Sunday, March 2, 2008

Learning from Facebook

The phenomenon of social networking sites (e.g., Facebook) requires researchers' consideration because the use of Facebook has spread dramatically. There are 55 million registered Facebook users worldwide (Facebook website, 2007). Due to Facebook's digital compositions, users can generate not only linguistic forms but also visual images (e.g. photos and video and audio clips) which increase their meaning transmissions in online communications. The digital composition of Facebook allows users to generate not only linguistic forms but also visual images which increase their meaning transmissions in on-line communications, especially across potential language barriers.

In fact, immigrant students' human, social, and intercultural capitals are intertwined while engaging in Facebook. Human capital is defined by Suarez-Orozco and Suarez-Orozco (2001) as education, resource, and skill. Social capital refers to networks and connections (Suarez-Orozco & Suarez-Orozco, 2001). Intercultural capital is defined by Luke (2004) as "the capacity to engage in acts of knowledge, power and exchange across time/space divides and social geographies, across diverse communities, populations and epistemic stances" (p. 229). Immigrant students' hybrid semiotic performances on their Facebook profile pages help them create transcultural identities, make friends with native and non-native English speakers, and connect themselves with the global audience. Through exploiting diverse linguistic and multimodal strategies, immigrant students are able to use Facebook to reach out in the mainstream society. In summary, Facebook provides immigrant students with a supportive and playful environment to build a strong social relationship with their classmates, friends, and even school teachers. In this spirit, the issue of how to integrate the advantage of this technology into teaching requires the attention from both school teachers and researchers.

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