Social Media Literacy in the Advanced Arabic Classroom

By Navdeep Sokhey
Submitted to Session P4942 (New Perspectives on Literacy in TAFL, 2017 Annual Meeting
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
The current influx of online social network platforms and their ubiquitous presence in politics, business and various other domains has rapidly heightened the demand for social media literacy. For Arabic L2 learners, this entails attaining cultural competency and the appropriate skills to navigate not only varying non-standard forms of Arabic, but also internet jargon and slang terminology. While being social-media literate has become a real-world demand, the integration of social media competence into existing pedagogical frameworks lags greatly behind, and many L2 learners do not necessarily engage with social media in Arabic until well beyond the advanced level. Drawing on the Linguaculture and Critical Intercultural Literacies frameworks for integrating culture as an inseparable component to language teaching and learning (Agar 1994; Joukhadar 2016; Kern 2000; Pegrum 2008), the current study proposes a learning module designed for teaching social-media literacy in the Arabic classroom at the advanced level. The data is drawn from two advanced (third-year) Arabic classrooms at the University of Texas at Austin. A pre- and post-experiment survey was administered which measured the students’ experience with and confidence in using Arabic on social media. The main experiment was conducted on one of the two Arabic classes, and involved administering a series of 10-lesson modules allowing for in-depth analyses of the Arabic varieties used on social media (on platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Snapchat). The students in the experimental classroom also engaged in writing in Arabic on these social media platforms on a weekly basis. The results from the experimental classroom undergoing the 10-lesson learning module on social media competency were compared with that of the control classroom, which participated in the pre- and post-experiment surveys but did not participate in the weekly learning modules. The results imply that attaining social media literacy is an integral part of attaining cultural competency, and that it is a skill that is not only teachable in the Arabic classroom, but an invaluable skill for the successful L2 learner in navigating various domains of the rapidly intensifying digital age.