Social Dynamics: Leveraging Online Social Networks to Shape Science Identities and Support Learning Science Concepts in Middle School Students

Social Dynamics is an exploratory project to investigate how face-to-face teaching leveraging the use of an online social network learning platform (SNLP) can increase middle school students' science learning and enhance their development of contextual identities related to science.

Full Description: 

Social Dynamics is an exploratory project to investigate how face-to-face teaching leveraging the use of an online social network learning platform (SNLP) can increase middle school students' science learning and enhance their development of contextual identities related to science. Units from the recently developed and tested Ocean System Sciences (OSS) curriculum are the basis for the instruction. All six teachers receive professional development in the first summer and teach the OSS in year one. Testing is carried out with the same teachers in years two and three. The design-based research generates evidence about how teachers can use a Facebook-like social network platform, My Big Campus, which is currently used by school districts nationwide to complement face-to-face classroom instruction. The project investigates the ways engagement in an SNLP supports student science identity development and learning; the instructional practices that support engagement in an SNLP; how teachers use these practices to support learning and shape student science identities; and the relationships that exist between student science identities and learning within the face-to-face and SNLP contexts.

To disassociate the impacts of the SNLP and identity on learning, two teachers from Oakland Unified School District use only face-to-face instruction. One only uses science learning strategies; the other employs identity strategies in addition to the science learning strategies. In San Diego, two sets of two teachers use both face-to-face and SNLP - one set using only science learning strategies and the other set using both science learning and identity strategies. Teachers are assigned randomly to the science only and science plus identity implementations and will be separated during professional development. Twelve students, who exhibit online behaviors that stand out, are selected for in-depth interviews. The analyses requires sophisticated data tracking systems that allow for student scores to be linked over the period of one year, and students to be linked to their teachers over the course of one year.

This project should contribute to the scarce research about the effectiveness of the use of social media in science instruction.

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