A study by the Centre for Culture & Disability Studies at Liverpool Hope University reports on the use of Facebook as an educational resource by five dyslexic students at a Sixth Form College in England. The study was motivated by the knowledge that modern digital technology has become sophisticated enough to offer ample opportunity for students to circumvent many learning and literacy problems associated with dyslexia. Would the study participants embrace Facebook as an educational tool or shy away because of fears around their difficulties with typographic literacy?

​Through a project in which teacher-researchers and student-participants co-constructed a Facebook group page about the students’ research into dyslexia, this study examined the educational affordances of a digitally mediated social network. It turns out that the students embraced Facebook as a research tool and as an arena for critical and playful literacy learning. In fact, students saw Facebook as a place where they could get all the information and help they needed in one place when they needed it. They began to envision each class having its own Facebook page where they could stay up-to-date on course information. Additionally, students hoped that this kind of resource would offer someone who would be available to help answer student queries or offer help while the students are at home.

​The study found further educational benefits of Facebook. For example, students used it as a kind of ‘distributed memory’ because of its ability to store deadlines, conversations, and thinking processes. This is significant given that problems with memory, organization, and sequentially ordering thoughts are often common with dyslexia. Facebook also seemed to give students increased control over when, where, and how learning happens since it can be accessed on multiple devices. This choice is especially helpful to students who may be able to use videos or audio technologies instead of relying solely on written texts that they may struggle with. Furthermore, Facebook helped students develop metacognitive awareness of their own learning preferences and processes through the more self-directed study. Finally, Facebook allowed the students to think of themselves as ‘experts’ and ‘helpers’ with respect to their dyslexia. It empowered the students to want to help dyslexic students like themselves realize that dyslexia does not have to be a significant challenge in their lives if they learn new strategies to overcome the challenges.

Read more about this study on the Research in Learning Technology website.