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This reluctance to integrate technology applies particularly to the newer generation of social networking sites, as educators are unfamiliar with many of them and others are afraid to cross inappropriate social boundaries, which could merge parts of their professional and social worlds Schwartz, Furthermore, investigations have yet to reveal information about students' attitudes regarding the integration of this resourceful website as a tool for sharing valuable learning experience in the context of foreign language classes, which is the focus of this study.

How is FB being used in the language classroom? How do students respond to the integration of this social networking site in courses? What are the attitudes of higher education foreign language learners towards the social networking website FB? And what is its role in new learning spaces and with today's learners? These questions, among others, need to be addressed in order to facilitate the educators' task of developing pedagogically meaningful activities using SNSs in higher education classrooms and to contribute to the growing body of research on SNSs.

Firstly we seek to investigate how SNS are used in a language course and how students responded to this use. Secondly we examine attitudes of language learners as teachers have not been particularly receptive to using FB in academic settings.

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Many teachers may not see benefits to using FB and therefore students are not accustomed to its use in academic settings. Therefore we wanted to find out if students' attitudes evolved before and after having used it in a class. Considering what we currently know about FB and its uses in education, as well as the considerations of SNSs by previous work, the following research questions were devised to guide this study. One of the researchers was also the instructor of the class; the other researcher assisted with the project from a distance.

The class, along with a partner class in France, used a group FB page created specifically for their course in which they participated in discussions that corresponded with themes presented in the course textbook. Since one of the course goals was to focus on honing communication skills, the use of FB forums was one way to assist students with that goal. Students also used Twitter , e-mail and Skype to promote different types of written and oral expression and communication.

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These out of class discussion opportunities related to in class material but extended discussion beyond the four walls of the classroom. Interaction took place among US students and with native French speakers enrolled in an English course in France. Due to the nature of the language exchange between the students in France and in the US, students used FB approximately twice a month both in their native language and in the target language.

A thematic probe was posted by the course instructors and students were then given a week to respond to the questions and to interact. Student autonomy was also targeted in this exercise as it was set up to help students find, recognize, and analyze resources on their own.

It also showed them how to develop their language skills autonomously outside of a classroom context. Students were awarded full credit if they responded with a post of at least 50 words; they were also given opportunities for limited extra credit by replying to others' posts.

Language Evolution, Acquisition, Adaptation and Change

The goals of using FB were to develop linguistic competencies, to exchange perspectives on a given cultural topic, to build community among learners in the US and in France and to extend learning outside of classroom. For the purposes of this exploratory study, only data from students in the US were examined by one of the researchers and by a research assistant.

The researcher and assistant constantly compared and calibrated their review of the data, to ensure that their assessments were similar as possible. Each source is discussed in more depth below. The surveys asked the participants questions about their familiarity with FB prior to engaging in the project as well as at the end of their project, their reactions, and other general questions regarding the usefulness of the project in the specific context.

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The survey was designed by the researchers for this project. Visiting FB has become a new routine for a large number of higher education students Cassidy, The data suggest, then, that almost all students were already familiar with and were regular users of this social networking tool. The bar charts Figures draw attention to the results.

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There are some striking differences in how students use FB personally as opposed to how they use it academically. For personal use, students primarily use functions such as viewing and posting video, posting to others' walls, checking friends' information and activities, sharing links and participating in chats. Educational uses, as reported by students, were quite different. For academic purposes, students commented that they participated primarily in groups and chats. Another interesting feature listed in the educational use of FB questionnaires is that students indicated that they rarely checked their friends or their teacher's information and activities.

Obtaining information about faculty is not a new concept in itself as earlier research investigations i. In addition, Mazer, Murphy and Simonds established that accessing information about instructors had a constructive impact on the classroom climate, and ultimately upon the motivation of the students. While students had access to additional information, they did not always choose to consult or use it. As to how students expected to use pre or used post FB with classmates in the US and in France, most indicated that they used the common discussion or the wall.

So in other words, using FB in this context created a very social experience that facilitated both communication and language practice for the students. Percentages of each response were calculated to make comparisons possible see Table 1. It is also important to note that other learning management systems like Blackboard or WebCT , can typically only be accessed by students taking a specific class.

A SNS such as FB allows students to be socially and academically connected with their classmates, instructor and native speakers as found in our study. I appreciated being able to discuss my thoughts related to French culture on FB.

Minor Shifts: Vocabulary and Sentence Mechanics

I will continue to use FB to communicate with French partners after the semester ends. In reply to the first question, students generally reported that they liked the use of FB for a variety of reasons, which fell under two main themes: a facilitation of communication among students and faculty — collaborative exchanges and b language and cultural exchange. Some of the students' responses follow. In terms of communication, one student mentioned that "it was a good way to read other people's perspectives both here and abroad" while another stated, "[I liked] sharing my opinions and hearing from my other classmates".

While the results were very positive, some students also brought up issues where they would like to see change. Since this activity was required and graded, students generally indicated that they read all of the posts and, in addition, often responded to others a few indicated that they rarely responded to others.

Transforming Academic Programs

Some indicated that they responded to others in order to gain extra points. Some students also brought up the point that they wished the French students had responded more often.

One student responded: "I don't believe something as personal as FB should be used too much for classroom activities" and another wanted a requirement to "add each other as friends". Since "friending" can be a delicate issue, students were not required to add each other as FB friends in a formal sense. Finally, students were asked how FB interaction has helped them to get to know and learn about their classmates.

Many praised the idea and valued the opinion sharing that happened as part of the discussions "I can see what they like to do. I am a visual learner so I can see what the culture is like as opposed to just talking about it". Others indicated that it was a "great way to get info and communicate" as well as exchange perspectives and views.

Figure 5 presents a visual picture of the Discussion Board used on FB. The total number of posts for each topic varied slightly but tended to range between 20 and 26; in addition there were at times up to 13 replies to others see Table 2 for more details on a particular topic.

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Although students were required to contribute as part of their course grade , there were times when they did not complete their FB assignment. Variations in the number of posts also occurred due to the fact that the French partners contributed on a voluntary basis so their participation was not consistent nor was it always regular. Number of Posts 7. At the end of the survey, students indicated that their favorite topic was the Roms. The forum asked students to respond to the following prompt prompts were sometimes given in French and other times in English.

There are several different names for the groups of people who travel. Do the names imply a difference in meaning?

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  6. Are these groups prevalent in both France and in the US? It happened on several occasions as seen in Figure 6 that one student tended to respond either entirely in French or English. Students indicated that they enjoyed this topic because they had not had any previous experience discussing it and this particular assignment allowed them to also develop knowledge about topics that made national headlines abroad, conduct research on the Internet and expand their critical thinking.

    One student noted that the teacher should "grade FB posts for completion, but also include corrections on grammar and spelling! So that we can learn from our mistakes". Due to the fact that the students were communicating with native speakers, who would tend to ask questions if meaning was impaired, the instructor did not provide consistent corrective feedback. In Figure 7, we see a lack of grammatical accuracy displayed by an American student. There are minor problems with verb tenses, conjugations, adjective agreement and prepositions to name a few. However, none of these problems affect the overall comprehension of the idea.

    This particular project did not focus on corrective feedback or grammatical accuracy; however, a closer look and analysis of FB posts could be helpful to educators in understanding the production level of students and what grammatical points should be reviewed or emphasized. Teachers should encourage spontaneous language practice but also provide linguistic feedback to students. Depending on the nature and purpose of the task, this type of feedback could take place in FB. In future projects the instructor will attempt to provide occasional grammatical feedback on posts as requested by students.

    Another means of feedback could be to provide grammar correction by way of native speaker partners. They identified a variety of beneficial aspects social and pedagogical linked to the integration of this SNS in their classrooms. For example, the students were graded on their contributions based on whether or not they were completed.