Conceptions of Social Media and its Role in Supporting Networked Learning: A Global South Perspective through Student Teachers in Namibia

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Conceptions of Social Media and its Role in Supporting Networked Learning: A Global South Perspective through Student Teachers in Namibia


M.A. Thesis (Education) - "Social media are technologies that have been widely appropriated in students’ daily lives. This has resulted in increasing research interest in the potential supportive role that social media can offer in learning contexts. To date a lot of research in the area of technology in education in general and social media in particular, has concentrated in the global north. This thesis contributes to the discussion offering a global south perspective from a small-scale study, but still of insightful significance. The aim of the research was to investigate student teachers’ relationships with social media with the focus on their conceptions and uses of social media in their daily lives and how they perceive the potential of adopting social media to support their learning. This is a qualitative study using Phenomenography as a research approach. Data was collected through focus group interviews using open-ended questions. The theoretical framework employed in the study combined technology appropriation theory and learning theory from Vygotsky’s sociocultural perspective as well as the concept of networked learning. Technology appropriation was used to conceptualise how social media was appropriated by students in their daily lives, while the sociocultural and networked learning theories provided the theoretical lenses for interrogating the adoption of social media in learning. The participants in this study were student teachers at a university in Namibia. They were identified using the purposive sampling method, and they represented two different teaching programmes and three different year groups. In total, 19 students participated through 3 focus group interviews. The research findings show that research participants conceptualise social media as mainly social platforms for communication, bridging social relationships and for expanding social networks. Their use of social media reflects their conceptions, while also showing tensions regarding online and real-life identities. There were variations in perceptions of online identities, with some participants viewing them as separate from real-life identities, and others considering social media identities to be direct representations of real-life behaviour. The findings also show that social networking sites like Facebook were the dominantly used types of social media, and mainly accessed through mobile phones. Students’ perceptions of social media as supportive learning tools show recognition of the learning affordances that the technologies offer, with evidence that students were already informally using social media to support their own and their peers’ learning. Futhermore, findings show how students recognise the supportive role of social media in lifelong learning and their professional development as teachers. They indicated how social media can be used to create learning communities and supportive professional networks to foster collaboration amongst themselves as teachers. Issues of appropriate usage of social media on the basis of exposure to and sharing of content were identified. Concerns about lack of control over content shared and about privacy were additional findings. The limitations of this research lie in the fact that it was limited to a small group of participants. The purposive sampling method used to identify research participants may also have led to bais in favour of only students who used social media and were interested in talking about it. However, this was necessary for methodological reasons since only participants with actual experience in using social media were in a position to share such experiences. Conclusions highlight how the research findings corroborate previous research, that students predominantly use social media for social purposes, and the popularity of the social networking site Facebook. Conclusions further suggest that decisions on the use of social media in formal learning should be guided by pedagogical goals and learning needs that the technologies can meet. Pedagogical interventions to articulate the learning affordances of social media are suggested and cautions about the conceptual tensions between the nature of social media and the practices of formal education are highlighted. Critical media literacy is recommended to equip students with competencies to critically deal with content consumption and sharing on social media. Future research is recommended to focus on pedagogical and learning appropriation of social media."


Erkkie Haipinge



University of Oulu









Erkkie Haipinge, “Conceptions of Social Media and its Role in Supporting Networked Learning: A Global South Perspective through Student Teachers in Namibia,” Namibia Digital Repository, accessed June 23, 2024,

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