With the SA National Senior Certificate Exams set to kick off in two weeks’ time, matrics should now start putting the final touches on their preparation for probably the most important exams in their lives. And in this period of revision, these learners have a surprising ally: social media, if used correctly, can give them just the right boost to make them perform at their best, an expert says.
Wonga Ntshinga, Senior Head of Programme at The Independent Institute of Education, SA’s leading private higher education institution, says social media is no longer just good for fun and games, and has stepped up to become a resource to be reckoned with for learners serious about their studies.
“We have noticed how particularly four platforms - WhatsApp, YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – are being harnessed for revision,” says Ntshinga.
He says that the various platforms are being used in different ways, each one according to its strengths.
“WhatsApp Messenger is being used as a cross-platform mobile messaging application to create study groups,” he says.
“For instance, a group will be called G12_Science_Class_SchoolName. Members of that group then discuss issues concerning the study materials, questions, papers and even admin issues around particular exams. Because WhatsApp Messenger is available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Phone and Nokia, many learners are able to collaborate on this platform regardless of device.
“WhatsApp also allows users to send each other unlimited images, video and audio messages. So, you can create a video of how you solved a particular Mathematics equation or Physical Science experience and share it with your group. Alternatively, you can record a tutorial and pass it on to your peers.”
Ntshinga says that another popular option is YouTube, the video-sharing service, from where videos can be viewed over a myriad of devices, including mobile, TV and laptop.
“YouTube has many videos related to Grade 12 content. For instance, if you search for “Grade 12 Physical Science”, you will get an extensive list of videos that may be helpful in your preparations. Or you could narrow your search to a particular area that you find challenging.”
Ntshinga says learners should however be warned, and potentially assisted by their teachers, parents or guardians, in order to avoid stumbling upon inappropriate content.
Additionally, downloading videos could be expensive because of data charges, so it might be necessary to view such videos in libraries or other areas where free Wi-Fi is available.
“Another great platform for collaborating with your peers in the lead-up to the exams, is Facebook Groups,” says Ntshinga.
“Here, your study group can share possible questions that can come up in the examination papers or use the group to post previous question papers. Each time your peers post important subject matter you will get a notification.”
Ntshinga says it is important however to mute notifications while studying, as incoming messages could become a distraction.
“Focus on what you are doing at the moment when in front of your books, and catch up on your notifications when taking a break,” he says.
Finally, learners can follow interesting topics and users on Twitter, Ntshinga advises.
“Some people consider Twitter to be a waste of time, but if used carefully, you can learn a lot,” he says.
“Follow interesting topics and users. For example, if you search #biology, you are presented with user @Molecular who tweets about the latest news, research, books and journals in molecular biology, cell biology, genetics and stem cells.”
Ntshinga says the platforms above, that gained popularity in recent years, provide educational accessibility from any device and location to improve learner reach while also increasing positive social interaction between learners.
“The use of technology, which has become so pervasive, gives the learners a self-service setting that is robust and user-friendly to learning new concepts and to connect with each other. Ideally all schools and higher education institutions should have ICT infrastructure to support the school operationally and academically. ICT solutions can promote learner-teacher performance; improve learner-teacher interaction and provide blended learning channels,” he says.
Ntshinga encourages parents and teachers to assist learners in accessing ICT tools both at home and at school, especially during this time of preparing for prelims and final exams.
“Many learners love technology and use it to the fullest. With technology costs having reduced drastically over the years, parents and teachers should consider making use of these tools as they can improve grades, participation, knowledge and confidence.
“Most importantly, they can help make learning just a little bit more fun.”