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Facilitating Traditional Study Abroad Goals for the Smartphone Generation


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This presentation was given at the NAFSA Region V Conference in November. The content deals with technology and how it has affected students' abilities to communicate effectively, as well as their ability to achieve their goals related to studying abroad.

Published in: Education, Business, Technology
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Facilitating Traditional Study Abroad Goals for the Smartphone Generation

  1. 1. Agenda Introduction of Presenters Presentation of Topic Background Information Overview of Survey and Results Understanding the Effects of Social Media and Technology Implications for Education Abroad Embracing Technology and Using it as a Tool Discussion
  2. 2. Presenters Christie Johnson  Vice President for University Relations, Academic Programs International Jason Kouba  Assistant Director for Study Abroad, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse Susan Pham  Study Abroad Coordinator, Viterbo University
  3. 3. The Initial Questions:Effects of Social Media & Technology  Have modern technology and social media affected the current generation’s ability to attain their goals?  Has technology impacted this generation’s ability to communicate effectively?  What about language acquisition? Are students really improving their language skills while abroad?  Does the prevalence of modern technology and access to social media limit opportunities for cultural integration?
  4. 4. How pervasive is social media? Recent study by the Center for Marketing Research at Umass Dartmouth: 100% of surveyed universities use social media to communicate with students. More than 800 million people have active Facebook accounts. More than 350 million active users access Facebook via their mobile devices. In 2010, the average number of tweets sent per day was 50 million. In 2011, the average grew to 140 million. There are more than 200 million blogs.
  5. 5. How pervasive is social media?
  6. 6. Assumptions…Before we researched, we believed based on our ownobservations that: Students have become reliant on tools such as spell-check and auto-fill, and use “text talk” so frequently that their writing skills have deteriorated Texting lingo and the Twitter phenomenon have rendered students disinterested in reading or writing more than the bare minimum, and prohibit students from fully learning the nuances of language
  7. 7. Assumptions, cont’d. Emoticons and texting have led to a generation that can summarize complex emotions within just a few characters: = “I’m a little sad, or “I am so depressed I may not get out of bed today so you should probably be concerned about my mental well-being.” LOL = “You are witty” or “I just said something that could be construed as critical or cruel, but if I add these three capitalized characters, it will appear that I am just kidding.” IANAC = ? (Hint: one of the most commonly quoted political lines of all time, so why wouldn’t we have an abbreviation for it?)ILY = “I love you”, or “I have managed to water down the most complex andanalyzed human emotion into three characters.” Students spend so much time on social media and connected with those at home that it impairs their ability to integrate with the host culture Modern technology and social media have impeded the attainment of student goals
  8. 8. The Future of Communication?
  9. 9. And why did we assume as we did? ”I am interested in studying in a countywheretheyspeakenglish. Ormaybe in englanddorscotlandd.” Scholarshipapplicationsinvolveheartwrenchingstorie s, oftenconcluded with . Informal correspondence with professionals and faculty: “hey I was wondering if my packet is on its way.” “I loved every part of my homestay experience. Especially my host brother. LOL.”
  10. 10. What we did Designed surveys to assess student goals, trends in communication, and the use of technology and social media Surveys were sent to students and faculty from API partner institutions, Viterbo University, and UW-La Crosse  Communication and Psychology Faculty  Language Faculty  Study Abroad Alumni  Students Planning to Study Abroad
  11. 11. Faculty Surveys Has the quality of student written work changed? How has technology and social media affected the manner in which people communicate - academically? Professionally? In writing? Do you use social media or blogging for instructional purposes? Where have you seen the most linguistic improvement among study abroad alumni?
  12. 12. Faculty Surveys
  13. 13. Faculty Feedback: Negative Impact on Quality of Writing “Incomplete sentences, slang, and inattention to audience are commonplace.” “There is much more informal usage, which sifts/drifts into formal written assignments.” “Students tend to write as they speak or text.” E-mails and even written assignments look like long text messages! Students are so used to abbreviating words, etc. that this now shows up in their overall communication. “You cannot express complex thought in 140 characters or less.” “Correct spelling is optional.”
  14. 14. Faculty Feedback: Effect on Communication 85% of respondents indicated that social media has affected the manner in which people communicate in an academic or formal setting.
  15. 15. Effects on Language Learning
  16. 16. Outbound Student Surveys What are your top five goals for studying abroad? What concerns you most about studying abroad? Students were asked to select and rank their goals/concerns from a list we provided. Surveys allowed student to add one “other” goal/concern.
  17. 17. Outbound Student Goals
  18. 18. Goals: Outbound Students Most common:  Language learning was the goal most commonly selected as #1. (45.1%)  60.2% cited language learning among their top 5 goals.  Explore a new country and travel to new places most commonly cited among top 5. (83.8%) Least common:  Learn what it is to be an American: 8.5%  Meet locals: 21.2%  Enhance resume: 25.4%
  19. 19. Concerns: Outbound Students Most common:  Money was the most commonly selected as #1. (46.5%)  72.9% of students selected money among their top 5 concerns.  Being away from loved ones was second most commonly selected: 55.9% Least common: Limited access to the Internet (21%)  Access assumed?  Host city/country?
  20. 20. Alumni: Pre-Departure Goals Most common:  Language learning: 48.9% of respondents cited this as their primary goal, and 56% of students included this among their top 5 goals.  32.1% cited explore a new country and travel to new places as their primary goal, and 81% included this among their top 5 goals.  45.6% cited meeting people and forming lasting relationships among their top 5 goals. Least commonly cited among top 5 goals:  Learn what it is to be an American: 9.3%  Enhance resume: 19%
  21. 21. Social media or technology helped me to reach my goals. 45.6% of respondents said yes Common themes  Kept up with on-site program activities and local events through social media  Facilitated travel planning/participation in local events  Cheaper than cell phones – alleviated cost concerns  Allowed for greater contact with loved ones at home (reduced homesickness)  Communicated both on-site and upon return in host country language  Most common: It allowed me to connect and maintain contact with fellow participants and locals, which facilitated one of my top priorities, that of forming lasting relationships.
  22. 22. Social media or technology helped me to reach my goals. “It helped me to document my amazing time abroad.” “My iphone was invaluable in actually finding places and getting around.” “Reflecting in my blog about my experiences and uploading my pictures enabled me to mark my progress – individually, intellectually, linguistically.” “I was able to talk to everyone, as if i never left.”
  23. 23. Social media or technology helped me to reach my goals. 54.4% of respondents said no. Common themes  Students restricted their use of devices and social media, either intentionally or as a result of access issues  Did not want to miss opportunities to explore/integrate  Detracted from my language learning
  24. 24. Social media or technology helped me to reach my goals. “i was focused more on actually being in rome, rather than keeping up with everything at home.” “I spent a lot of time skyping with my boyfriend and talking to friends when I could have been out exploring.” “Sometimes I was way too introverted. I spent too much time on the internet, hiding in my room, and not enough time hanging out with my host family.” “In this day and age, social networking is the norm. It is up to you to go out and accomplish what it is you want to accomplish.”
  25. 25. What would you have done differently in regard to reaching your goals? Common themes:  Spent more time with locals (55 respondents = 21.1%)  Spoken the host country language more (40 respondents = 15.3%)  Stayed longer  Traveled more When answering this question, not one person specifically indicated that they would have limited their use of technology or social media. (This did come through indirectly through comments on using the host country language more and making greater efforts to meet locals.) Only 2 people stated that they should not have stayed in such close contact with those at home.
  26. 26. What would you have done differently in regard to reaching your goals? “I would have never spoke English to anyone outside of the States.” “I would have kept a little journal to write down words I didn’t know…I would have watched more movies/TV, read more books/news, listened to more music – in Spanish.” “I would have tried to hang out with a wider group of people. I also probably should have asked for more directions.” “I would have relaxed my goals and focused on absorbing experiences, rather than judging myself based on my pre- conceived goals.”
  27. 27. Concerns regarding social media and technology when studying abroad Limits opportunities for language learning Students feel less inclined to make an effort to meet locals, interact with host families, engage in conversations with others The pervasive use of ipods and smartphones reduces student desire to watch local TV/news, listen to host country music, and observational learning opportunities Perpetuates homesickness by allowing students constant access to “what they are missing” Google maps – restricts need for independent navigation and interpersonal communication Students are too busy uploading pictures, posting status updates and blogging about their experiences that they neglect to actually “live in the moment.” Unrealistic expectations for immediate response Informality is not universally accepted, could result in offending locals
  28. 28. Lessons Learned Linguists have not been able to prove the theory that texting has impacted writing skills. Social media and the use of texting is considered a conversation, wherein the writer expects a response. Most teenagers, when surveyed, indicated that they do not consider texting or messaging to be “writing”. Social media is a way of life, and students often select this mode of communication because they are not comfortable with face-to-face conversations.  Is it unrealistic to expect them to change this inherent aspect of their personality over the course of a study abroad program is unrealistic.
  29. 29. Lessons Learned Social media CAN facilitate the achievement of student goals! Explore the local culture:  Video sharing websites and itunes allow students to download local TV shows, host country movies, and local music  Following local entities (musicians, artists, sports clubs, etc.) on FB or on Twitter can allow students to keep up with local events more easily. Meet locals/form lasting relationships:  “Friending” locals upon meeting them allows for students to keep in touch with those they meet, which can carry through after they return home  Skype allows students to talk (in their host country language) to locals, host families, and fellow students
  30. 30. Lessons Learned Social media CAN facilitate the achievement of student goals! Learn the language:  Students can change their language interface on social media sites.  Students can research “text talk” in their host country language. By learning how to abbreviate appropriately, students have to know the proper vocabulary. Become more independent/self-sufficient:  On-site staff have reported greater attendance and promptness for cultural events  Students are more comfortable navigating their host cities, planning travel
  31. 31. Lessons Learned Students of this generation are “digital natives”. They cannot remember a time when they did not have Internet access. Children are using iPods and iPads and the Internet at very young ages. We MUST work within this context to assist students as they strive to reach their goals.
  32. 32. Using Twitter Effectively Use Twitter to prompt students to think about one aspect of their host culture. Provide links to relevant sites or resources. Can be used to suggest means of reaching their goals.  Did you choose to study abroad to learn Spanish? Have you tried an intercambio?  Did you know that one of the best ways to meet local Irish students is to join a University of Limerick club or sports!
  33. 33. Using Twitter Effectively
  34. 34. Using Twitter Effectively
  35. 35. Using Twitter Effectively
  36. 36. Using Facebook Effectively
  37. 37. Using Facebook EffectivelyOn-site staff can communicate in host country language with students:
  38. 38. Using Facebook Effectively: Reminders
  39. 39. E-Readers, iPads and iPods
  40. 40. E-Readers, iPads and iPods Uses for E-Readers: local authors, newspapers and magazines, travel guides Podcasts
  41. 41. Blogging Blogging is an opportunity to reflect on one’s experiences. Self-reflection is an important component to personal growth. Encourage blogging in host country language Remind students that blogs are publically accessible! Recommended blogs  Local bloggers  Alumni  Tie into scholarships?
  42. 42. Youtube and Hulu Use videos for PDOs and on-site orientations: night-live-encounter-with-martine
  43. 43. Youtube and HuluFor Re-Entry
  44. 44. Discussion Is your campus using social media to engage students? What has worked on your campus? For your students? What do you see as the next big thing in social media? Will you embrace the technology, or fight it????
  45. 45. In Conclusion… 96.6% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed with the statement “I successfully accomplished my study abroad goals.” Not one respondent disagreed or strongly disagreed; 2 were neutral.
  46. 46. Thank you! This presentation and all citations will be available on:   