Rey Junco’s favorite color is purple. He also mixes beats on his laptop. Electro beats, to be exact. And he’s got an energetic, friendly voice and enthusiasm for online platforms that make him a particularly good candidate for studying social media. Rey, a Berkman Center faculty associate and Youth and Media Lab Mentor, looks at how Twitter and other social networking platforms can be used by instructors to enhance student academic success. In this podcast, Luisa Beck talks with Rey about how these platforms can increase student engagement, what ‘engagement’ in different contexts may mean, and about some of the research questions he’s currently pursuing.
Rey outlines his 2012 study “Putting twitter to the test: Assessing outcomes for student collaboration, engagement and success”, in which he finds that the use of Twitter in educationally relevant ways can increase student engagement and even lead to better grades. He explains that students get a lot more excited about using social media for class discussions than learning management systems like Moodle, Blackboard, or Desire2Learn. In his research, Rey also found that the quality of discussions about class material is better on social networking sites than on learning management systems.
This year, Rey wants to study how online anonymity may allow introverted students to feel more comfortable being creative, voicing their opinions and experimenting in online spaces. Scholars refers to this as the “online disinhibition effect” which, as Rey explains, would be when normally shy students who wouldn’t risk saying something “dumb” in the physical classroom, may feel less anxious about sharing anonymously or pseudonymously online. Rather than focusing on the incivility (such as cyberbullying and name calling) that media often associate with online anonymity, Rey’s goal is to focus on such positive opportunities. He hypothesizes that when otherwise inhibited students receive responses to the thoughts they share or questions they ask online, it will give them validation. In turn, this may encourage them to share their thoughts and ask questions in the classroom and other physical spaces.