outside the context of classroom discussion also impacts the capacity for proper internalization (Hakeem, 1985).

What all of this means is that when EFL students start progressing in their English lessons, they do so with only the essentials necessary for basic communication and lack the levels of articulation and understanding necessary to be able to fully understand ideas that are being taught and explain them in a manner that can be understood by the teacher (Aydin, 2013). This is reflected in the lessons often seen in classrooms across Saudi Arabia, wherein the capability of EFL students is somewhat reminiscent of verbatim lifting, wherein they merely imitate what is being stated and taught and do not come up with their own original ideas, phrases, or methods (Aydin, 2013).

Such a phenomenon was noted in the study of Aldosari (1992), which examined the academic progress of EFL students throughout numerous grade levels and showed that certain students (more than 50% of the class at times) lacked the ability to fully comprehend aspects related to slang, nuances, abbreviations or other aspects of everyday English conversations that are normal and not even noticed by an average English speaker. This was not due to their inability to understand English since it was apparent that many understood what was being said to a certain extent; however, when it actually came to knowing the various specifics of what was being taught, such as metaphors, sarcasm, or even simple turns of phrase, many EFL students came up short in their ability to truly comprehend such factors in a level that could be considered academically acceptable (Al-jurf, 1987).

One assumption that can be drawn from this data from EFL learners is that the amount of exposure to a particular form of vocabulary that a particular individual is subjected to, the greater the amount of understanding and application they are capable of in that particular language (Al-jurf, 1987). This helps to explain the difference in capability between native and non-native speakers of the English language. On the other end of the spectrum, EFL learners that possess subpar vocabularies will be unable to fully grasp the language resulting in low levels of application (Al-jurf, 1987). Taking such a factor into consideration, it thus becomes obvious that teachers need to be concerned about the inherent exposure to the English vocabulary possessed by their students since this limits their ability to communicate and understand what a teacher is trying to convey. This is where social media as a possible teaching tool comes into play since its inherent popularity would result in greater levels of exposure which should help in increasing the capacity of ELF students to have a more extensive vocabulary and apply it in a large variety of possible situations.

The “Vocabulary Problem” of EFL Students within Saudi Arabia

One of the main issues when it comes to the type of EFL teachings within Saudi Arabia comes in the form of the “militarized” educational system for English, where students are made to memorize facts, figures, and various details regarding the EFL course they are taking without regard to deeper contemplative thinking and actually understanding how such ideas came about and were formed in the first place (Alansari, 1996). In other words, it is a teaching style that does the exact opposite of helping students to question, discover, collaborate, and argue certain points (widely considered by numerous studies as the best method of teaching in order to encourage the development of intellectual thought) but rather inculcates them into a form of thinking that emphasizes mind-numbing memorization, rote practice and mechanical precision in answering tests (Alansari, 1996). In fact, this very method of teaching encourages a form of non-reflective acquiescence, which practically destroys inquisitiveness towards learning and, in fact, creates a certain resistance to the learning process.

This particular practice helps to explain why the current methodology associated with teaching EFL students within Saudi Arabia is in need of a reassessment and the implementation of new practices since its current iteration is more likely to turn off EFL students from learning English than it would encourage them (Jan, 1985). What current practices in Saudi Arabia neglect to address is that the form of “militarized” educational regimen employed by the Saudi based teachers in order to cram facts and figures into the minds of students does little to actually improve their academic capacity and, in fact, creates a distinct level of dislike towards the concept of learning English (Jan, 1985).

An examination of various international schools within Saudi Arabia conducted reveals that such a method of education is not utilized since, in their own words, it “restricts the capacity of EFL learners to truly explore and understand what they are being taught” (Rubin, Katznelson & Perpignan, 2005). This presents itself as a valid argument regarding the negative effects such a method of teaching has on students and showcases the need to introduce new methods of education in order to supplement or improve the current methodologies that are being utilized (Huang, 2015). Some of the other methodologies that have been attempted focus on the “open classroom” concept, which encourages the exploration of thoughts, ideas, and assumptions regarding particular topics (Huang, 2015). Through this particular method, EFL students are encouraged to explore English through a variety of different situations and circumstances that are not limited by rote learning methodologies or a focus on memorization instead of understanding the lessons and applying them in appropriate situations.

Studies such as those by Aldosari (1992), which examined the impact such “militaristic” methods of rote learning had on the development of vocabulary, showed that while EFL students were able to remember certain words and phrases, it was apparent that they lacked a certain fundamental understanding of what they truly meant or how to properly utilize a majority of what they were taught. Aldosari (1992) explains that what is created is not a complete vocabulary but rather one that is “broken,” so to speak, wherein students know the words but in effect do not know their meaning, how to use them, or specifically how they can be utilized in a context outside of what they were taught to use them for (Cots, 2006). Thus, it can be seen that the origin of the problem mentioned at the start of this section regarding EFL students being ill-prepared for the rigors of advanced learning becomes apparent since it is the school themselves and their pursuit of academic performance in exchange for an actual understanding that causes the problems students to have with their vocabulary as they enter into each advanced stage of English learning (Cots, 2006).

What occurs in the case of EFL students in Saudi Arabia is that they, in effect, progress without truly understanding the vocabulary that they were taught, resulting in their subsequent difficulty in actually being able to understand and apply lessons (Alam, 1984). This problem becomes all the more apparent as they continue to advance since higher levels of educational attainment require more critical thinking and articulation which several students lack due to their exposure to the militaristic and rote teaching method utilized by several schools (Alam, 1984). What is needed in the case of properly building a student’s English vocabulary and thus their level of academic achievement is motivation, understanding, and the need to utilize what they have learned in a real-life setting (Alam, 1984). It is only by doing so that teachers are able to sufficiently build the vocabulary of their students in order to prepare them for the academic rigors that they will no doubt encounter. It is based on this that the utilization of social media seems to be an appropriate tool when it comes to developing motivation since students have been utilizing it extensively to communicate with their friends and relatives (Imai, 2010). By possibly orienting the type of social media tool that they are using and the manner in which students use it (i.e., have all the methods of communication focus solely on English), it would be possible to help students learn the language simply by necessity and the desire to better communicate with their peers who are also utilizing the network (Imai, 2010).

Theoretical Application of the Latent Learning Process and Social Media

The latent learning process theory presents the notion that language is learned through trial and error through exposure to numerous instances of human interaction and communication (Wedell & Alshumaimeri, 2014). Through such a process, a person is able to internalize the necessary skills to differentiate proper from improper methods of communication resulting in the development of an extensive vocabulary that has been influenced by various events and experiences (Wedell & Alshumaimeri, 2014). The trial and error aspect of this theory is particularly important to take note of since it presents the notion that EFL students are more likely to complete a particular method of communication when such actions have resulted in perceived positive results. For example, if an EFL student utilizes a particular phrase or method that has proven to be effective in general conversations, they are more likely to utilize it since it results in a positive outcome as compared to phrases or contexts that they have utilized that have not been readily accepted. It is this process of trial and error across a broad range of possible situations that this theoretical model assumes is one of the main methods of native language internalization among members of a local population (Wedell & Alshumaimeri, 2014). Taking this into consideration and applying it to the process of speaking, writing, and reading; constant exposure to these activities along with positive results will create an individual that will constantly develop the desire to learn and expand their vocabulary since they were able to gain positive experiences through trial and error that enabled them to better understand what specific words and phrases would apply appropriately to a wide variety of different situations.

One assumption that can be derived from this theoretical model of learning is that learning is inherently different from the concept of “performance” in that the process of learning does not necessarily need to have an inherent motivator (i.e., physical reward for humans) in order to be accomplished (Zaid, 1994). What actually occurs is that through active participation in events, a student is able to learn about the surrounding environment, internalize such information, and implement it at a later date (Zaid, 1994). Such actions are not done with a motivating action in mind at the present but rather are internalized for the sake of doing better at the action in the future. It can even be stated that the motivating aspect of the latent learning process that also occurs in humans is the desire to get better at a particular set of actions. This is applicable in the case of speaking, writing, and reading, wherein through constant exposure to various situations involving these practices, a person will eventually get better at doing it. In the case of social media and EFL, this can manifest in the way in which a student would focus on getting better at communicating in English so that they could talk to their friends and family via social media (Zaid, 1994). Examples of the application of social media under this particular form of learning can actually be seen in the development and subsequent dispersal of a variety of social slang and terminology that have come about through methods of communication centered on social media, which have subsequently been learned and adopted by a large percentage of the online population (Sheshsha, 1982). The internalization of slang such as LOL, BRB, AFK, etc. and their various iterations and their subsequent application in online conversations shows that learning new types of vocabulary over social media is not new; rather, it is something that continues to occur with new slang terminologies being developed every day (Sheshsha, 1982). What must be questioned, though, is whether this propensity towards the adaption of new social terminologies via social media can be expanded to include the vocabulary and vernacular associated with the English language when applied to EFL students within Saudi Arabia (Sheshsha, 1982).

In support of this possibility is the work of Abdan (1984), who stated that one motivating factor behind human learning is the concept of learned behavior wherein outputs related to success or failure are factored into a person’s cognitive decision model resulting in the action which leads to success is the most likely choice for a particular action. As such, for teachers looking to improve the vocabulary of their EFL students, the best way to do so is to constantly immerse them in activities that reinforce the usage of the language along with positive reinforcement in these activities (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014). This is to help create the perception among students that expanding one’s vocabulary is a good thing rather than a chore that has to be accomplished because it was assigned to you. It is based on this that the use of social media to teach EFL students seems more plausible due to the tendency of students to utilize a wide variety of possible contexts to describe various situations they encounter or want to discuss (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014).

Connecting Fun and Motivation to Learning for EFL Students

Based on studies such as those by Danny & Hung (2013) and Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi (2015), it can be noted that present-day developments in EFL learning in Saudi Arabia lack factors related to “fun” and “enjoyment,” which this study believes are inherently important motivators for human learning. It was even seen in the study of Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi (2015) that the more fun a person had with a certain activity, the greater the degree of skill retention and improvement. When it comes to teaching EFL students about the fundamentals of the English language, it is important to make the lessons fun and enjoyable to make the learning process more dynamic and exciting. Since Danny & Hung (2013) state that dynamism and interest can be correlated with long term knowledge retention when it comes to particular lessons, the subsequent use of such processes when it comes to teaching English to students in Saudi Arabia does present itself as being a viable method to choose from (Hakeem, 1985). While there are numerous factors that contribute to the motivation of human learning; the desire to get better at a particular activity (a product of latent learning), the desire to minimize negative outcomes (a product of learned behavior), and the “fun” factor behind the way in which a particular activity is internalized, the concept of fun equating into a motivation to learn is something which this study believes would better connect to the EFL student population within Saudi Arabia (Hakeem, 1985). It is due to this that the application of social media as a learning tool apparently becomes viable, given its association as a “fun” method of communication.

Strategy to Teach Vocabulary

In this section of the paper, what will be examined are aspects relating to reinforcement expectancy and cognitive dissonance. It was noted by Baleghizadeh & Shayeghi (2014) that when expectations were not met for a particular method of English education (i.e., actually being able to speak the language properly by a certain level), performance significantly declines. For researchers, this response is actually quite similar to cognitive dissonance since the discrepancy between an expected outcome (i.e., being able to properly speak English by a certain point in time and the result (i.e., not being able to do so) results in a negative outlook which results in EFL students actually being disinclined towards putting more effort into their studies (Al-gaeed, 1984). Such a concept is quite valuable in the field of education since managing expectations regarding certain lessons or methods of accomplishing a particular task greatly influence the drive and motivation students have towards learning which affects their overall performance.

For example, in instances where a teacher places unfounded expectations on students, such as promising that the lesson would be easy or that anyone with marginal intelligence would be able to understand it yet presents students with an overly complicated lesson that is difficult at best and impossible at worst, creates a situation where there is a certain “negative dissonance” regarding the teaching methods of this particular teacher thus creating a certain degree of hesitance, even fear when taking a lesson since the promised result was not as expected (Al-gaeed, 1984). This often manifests itself when EFL students within Saudi Arabia are subjected to advanced topics and subjects in English, yet they have not fully understood the lessons that were previously given to them due to a lack of sufficient application (Al-muarik, 1983). The end result is that they are introduced to advanced lessons without sufficient capability resulting in a lack of motivation to learn simply because they are not able to fully comprehend what is being taught. What is needed in this case is to create a sufficient foundation of education that enables students to be able to apply the lessons that they are being taught. In order to bring this about, it would be necessary to create increased instances of practical application that would enable EFL students to develop the skills needed to communicate at a sufficient level based on what they were taught (Al-muarik, 1983). This is where the use of social media comes into play, wherein the daily communication between individuals using the messaging or posting service would help them to eventually learn more nuances about the language and adapt to different situations based on the inherent need.

Use of Technology in Education

In this section of the study, the use of technology in education will be examined and will showcase its overall level of effectiveness, as well as the pros and cons associated with its usage. One of the current criticisms against EFL teaching methods in Saudi Arabia is the strict fundamentals and organizational practices that limit the capacity of teachers to be sufficiently innovative in implementing new practices when it comes to the students that they are teaching. The basis behind this assertion can be seen in the study of Wedell & Alshumaimeri (2014), who examined the English literacy rates of EFL students in Saudi Arabia. It was determined that despite being in the “advanced” levels of their EFL education, more than 70 percent of the students examined lacked sufficient levels of English proficiency to the extent that they were unable to carry on an extended conversation in English, nor were they are able to read an average text of English and understand everything that part of the article (they were asked to read from an English newspaper and state what the article was about). It is based on such findings that the implementation of new methods of teaching students, such as through technology, should help in lowering the percentage of EFL students in Saudi Arabia that have little in the way of sufficient (Storch & Aldosari, 2013). The justification behind this assertion is based on the findings of Saeidi & Jabbarpour (2011), who delved into the use of technology in modern-day classrooms. With the advent of the internet and the creation of tablet PCs, technological applications created specifically for education have steadily found themselves in many schools and universities. Distance learning initiatives coupled with “Apps” for tablet devices have become commonplace in many schools due to their versatility and their capacity for enabling students to learn a wide variety of different subjects in a relatively easy-to-use format (Myskow & Gordon, 2010). Taking these factors into consideration, the subsequent information that will be analyzed in this section will attempt to justify the use of technology in EFL lessons and should act as a sufficient foundation to justify the use of social media applications as an English teaching tool.

First and foremost, it is important to note that technology acts more like a tool that reinforces current practices in education yet in a more expedient and easy to access fashion (Al-juhani, 1992). This can be seen in the case of online distance learning courses that attempt to emulate the educational experience of a university. For example, Coursera.com, which is a new development in providing a free online learning experience for students around the world, was a direct result of inter-university collaborations by Ivy League institutions in order to innovate the current way in which teachers and students approach the concept of education (Lu & Luk, 2014). This method of teaching adapts current classroom curriculums into a digital format that has been sufficiently compartmentalized to ensure proper lesson progression for students (Lu & Luk, 2014). The end result has been the creation of lessons that can be attended by people all around the world and proves the effectiveness of the practice of technology acting as a great tool that can help to supplement and even replace, to a certain extent, the lessons that can be gained from a classroom setting (Lu & Luk, 2014). This shows that technology can be used to create an entirely new teaching and learning experience. On the other hand, when examining the case of the methods utilized to teach English and I.T. (information technology) to students in grades 5 and 6 within Saudi Arabia, it can be seen that technology was used as a means of speeding up the process through the distribution of course materials and the creation of computerized learning tools, but the basic format by which students learned was still the same regardless of the technologically based methods used to teach them (Aydin, 2013).

This is in stark contrast to the achievements accomplished by collaborations such as Coursera.com, wherein students actually become participants in the discussion and teaching process through the establishment of student forums for discussion (i.e., social media), the implementation of lessons wherein students check each other’s papers as well as the establishment of online social groups where students actively participate in offline study groups in order to better internalize the lesson material (i.e., social media communication) (Ya-Ting & Gamble, 2013). A similar strategy as presented by Coursera.com may become a viable model for future practices in EFL education within Saudi Arabia. For example, students could take various class modules online and discuss the topic with their peers on the social media forum created by the school (Ya-Ting & Gamble, 2013). Making social media use mandatory and combining it with present-day lessons in EFL would enable students to discuss topics in real-time resulting in them being forced to adapt to the conversation that they find themselves in. From the perspective of Shamir & Johnson (2012), this method of adaptation results in better information retention and the development of the desire to apply what one has learned.

The distribution of various tablet devices within the student population of various schools is being done as a strategy that could potentially supplement the teaching methods utilized within classroom environments wherein teachers help to reinforce and clarify ideas that students are initially unfamiliar with from the online course modules rather than having to explain every aspect of the lesson within the class (Rubin, Katznelson & Perpignan, 2005). Through the use of various online quizzes and methods of examination, a teacher can gauge the overall level of understanding of students regarding particular lessons and create a lesson plan the next day to address such issues (Rusanganwa, 2015). Overall, establishing the aforementioned methods can create a better and more efficient way of addressing the process of education by utilizing technology as more than just a simple extension of the present-day learning processes. What this shows is that there has been a progression in present-day teaching methods which focus on the integration of technology into student curriculums (Rusanganwa, 2015). In fact, Stone & Kidd (2011) explains that the use of tablet PCs has increased considerably within the past few years in a variety of public and private institutions due to the decreasing costs associated with their creation. With this in mind, the implementation of social media applications as a supplementary method of EFL education does not seem so farfetched and, in fact, can be considered a viable method of education when taking into consideration all the factors that have been mentioned so far in this section.

Distance Learning Theory and EFL Student Education

This section of the study will focus on distance learning theory and its potential influence on EFL student education. The basis behind this correlation is due to the nature of communication over social media, which is, by its very nature, impersonal and cannot be applied within a traditional classroom setting.

The concept behind distance learning theory is that it is the conceptualization of several freedoms, such as the of:

  1. Time
  2. Space
  3. Pace
  4. Medium
  5. Access
  6. Curriculum
  7. And the choice

It is at times considered a better and more efficient method of education for learners since it enables them to choose what to learn, when to learn it, and the means by which they are able to do so (Imai, 2010). The application of this theory to social media is based on the fact that its usage is normally connected to activities outside of the confines of a classroom. As such, the concept of distance learning theory applies to the activities associated with social media usage. The advantage of utilizing distance learning over the traditional model of education, where learning is based on a set time, curriculum, and under the auspices of a teacher, is that it can be done at any time and at the pace set by the student (Huang, 2015). For instance, the use of online learning modules can be considered a method of industrialized learning to the effect that it can be mass-produced easily given the medium of communication it espouses (i.e., through online methods) (Rusanganwa, 2015). The same methodology can be applied in the case of social media, wherein its usage can similarly be mass-produced for the benefit of students. The inherent issue with traditional methods of education that distance learning resolves is that it takes into consideration the need for freedom by EFL students (Rusanganwa, 2015). It specifically states that a more flexible method of education is needed in order to accommodate the varied activities that an EFL student has in his/her life. It was explained earlier on in this document analysis that obtaining and maintaining the necessary capacity for English language comprehension and utilization needed considerable daily practice and experience in order to do so (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015). It is based on this requirement that social media presents itself as a viable method of addressing the issue since EFL students can be required to participate in online discussions or debates utilizing social media and, as such, gain the necessary experience to be able to understand and discuss a wide variety of possible topics or issues in a manner that they are comfortable doing (i.e., from their home or through the use of their smartphone) (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015).

While distance-learning theory incorporates autonomy, flexibility, and above all, freedom in its design, it neglects to delve into the quality of the programs its advocates. One of the main issues related to distance learning programs is that they are far too condensed and lack the dynamism that traditional classroom environments have (Myskow & Gordon, 2010). As such, while there is flexibility, it is often questioned whether is a sufficient level of actual learning within such programs, given that it is more akin to militaristic rote learning, which various studies have shown lacks the development of creative thinking (Myskow & Gordon, 2010). Considering the fact that the communication of students over social media is unsupervised, this can lead to an assortment of issues related to the quality of the conversations that take place as compared to what occurs during a classroom setting.

Do note, though, that various distance learning proponents such as Ya-Ting & Gamble (2013) state that distance learning integrates a more “liberal” method of learning wherein learners are taught to think more critically, focus on a more in-depth method of learning, and are taught abstract methods of looking at problems through more interaction with their peers. For instance, having conversations utilizing social media can result in a divergence into a wide assortment of possible topics (Shamir & Johnson, 2012). The sheer randomness of the possible conversations results in higher levels of abstract thinking by students in order to respond to the statements that are being given as compared to present-day rote learning methods within EFL lessons in Saudi Arabia that expect an exact response for a prepared statement that is given to all students while in class (Shamir & Johnson, 2012). Examples of this can be seen in various blended learning modules and flipped classroom initiatives which combine distance learning and traditional F2F (Face to Face) methods of learning in order to give students both the freedom to learn at their own pace while enabling them to directly interact with the teacher and students (Huang, 2015).

Do note, though, that F2F (Face to Face) traditional lessons cannot be considered viable enough for EFL students who need an extensive degree of freedom in order to properly learn and take the lessons. This was established in the earlier sections of this paper, wherein the lack of sufficient experience both inside and outside the classroom when it comes to English communication actually detracts from the capacity of the students to actually properly learn the language (Huang, 2015). What is needed is a teaching method that enables and even encourages students to continue to learn English within Saudi Arabia without teacher supervision. This boils down to the concept of motivation which this study belies that flipped classroom models (i.e., teaching through online methods) and blended learning initiatives (online and face to face learning) may hold the solution to resolving the current issues in English learning that have been noted in the case of Saudi Arabia (Baleghizadeh & Shayeghi, 2014).

Other literary sources, such as Saeidi & Jabbarpour (2011), support this assertion; however, they do state that this still brings up the issue of the learning environment associated with distance learning. Wedell & Alshumaimeri (2014) explains that while online education (in this case through social media) enables freedom, it is still lacking in a quality form of education wherein the immediate sharing of ideas and the “social setting” found in F2F. The argument based on this approach centers on the issue of the communicative and collaborative setting found in classrooms wherein the teacher and other students are there to help a student along when it comes to their learning experience (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014). This is the primary failing when it comes to applying social media as a teaching method since it relies almost entirely on what a student knows with no one else besides them to guide them on how to properly communicate online. This can be resolved, though, by combining social media education methodologies with traditional classroom settings in what can be described as a blended learning methodology (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014).

Do note, though, that the act of learning is still entirely based on an EFL student’s inherent willingness to learn and that distance learning through social media merely provides a more convenient method of doing so. From a certain perspective, it can be stated that students or even teachers should not expect the same quality or level of treatment in every single model of education and that F2F, online, flipped, and blended learning models all have their positives and negatives (Danny & Hung, 2013).

It is based on this that this dissertation asserts that the concept of an “ideal method of learning” for EFL students is fallacious given the various needs and results each type of learning has on EFL students with their own unique needs; rather, what educators must focus on is in the development of a learning strategy that encourages students to learn regardless of the model of education utilized (Cots, 2006). This is one of the reasons why this paper advocates for the utilization of social media as a teaching tool since it can be utilized in a wide variety of educational models and encourages EFL students to learn proper English due to the sheer necessity related to being able to actually communicate with others utilizing the same medium (Cots, 2006).

From this, it can be seen that the utilization of social media can be considered as a form of intrinsic motivation that encourages EFL students to learn on their own, with online learning environments providing the most convenient and cost-effective way of increasing lessons without necessarily having them attend more classes for practice.

Critical Response

In this section, what the researcher will attempt to accomplish is to examine the various factors related to self-determination, motivation, and present day teaching models in order to form a new teaching model that will help to address the issues related to EFL learning that was mentioned in the start of this paper. To accomplish this, the researcher will examine aspects related to distance learning, the traditional F2F classroom model and the flipped classroom model, and the various theoretical underpinnings related to self-determination and motivation that are associated with these models (Rubin, Katznelson & Perpignan, 2005). Such a method of examination will be able to yield sufficient enough information that would help in showcasing the potential compatibility of social media as an adequate tool for educating EFL students.

Self Determination Theory and Adult Learning

The self-determination theory can be considered as a set of intrinsic and extrinsic motivational factors that influence an individual’s ability to perform a particular task. It is within this context that self-determination theory can be correlated with an EFL student’s capacity to initiate and complete the various levels necessary to properly understand, read and converse in the English language (Abdelhalim, 2011). To understand the application of self-determination theory to the use of social media in teaching English, it is first important to note that EFL students individual has a different set of motivating factors that influence their behaviors or activities. Extrinsic methods of motivation can be described as external motivating factor that provides satisfaction over the completion of a task in the form of a reward or pleasure at its completion (Al-saadat, 1986). For EFL students, this comes in the form of having a specific grade on their student evaluation that indicates that they have successfully completed the EFL grade level that they are in. Intrinsic methods of motivation, on the other hand, are derived from an individual’s pleasure/sense of satisfaction at working at a particular task or, in this case, learning a new language. EFL students oriented towards intrinsic motivation are categorically different than their extrinsic counterparts since their desire to learn originates not from factors related to external rewards; rather, it is more along the lines of the pleasure, happiness, and joy they derive from learning and its subsequent application in real-life situations (Al-saadat, 1986). For instance, the sense of satisfaction that an EFL student gets from being able to properly communicate in English with their peers, whether through an online conversation or in a real time discussion (i.e., face to face), is a reflection of an intrinsic motivator towards learning (Alansari, 1996). This is an important distinction to take into consideration since individual differences in causal orientation impact the manner in which people view the means that they will accomplish a particular task (Alansari, 1996). In the case of present-day EFL lessons, self-determination theory suggests that EFL students would view each method of learning in a different way, given the varied motivational factors that drive them. In the case of traditional classroom learning environments, the dynamic setting, the constant exchange of ideas, and the means by which a student can interact with and get guidance from a teacher would appeal more to EFL students with distinctly intrinsic levels of motivation (Ferenz, 2005). This means that students that have a greater desire to learn English would do well in a classroom environment, while those who are there simply to get the grade level required would do poorly. The reasoning behind this is connected to the desire for input regarding the method of pronunciation, syntax, and vocabulary that they could get from their professors in a more immediate and personalized fashion (Al-jurf, 1987). Such observation helps to explain why there are different results within an EFL class despite all students being subjected to the same quality of lessons. Simply put, the motivating factor behind their learning behavior diverges significantly, resulting in different outputs for the work that was created (Al-Hazmi & Norton, 2003). If some students are merely motivated by the desire for the result to reflect on their report card due to it being an academic requirement and not necessarily develop a deeper understanding of the language, the end result would, of course, be a subpar learning experience that would have poor results (Aldosari, 1992). Attempting to force students to learn through rote learning methodologies and “militaristic” are also met with significant resistance and, as such, show the correlation between motivation and effective learning methodologies (Abdan, 1984). It is due to this that the suggestions of this paper to incorporate social media as a teaching tool seem more plausible since it helps to orient students towards communicating in English out of necessity resulting in the buildup of experience (Aldosari, 1992). The desire to communicate thus becomes an intrinsic motivator which makes individuals that are extrinsically motivated more likely to pursue improvement of their English skills due to necessity.

In order to understand the necessity of applying social media to present-day EFL lessons in Saudi Arabia, it is first important to note that the teaching process for EFL students does not simply involve a presentation of facts and lectures to students; rather, it also incorporates aspects of the professor simply talking to the students, sharing his/her experiences and establishing a classroom dialogue where those involved share their own experiences in resolving issues with the English language or in problems with vocabulary or diction that they encountered that they have yet to resolve (Hakeem, 1985). Such a method of dynamic communication is considered one of the missing components in online learning, wherein the conversations make the learning process more enjoyable (Lu & Luk, 2014). This is one of the inherent limitations associated with utilizing social media as a teaching tool since it lacks the dynamism found in classroom settings and merely allows students a more convenient method of being able to practice English outside of school. It is the manner in which teachers converse with students in an open and dynamic setting that generates interest in the lesson and creates the intrinsic motivating factors that were mentioned earlier on in the study (McMullen, 2009).

EFL students that are more inclined toward extrinsic methods of motivation would view their EFL studies as a means to an end rather than derive a specific amount of joy from actually learning (Al-Hazmi & Norton, 2003). Such individuals would prefer a method of education that is affordable, can accommodate their current time schedules, and would enable them to advance in their respective careers within a reasonable amount of time (Al-Hazmi & Norton, 2003). For such individuals, computer-mediated learning (i.e., online learning) would be the best choice, given its capacity to accommodate varied schedules and allow a degree of autonomy for students. Utilizing social media as a teaching tool online helps to address all the aforementioned points since it is not only easily accessible but can be accomplished at the convenience of the EFL student in question (Al-gaeed, 1984).

One of the flaws in the present-day models of teaching EFL students in Saudi Arabia lies in their inability to take into consideration different self-determinants which motivate EFL students (Alavi & Janbaz, 2014). Graduate students in Saudi Arabia, for example, that are taking up a master’s course in subjects such as business management was shown to be motivated by the desire to make themselves more attractive employees for companies by taking EFL courses at their university and, as such, strove to be more diligent in their academic studies (Alavi & Janbaz, 2014). Such motivating factors differed greatly from those taking up undergraduate business management courses, wherein it was shown that many students were motivated to take up EFL simply by the desire to graduate and did not put too much emphasis on making themselves more appealing to companies. What this shows is that the different motivating factors that govern EFL students in Saudi Arabia impact their motivation to internalize a lesson. If they are merely taking up an EFL course as a school requirement, then it is unlikely that they would expend the same amount of effort as compared to another EFL student that is taking up the same sort of lesson due to the desire to actually learn and improve themselves (Abdelhalim, 2011). What this shows is that intrinsic and extrinsic motivating factors impact the internalization of EFL lessons within Saudi Arabia and, as such, must be taken into consideration when creating a lesson plan (Al-saadat, 1986). With this in mind, there needs to be a process included in present-day methods of EFL education within Saudi Arabia that can appeal to students that are motivated by extrinsic or intrinsic factors in order for them to at least have similar levels of experience when it comes to the use of the English language (Alansari, 1996). This is where social media enters into the process wherein the desire to communicate based on necessity supersedes both intrinsic and extrinsic processes of motivation resulting in students gaining more experience simply by virtue of communicating with their peers through a social media application in English (Abdan, 1984).

Self-determinants in each learner (i.e., what motivates them to perform) varies, and thus, despite different types of learners (young or adult) being subjected to the same type of teaching model (traditional, online, flipped, etc.), there would be a difference in the types of performance shown (Danny & Hung, 2013). This was seen in the case of Saudi Arabia, where despite similar rates of exposure to the same EFL lesson, the learners had different work outputs (Jan, 1985). Based on this, it can be assumed that it is the motivating factor that “drives” the learner to perform and not necessarily the type of educational model that is in use that results in better performance. When it comes to learning, current teaching models should be thought of as facilitators of the learning experience and not the means by which a student will be more motivated to learn (Saeidi & Jabbarpour, 2011). While some types of teaching models make it easier for students with busy schedules to learn, such as the online learning model of education, the ease of learning does not translate into immediate motivation; rather, no matter the type of learning model that is employed if a student is truly motivated to learn a particular subject, they will be able to properly internalize the lesson material and even do their own research regardless of the teaching model employed (Saeidi & Jabbarpour, 2011). What this shows is that the implementation of different types of teaching models does not change the fact that motivation is at the heart of the process of internalization. Without sufficient factors that motivate an EFL student to actually learn, it is unlikely that they would be able to learn English (Hakeem, 1985) properly. Thus, the assumption of this paper regarding the utilization of social media as a teaching tool gains further credence as it shows that implementing a method that goes beyond motivation into an actual necessity (i.e., learning English in order to properly communicate with their peers in English), this helps to address the issues when it comes to de-motivated EFL students.

Complexity Theory and EFL students

When it comes to an understanding of the application of complexity theory to EFL learners, it is important to note that under this theory, they are considered major agents of their own learning (Al-muarik, 1983). Complexity theory states that an EFL student’s personal experiences determine the means by which they internalize and learn new pieces of information, and it is based on experiences that each EFL student tends to learn the same type of lesson in different ways (Al-muarik, 1983). Through this dynamic, it is assumed that it is a mistake to believe that EFL teachers can control an EFL student’s learning experience; instead, a teacher is merely a means of transferring knowledge and skills with the personal experiences of the learner, determining how their learning experience is created (Aldosari, 1992). This is a necessary theoretical point of view to understand since it showcases that individual learning habits impact the means by which English is learned. For instance, under this theory, despite the efforts of a teacher to teach an EFL student, if they have had a personal history of having low or unremarkable studying habits, it is unlikely that they would put in significant effort towards their lessons resulting in subpar results (Aldosari, 1992). This perspective helps to explain why EFL students in Saudi Arabia’s many programs have different results since not all students have developed the same study habits that others have, resulting in varying results (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014). Based on this, it can be stated that the problem is not the teaching program that is being implemented; rather, it is the EFL student that is the greatest hindrance to the internalization of the English language (Mahboob & Elyas, 2014). From this assumption, this paper makes the assertion that what is necessary for the EFL curriculum in Saudi Arabia is not a set standard as determined by the educational institution; rather, what is necessary for the development of a curriculum that centers itself on the development of experiences in language utilization as the key driver towards EFL education. This means that a certain level of adjustment needs to be taken into consideration based on teaching methods that utilize real-life situations so as to evaluate them on their unique individual application of the language lessons they have learned (Rubin, Katznelson & Perpignan, 2005). The best way this can be accomplished is to examine their capacity to utilize the English that they know in a conversation. While this can be accomplished in class lessons through speech practice sessions, this paper advocates the use of social media conversations as a better approach to developing experience as well as examining the current progress of EFL learners (Storch & Aldosari, 2013). For instance, by utilizing online discussion boards, blogs, chat sessions as well as other social media tools, teachers can determine the ability of their EFL students to respond to conversations online as well as formulate thoughts into a meaningful output (i.e., through online blogs and discussions) (Storch & Aldosari, 2013). Do note that there are various types of software that do exist at the present that enables teachers to examine the proper usage of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary in a digital conversation. Through such software programs, teachers are able to determine the current capacity of students to utilize the English language based on the results of the software (Rusanganwa, 2015). Not only does this enable teachers to determine the current level of students when it comes to their capacity to utilize English in its written form, but it also enables them to determine what mistakes students are more prone to making and adjust lessons accordingly in order to address such an issue (Rusanganwa, 2015). While this methodology is also possible in other teaching models, it is not as easy to accomplish and lacks the same capacity to create motivation in students to learn English in order to properly communicate with their peers. It is based on this assessment that the implementation of social media tools into the EFL learning process becomes a plausible option for EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia.

The flaw in Present-day EFL Teaching Strategies in Saudi Arabia

One of the major flaws in present-day methods of EFL teaching in Saudi Arabia is that it attempts to create a mold (i.e., assuming specific EFL lessons produce an absolute outcome) in which EFL students are expected to turn out in a certain way based on the lessons they receive (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015). This is a major mistake on the part of the EFL methodology in Saudi Arabia since, as explained in the previous section, an EFL student’s personal experience influences teaching outcomes, and, as such, it cannot be expected that all students will turn out the same. It is when an individual’s desire for self-directed learning (i.e., learning at their own pace) clashes with the set models created by the Saudi Arabian EFL educational institution that poor outcomes come about (Mehta & Al-Mahrooqi, 2015).

Taking the previous flaw into consideration, this paper advocates that instead of utilizing the current EFL process in Saudi Arabia, a far better approach would be to focus on the development of self-directed learning initiatives where EFL students take it upon themselves to learn based on an actual desire to learn instead of thinking of a lesson as nothing more than a prerequisite to completing a course (Myskow & Gordon, 2010). This has been emphasized in previous sections of this paper yet needs to be reiterated since one of the fundamental failures in the present-day EFL education system in Saudi Arabia is that many EFL students view English as a mere prerequisite to graduation instead of as a learning experience that it is meant to improve their value as potential employees to a company (Myskow & Gordon, 2010). This attitude towards learning has an observable and measurable impact on student performance.

Issues with Creating Unfounded Expectations

Another of the identified issues when it comes to the EFL programs in Saudi Arabia is that they create unfounded expectations regarding their EFL lessons which de-motivates students from learning when such programs do not live up to their expectations. One of the “promises” that are made to students when they first begin an EFL course is that, over time, they should become relatively well-versed in the use of English. Unfortunately, this is not the case in a large percentage of the EFL student population due to the various reasons that have been elaborated on so far in this research paper (Baleghizadeh & Shayeghi, 2014). As a result, this creates cognitive dissonance (i.e., feelings of depression due to the outcome), resulting in negative behavior towards the EFL course, which will most likely result in poor performance. There are actually a plethora of examples where this is applicable and, as such, shows how it is important for EFL educators to set the right expectations when it comes to teaching their EFL students the various intricacies of proper vocabulary development (Baleghizadeh & Shayeghi, 2014).

Assumption of Responsibility by EFL Students

Based on the work of Al-juhani (1992), it was noted that one desired characteristic that teachers would like to see in EFL students within Saudi Arabia is the development capacity of the capacity of students to assume responsibility for the learning process. The concept behind the assumption of responsibility for their academic progress, as described by Al-juhani (1992), is based on the inherent intellectual capacity, study skills, and method of motivation that influences a student to actually focus on their lesson. Aldosari (1992) states that what is needed in the case of present-day teaching models of EFL education in Saudi Arabia is the creation of motivating factors that are in line with course completion that encourages self-directed learning. Self-direct learning initiatives, in this case, focus on the capacity of a student to delve deeper into a subject based on their inherent interest and desire to learn and not being due to the prerogative set by the teacher (i.e., being forced to learn due to homework exercises or classwork). From the perspective of Aydin (2013), self-directed learning initiatives are a necessary aspect of developing language skills since there is only so much that can be learned from staying in a class or from a book. In order to truly understand a language, it is necessary for an individual to develop their talents beyond the set boundaries that have been created by the teacher and expand their knowledge (Al-jurf, 1987). Unfortunately, when examining the case of EFL learners in Saudi Arabia, there is little in the way of significant self-directed learning initiatives by a large percentage of the students in the country, as seen in the work of Shamir & Johnson (2012), which examined the educational progress of learners within the country. One trend that was seen in the work of Shamir & Johnson (2012) was that the prerogative of students was focused more on completion of the EFL classes rather than the expansion of their knowledge beyond the set instructions given in class. There was no desire for further expansion of knowledge, no real practice sessions being conducted outside of the classroom aside from what was necessary in order to complete lessons, and there was a significant proportion of students that were more extrinsically motivated than those with an intrinsic desire to actually learn English. What the work of Shamir & Johnson (2012) showed was that while there were several EFL programs in place for Saudi Arabian students to learn from, there was little in the way of significant desire within the student population to expand their knowledge. Self-directed learning, in this case, was largely absent, which does not bode well for the large-scale development of English language skills among members of the student population that take it as a prerequisite in several schools in the country.

Summary

Implementing an educational system where there is a greater desire for self-direction would most likely result in higher rates of EFL assimilation among EFL students since they would have the desire to learn, resulting in better long-term performance. The inherent problem, though, is determining how such a system can be developed in the first place. It is due to this that this research paper presented the notion of utilizing social media as a teaching tool since, through its inherent popularity, widespread usage, and the various characteristics that have been described so far in this paper, it does present itself as a potentially viable solution to the indicated problems. The next section of this paper will focus on the inherent limitations that are related to social media usage in education. Through the succeeding section, this research paper hopes to create an even argument that shows both the positives and the negatives when it comes to the utilization of EFL in present-day EFL student education in Saudi Arabia.

Discussion

Problem with Social Media in Education: Lack of Demonstrative Communication

Conveying emotion through vocal tones, facial expressions, and gestures is one of the most important aspects of speaking due to the fact that these are the methods by which other communicators derive the intent of the speaker. Unfortunately, when it comes to using social media applications, these subtleties are not inherent, and, as such, social media cannot help an individual when it comes to the previously identified nuances that are inherent in verbal communication.

As such, this shows the negative aspects of demonstrative communication through social media, wherein if insufficient nonverbal cues are not utilized during the conversation, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to actually determine the level of inherent interest in a conversation. This, unfortunately, is a weakness that cannot be overcome when it comes to social media since it is not a face-to-face medium resulting in its users being uncertain of the inherent interest of a person regarding the conversation they are having.

Importance of Interpreting Non-verbal Cues in Demonstrative Communication

Another way of looking at social media usage as a teaching tool is through the context of a sample conversation that might occur between the two participants:

Conversation

Educator (while looking at her laptop): So, how was your first day on the job?

Student worker: Fine (student worker is fidgeting, hesitating, keeps on looking around the room, and delivers the message in a generally unconfident manner).

Educator (while still looking at her laptop): Alright, that’s good to hear. Keep on doing your best (while still not looking at the student, and the message is delivered in a flat, emotionless tone).

End of Conversation

When examining the message of “fine” that the student gives in response, one cannot help but notice the various non-verbal cues that indicate that things are really not “fine.” For example, the degree of hesitation, the lack of confidence in the method of delivery, the fact that the student worker seems to divide his attention between the practice educator and among other people in the room. From this, it can be seen that when it comes to demonstrative communication, different meanings can be attributed to certain messages, but it actually takes an examination of various non-verbal cues to actually understand their true meaning and context. This shows the importance of listening, responding appropriately, and actually observing the person you are talking to. These are all aspects that are taught to EFL students during classroom discussions and form the backbone of the student learning experience when it comes to properly communicating in an actual face-to-face conversation which is the main purpose behind why an EFL student is learning English in the first place. The student worker was obviously not fine with his first day; however, since the educator was obviously not listening sufficiently, was not observing his non-verbal cues, and was not responding in an appropriate manner (giving the student worker his/her full attention) the student worker was thus put off from further divulging more details. When it comes to learning a language, it is important to utilize both verbal and non-verbal cues when it comes to communication. These are essential aspects of any conversation; however, they, unfortunately, cannot be taught or experienced through social media and, as such, shows another inherent issue when it comes to its use as a tool for education.

Examining the Usage of Non-verbal Cues

When examining the case shown above, if one were to remove the aspects of the conversation involving non-verbal behavior, it actually seems like the educator is really interested in what happened to yesterday’s procedure. Yet, when the non-verbal cues are added, the educator no longer seems to actually care about the topic at all and seems to have just stated the question for the sake of just asking. What must be understood from this particular case is that people base their interpretation of a conversation on the non-verbal cues shown and respond accordingly, as seen in the case of a student who not only did not divulge what really happened but was having a hard time during the conversation since the educator obviously wasn’t interested in the least.

Talking often utilizes facial expression, hand gestures, and changes in vocal tone in order to properly convey a certain degree of emotion to the idea being expressed. What must be understood is that non-verbal communication can relate a plethora of different types of information which can be used to compare what a person says to what they actually mean, and, as such, it is important to observe and display non-verbal cues for communication in order to ensure that the right message is communicated. The only way that a person would be capable of doing so would be through considerable practice in the act, which cannot be accomplished by typing online through a social media application.

Social Media does not teach pronunciation

On a relatively minor note, one aspect that is missing from the use of social media tools is the lack of pronunciation lessons that are available. While social media does enable EFL students to gain experience when it comes to vocabulary and syntax, it is lacking when it comes to teaching students proper pronunciation.

Online Learning and EFL Students

Online learning has become a popular method of continuing education for EFL students due to the manner in which it is easily accessible, affordable, and allows adult students to have greater control over their learning experience. Many of today’s professionals in multiple industries find it harder to take advanced education classes at local colleges and universities due to the commitments they have with their jobs and daily lives. Online learning environments help to resolve such issues by providing a means for them to take classes at their own pace, thereby allowing them to easily incorporate them into their daily schedule. Such a process is normally not possible in the face of traditional face-to-face learning environments that work on set schedules. However, as this section will explain in more detail, online learning environments cannot be considered an effective solution to the educational needs of EFL students. The current flaw in online learning lies in its very nature, wherein it sacrifices personal interaction with teachers and other students in favor of personal freedom and allowing students to set their own schedules. If social media applications are to be incorporated into present-day lessons, they would similarly be impacted by the lack of interaction between teacher and student. Teachers serve not only as dispensers of academic information but as a means of guiding and encouraging students to finish an EFL course. Such actions, combined with the social setting of traditional classroom environments, act as motivating factors for students to take a more active interest in a course and to see it through till the end. In the case of online learning environments, they are lacking when it comes to social settings and the direct interaction between teachers and students, which results in a lack of encouragement. Despite the fact that online learning makes it easy for EFL students to gain experience in utilizing English and be motivated to learn more, the process also makes it easy for them to transition out of it due to the lack of interaction as well as the fact that teachers are not on hand at that time to guide them in proper English utilization.

What must be understood is that traditional classroom environments and their F2F (face to face) setting helps to instill a positive feeling for EFL students since they interact with the professor on a constant basis leading to the point that they feel more likely to experiment with the language since the professor is there to guide them. Other advantages of traditional classroom environments come in the form of the dynamism between teachers and students, wherein the ability for students to pose questions, get immediate answers and analyze a particular issue based on the immediate input of the EFL teacher and his/her classmates is an aspect that would be missing if they utilized a social media tool. This dynamism creates a greater degree of interactivity that is more mentally appealing.

While online learning through the use of social media applications can enable an EFL student to practice English in almost the same manner as a traditional classroom environment, research into the manner in which interest in the subject is developed on a per-student basis shows that EFL students who study through online learning do not develop the same level of interest and motivation as their traditional learning environment counterparts. While there are some exceptions on a case-to-case basis, in most cases, interest is in a particular lesson is determined by the level of motivation one has for the course, and this is connected to the manner in which it is presented. One of the reasons behind such a disparity in interest is thus connected to the more “impersonal” method by which online lessons are presented, wherein there is limited contact between the learner and the student. EFL learners encounter a variety of challenges and issues in the classroom, regardless of which modality that class is offered. What this discussion has shown is that at the heart of the matter is the necessity of increasing motivation to learn English as well as enabling EFL students to have greater levels of experience in utilizing English on a daily basis. It is due to this that the use of social media as a teaching tool does present itself as a potentially viable method to utilize.

Recommendations

Improving Communicative Competence in EFL through Social Media utilization to improve cognition and group performance

Introduction

When it comes to the various lessons involved in EFL and its integration with social media, what should be taken into consideration is the fact that any attempt to complete an EFL course should be made in a systematized and orderly fashion in order for it to be completed efficiently and correctly. A course cannot simply be finished on the spot or at random but rather requires planning and organizing in order for it to be accomplished. Is due to this paper proposes the creation of a social media system specifically for the school that runs using English. Having students participate in online discussions through the use of the social media tools provided would enable students to gain more experience and, as a result, be able to utilize English better.

In order to bring this about, what is needed is to organize the class in such a way that everyone has their own role in accomplishing, which contributes to the completion of the course. The reason behind this reasoning was a focus on the completion of tasks and assignments and lesson organization, and the development of better learning activities. The recommended start is to create a system wherein each member of the EFL class acts as an integral part of the system in order to get the lessons underway and completed. For instance, the EFL teacher can assign students to create questions and post them on the social media application of the school, and it would be the responsibility of other members of the class to respond to the question and create a relevant discussion. During the initial stages of the inception of this idea, the researcher realized that for a class to act as a proper system, each individual’s role should be properly set and instructed in order for a few problems to occur. Any overlapping of tasks should be minimized in order to reduce confusion. The reason for this is due to the fact that while everything may start out alright with each member of the class contributing to the lesson as a whole, there may be tapering off later on wherein the focus would be on just completing the lessons than actually contributing to the lesson plan as a whole. The researcher believes that in terms of developing better communicative competence, a greater degree of synergy is needed. It is due to this that when creating topics for students to discuss on social media, teachers should make them interesting and relevant enough that students would want to actually discuss and defend their position and arguments rather than contribute something nonsensical for the sake of contributing.

Synergy refers to the way in which two or more people work together towards a particular goal that normally would not be achievable had they tried to work on it by themselves. It refers to the inherent characteristic of people within a class to have the ability to work together as a team towards a particular goal. Based on the researcher’s own experience during the class lessons, it can be stated that proper synergy is the key to being able to get anything done since if two EFL students cannot synergize towards completing a particular goal, then it is unlikely that the goal can be completed within a given time frame. During the creation of discussions and the use of social media applications, the EFL students need to be encouraged to work together in order to accomplish the task they were assigned to. However, what should be avoided are instances where students begin arguing and bickering as to how to properly accomplish the task they were given. From this, it seems that proper synergy in task completion cannot be achieved by merely sticking two people to work together on a particular aspect of the project, but it appears that a proper working relationship needs to be established as well in order for the people concerned to be actually able to work together. This working relationship requires the use of open channels of communication, cooperation, and the desire to actually get something completed. To do so, teachers need to be able to create topics of interest that would truly encourage EFL students to contribute to an online EFL discussion with their own unique points of view. Once these factors have been established, then it actually becomes a simple matter to finish the lesson together. From this aspect of the course, the researcher came to understand that in most collaborative works, what needs to be established from the beginning is a proper working relationship. As such, by creating methods necessary to communicate and collaborate effectively from the beginning, a class can properly synergize on particular aspects of a lesson in order to complete it quickly and efficiently. Online EFL discussions can be integrated per lesson as a way to determine how much further along in utilizing new lessons a class is.

Social media helps in making the Class Think

Coming up with ideas is not as simple as it would appear to be. In any class activity, a single person (i.e., the instructor) cannot be held responsible for coming up with all the topics that could possibly be covered; rather, every member of the class needs to cooperate and communicate their ideas in order to come up with an effective plan in completing a lesson. In the case of the creation of an online social media tool to encourage English usage, the researcher determined that one of the best ways of making the class think as a whole was to create an open platform to voice out ideas and have each member comment on the worth of the idea, whether there were some problems with it, or if there were a few ways in which the idea could be improved. This is the discussion aspect that was presented earlier on in this section of the paper; however, in this case, it is the teacher that presents the idea, and it would be the students who have the responsibility to build upon it. An open platform of communication is a far more effective means of resolving an issue or contemplating a lesson since it is not just one person thinking but rather several individuals looking at a problem from different angles in order to find a solution. In the end, by using this method, a class can come up with several effective ideas, improve on them using each person’s comments and, as a result, come up with an effective overview of the lesson that was presented. This encourages original thinking and the use of English in new ways in order to communicate the opinion of a particular EFL student on how they would solve an issue.

Social Media Bridges the Cultural Gap and Influences Communication

Before proceeding, it should be noted that culture definitely influences methods of communication and actually results in differing opinions regarding particular subjects. Even in situations where all of us are part of the same religion, each individual has inherited unique aspects of culture and customs from their regions, and, as such, this results in a diverse setting in which people try to communicate their ideas. When people communicate, their ideas and habits are often influenced by the cultural setting in which they have come from. In the past, the research experienced setting a setting where they had been in a group with different cultures, and in each of these settings, each individual voiced opinions that were clearly set from their own cultural perspectives. During the course exercises, it was also clear that the cultural influence of individual members played distinct roles in influencing opinions, and, as such, the researcher believes that in any group setting, cultural influences should be taken into consideration as a method of determining appropriate responses during periods of communication.

Social media helps in Perception Checking

In developing and presenting ideas to a class, it is important to take note of whether or not the person or people being spoken to actually understand the contents of what you are speaking about. When it comes to communicative competence within the course, it is important to check whether the instructions/lesson being given to the various members of the class have been perceived in the way they should be. It is important for teachers and lesson planners to ensure that the instructions they give are understood in the way that they are meant to be understood. This can be done by either asking questions or verifying instructions, an action which was at times unfortunately not done during some EFL courses, which resulted in numerous mistakes being made here and there that could have been avoided if only the class had verified that the instructions were perceived correctly. This is one aspect that teachers should note when it comes to utilizing social media since they should note the grammatical mistakes students make during social media discussions to help them correct such issues when they are in class.

Social Media in Improving Communicative Competence

When it comes to communication and collaboration, each culture has its own unique means of communication, whether formally or informally, that may significantly differ from one’s own culture. This needs to be taken into consideration when it comes to teaching EFL students. One of the inherent problems when it comes to utilizing social media as a teaching tool is that it lacks such aspects and, as a result, detracts from its overall effectiveness. Not all language patterns can readily be transferred from a book or a piece of text; what is needed is for a teacher to provide sufficient context so that a learner can understand. One of the essential “rules,” so to speak, within the context of intercultural and intra-language competence theory is that what is applicable within one culture or language may not be necessarily applicable to another. This results in the need to help students understand the formal and informal rules of communication, which cannot be done through social media tools yet can be made in classrooms. As such, this shows that while social media can be used as a teaching tool, it cannot be utilized as a primary method of teaching EFL students.

From this section, it can be seen that what is defined as appropriate and fine within the language setting of a culture may be completely different in another. This creates the need to take into consideration different cultural attitudes and mannerisms when it comes to discussing aspects related to a language.

Conclusion

Based on what has been presented in this paper, it can be seen that the best way to integrate social media into the current lesson format of EFL courses in Saudi Arabia is to create online forums or discussion boards where students are encouraged to communicate primarily in English. Do note that there are various types of software that do exist at the present that enables teachers to examine the proper usage of grammar, syntax, and vocabulary in a digital conversation. Through such software programs, teachers are able to determine the current capacity of students to utilize the English language based on the results of the software. Not only does this enable teachers to determine the current level of students when it comes to their capacity to utilize English in its written form, but it also enables them to determine what mistakes students are more prone to making and adjust lessons accordingly in order to address such an issue. It is based on this assessment that the implementation of social media tools into the EFL learning process becomes a plausible option for EFL teachers in Saudi Arabia.

It is in this regard that in order to resolve issues regarding the origins of the EFL lesson internalization found in students in Saudi Arabia today, what has been done in this paper has been an investigation into present-day teaching practices regarding vocabulary, what methods have schools been implementing in order to prepare a student’s vocabulary skills for their next stage of EFL academic achievement and whether such methods actually create positive results. This paper has investigated various strategies related to teaching EFL in order to help readers understand the theoretical basis behind several of today’s most popular strategies when it comes to helping students of all age groups attain a better grasp of their respective vocabularies and how to utilize them in regard to their academic achievement. All teachers should be concerned about the level of vocabulary internalization developed by their students since this dictates their level of academic performance in regards to being able to understand and articulate the subject matter being presented.

Based on the document analysis, this paper asserts that teachers and universities should be honest regarding what students should expect from the EFL lesson or the course a student enters into. They should not promise grandiose dreams only to give them a poor offering. This creates the cognitive dissonance that detracts from a student’s learning experience and, as such, makes an educator/ educational institution partially or maybe even fully responsible for a student’s poor performance. One way of rectifying this situation is to help ease students into an understanding of what they are getting into when it comes to learning EFL and utilize social media tools as a means of having them gain more experience outside of the classroom. Rather than presenting students with a reward (i.e., a promised great lesson or a fantastic vocabulary), educators and colleges should inform them truthfully of what a particular course/lesson entails and give them a brief overview of its positive and negative elements.

The point is not to create any set expectations but rather to ease students into making their own choices and decisions when it comes to their EFL education. It was Human choice is actually a contributing factor toward performance since in instances where people were given a choice of actions, no matter how negative the outcome, performance levels did not decrease as much as compared to instances where people were either not given a choice or were given a false set of assumptions. It is based on this that in order to maintain a certain degree of EFL student performance for particular lessons or courses involving vocabulary, it is important to adjust expectation levels early on so as to ensure that students are fully presented with a choice and know what they are getting into so as to ensure steady performance levels instead of subsequent drops. Thus social media tools, in this case, act as a familiar and easily acceptable way for students to transition into utilizing English more prolifically in their everyday activities.

Social Media and Understanding Language Functions

What this section has taught me is that there are certain subtleties in language wherein each culture has its own different nuances when it comes to communication. Some are more direct, some are indirect, and however, what is similar across the broad range of cultures is the necessity to develop an understanding that people from different cultures may have a distinctly different view and way of understanding as compared to your own.

From this section, the researcher has realized that not all cultural groups are created equal; in fact, each member of different cultural groups has different strengths and weaknesses when it comes to communicating and sharing ideas. It must also be noted that this extends to differences in their overall competence in being able to communicate ideas effectively as well as being able to understand and accomplish tasks correctly. As such, for future communications with such cultures, greater care and understanding should be implemented, and, as such, this should result in fewer problems during the actual communication and collaboration process itself. What was learned was that when there are differences in individual competencies when it comes to communication, one person communicating an idea should not immediately assume everyone knows what they are talking about.

Independence within the learning process can be defined as “the freedom to choose one’s learning objectives, learning activities, and methods of evaluation. This assumes not only that there are alternatives available but also that the individual is aware of these alternatives and free from coercion regarding their choice. Such a concept is attributable to present-day EFL students who do require a considerable degree of independence when it comes to their individual methods of learning. As it has been revealed in other literary sources that have been examined in this paper thus far, concepts related to autonomy, choice, and the ability to choose the manner in which they learn are processes that are necessary for EFL students in order to be able to learn within a setting of their choice. The concept of independent learning can be thought of as a manner in which these varied needs are solidified into a distinct whole wherein it can be stated that independence is a major component of the framework necessary for EFL students to actually obtain an advanced degree. Without a degree of independence in the manner in which they study, it is likely that they would be unable to cope with the learning process and would most likely drop out of the course, distance-learning or otherwise.

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