IT'S close to 11am on Friday. English teacher Adibah Omar from SMK TTDI Jaya in Shah Alam prepares for her additional class for the afternoon session students who are in Form 2.
Five minutes before her class starts, eight students walk into the classroom, some with mobile phones and others hold Google Chromebook laptops.
While the students take their seats at a round tablewith their devices, Adibah switches on her laptop and projector.
Adibah's smartphone then beeps, signalling it's 11am. She quickly starts the Facebook Live session from Unipac SMK TTDI Jaya’s Facebook page and unipac_smkttdijaya’s Instagram page.
Looks can be deceiving in this classroom. While there are only eight students in her class, more than 100 are following her lesson at home, almost all the Form 2 students.
SOCIAL MEDIA ADVANTAGE
Since March this year, Adibah, with the assistance of Dr Nurhasmiza Abu Hasan Sazalli, a researcher from Universiti Teknologi Malaysia Language Academy, has been using social media as a teaching platform.
“Socal media, such as Facebook and Instagram, are already a part of the students' life. Why not take advantage of them and use them in a teaching and learning environment?” she asks.
Adibah is using FB Live and Instagram Live to conduct her extra classes for the students.
“Traditional extra classes were always dreadful for both teachers and students since both parties have to put in extra hours. But since there is a need to do it, why not do it in a more fun way?” she asks.
Adibah does not really see the need for extra classes, especially if she has achieved her teaching objectives in her actual lessons. Nonetheless, enrichment sessions are significant to further enhance her students' understanding of the subject.
“To get students excited about extra classes (which they rarely are), I would have to think of a way to incorporate technology into the programme. Hence, the eChampion; Learning Through Facebook Live Programme,” she says.
The social platform is not just used to teach English but other subjects as well such as Bahasa Malaysia, Maths and Science.
HOW IT WORKS
The use of social media as a learning platform started with WhatsApp but the students want something which allows them to see the teacher's face, hence the use of Facebook Live and Instagram Live.
The class is conducted in a very casual manner. Adibah will project whatever she wants to teach on a whiteboard and point her smartphone to the projected content with Facebook Live on. Nurhasmiza is present to see the progress of the live learning session.
Looking at how the class is conducted, the students are obviously keen on this kind of teaching.
When a question is asked, they will respond quickly. The correct answer will get “Likes” and “Loves” from all the students and Adibah.
A lot of emoticons are used by the students and they are not afraid to ask questions.
Nurhasmiza says although social media like Facebook and Instagram are originally designed for entertainment, it has a lot of potential to be made into a teaching-learning platform.
“If the teachers are creative, they will not intrude the social space of students and can in fact encourage them to learn. It has been proven in this project,” she says.
Nurhasmiza will soon come out with a module on how social media and smartphones can be used for teaching and learning.
WHY SOCIAL MEDIA
For Adibah, she needs to keep on being relevant to her students.
“Students always look forward to learning from teachers who are connected to all up-to-date things. Since technology is an integral part of their lives, I figured I must somehow use it in teaching,” she says.
She started with using at least one technology-related tool or item— using Chrome Books in lessons or even getting the students to create hashtags to conclude their learning for the day.
“Since these items are solely beneficial in my own lessons only, I realised that FB Live can be more widely used to benefit a larger number of students. It is such a wonderful tool since students are able to give us real-time responses, and they can always come back to it anytime they need to in the future.
“They realise that learning can take place anywhere and at anytime, and that a social media tool can be a beneficial educational tool instead of merely being used for socialising.”
Another teacher who has embarked on the social media platform is Shimah Wahab who teaches English at SMK Merbok in Kedah.
Wanting to be relevant to her students, she decided that social media is the way to go.
“I went to a MELTA (Malaysian English Language Teaching Association) course and one of the presenters asked the audience: ‘How relevant are you to your students?’ and ‘How relevant are you in today's teaching profession?’. It has kept me on my toes since.
“I try to make my students stay interested in learning the language by using ‘tools’ that they are using — social media in particular,” she says.
She uses WhatsApp for after-school discussions or anything to do with school. Wechat is used to post announcements which are posted on “Moments”.
However, her favourite is YouTube.
Shimah started using YouTube when she was at SMK Labu Besar, Kulim.
“I mostly used it for music videos or parodies,” she says. “At first, it was used during breaks between lessons. Then, I started using it to make video clips of my students performing or presenting. I saw how their confidence in using the language rose.
“It motivated me to learn how to use video editing software. And guess what? The students actually taught me how. Never underestimate the power of intrinsic motivation. They were interested in video editing and noticed that everything was in English.
One major advantage of using WhatsApp and Wechat in Shimah's teaching is the lesson goes beyond the classroom without her being physically there.
“They get extra information or even private tuition and it's free,” she says.
By using YouTube in her lessons, the advantages are boundless.
“It makes classes more interesting. Who doesn't like watching clips on YouTube? I get to share them with my friends, and students also get to share them with their family and friends as well.
“It acts like a diary, both for me and the students. After they leave school, they still get to visit ‘the good ol days’,” she says, adding that the students love it.
“They started to become independent learners, ask questions instead of me asking them, share links to videos related to lessons I had taught them, start speaking English outside of the classroom and even after school, and start to post quotes and articles in English on their Moments or FB page,” she says.
“Basically, they started to accept English as a second language instead of an alien language,” she adds.
Shimah feels her students are very creative.
“Just tell them what you want but don't tell them how you want it to be done. Let them surprise you. They are my inspiration.
“Next, I will improve on what I am already doing currently and add on animation in the process. I will try my best to showcase more of my students’ hidden talents through social media because it's the tool used by most of them.
“I want to stay relevant so that instead of merely learning with them, I get to share what we learn with the rest of the world,” she concludes.
Visit SMK Merbok EnglishCrew FB Page at https://www.facebook.com/englishcrewsmkm/