- Engaging Students Through Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs by Reynol Junco
San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass, 2014, $19.99 (Kindle edition)
In the book, Engaging Students Through Social Media: Evidence-Based Practices for Use in Student Affairs, Reynol Junco builds on previous research and scholarship (Junco & Mastrodicasa, 2007; Junco & Timm, 2008), highlighting the need for informed, balanced approaches toward integrating social media into educational practices across student affairs. Junco’s central theses are: (a) there is little evidence-based research being conducted on the educational impacts of social media in higher education and student affairs; (b) hyperbolic misrepresentation and misunderstanding of research leads educators, practitioners, and institutions to adopt reticent attitudes toward incorporating social media in educationally and pedagogically relevant ways; and (c) adult normative perspectives often fuel such misrepresentations and misunderstandings, overpowering important lessons practitioners and researchers might learn from youth, where social media is [End Page 313] viewed as normative (a point also made by other prominent social media researchers such as boyd, 2014; Papacharissi, 2011; Poletti & Rak, 2014).
Junco (2014) aims to “help student affairs practitioners as well as other higher education professionals see the value of social media use with students” (Preface, Section 2, para. 1), while also articulating the need of graduate preparation programs, professional associations, and already established educators to expand understanding and integration of social media and technological literacy into their repertoire of professional competencies and skills. In her Forward, Mary Madden of the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project describes Junco’s qualifications and background as a social media researcher, tracing his trajectory as one of the first researchers and practitioners to think about harnessing social media in educationally relevant ways. Today, Junco’s data-driven, empirically grounded research challenges simplistic understandings about the impact of social media. As Madden suggests, Junco’s book leaves readers “with a mountain of thoughtful evidence” (Foreward, para. 17) surrounding the possibilities and limitations of the social media and network revolution for student affairs practice. Junco acknowledges his grounding and preference for quantitative research, while highlighting the importance of conducting qualitative research on social media to better gauge youth-normative perspectives on social media practices and culture.
The book is accessible to those unfamiliar with social media, as well as highly engaged social media users. In chapter 1, Junco explains why student affairs educators should research social media. The vast number of social media platforms, social media’s continuously evolving nature, increasing use of mobile technology devices, and already established connections between social media use and outcomes traditionally rooted in student affairs educational practices are all cited as relevant rationale for enhanced research and understanding. Defining social media as “applications, services, and systems that allow users to create, remix, and share content” (Junco, 2014, chapter 1, section 2, para. 1), the author provides historical background and information on digital architectural affordances of popular and emerging present-day social media sites: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram, Vine, Pinterest, and Snapchat.
Importantly, Junco problematizes popular technological discourse, including concepts such as the digital divide and digital nativity, highlighting that social media often reflect or exacerbate real-life social inequalities, and that patterns of social media adoption and use vary for youth based on variables such as race, class, gender, sexual orientation, spiritual or religious affiliation, and other social constructs. Junco reminds practitioners that access to technology and social media does not necessarily equate to digital literacy. Therefore, simple incorporation of technology into classroom or student affairs educational interventions may not always yield desired outcomes. As a result, selecting social media platforms for educational interventions becomes important both in structuring the aim of educational interventions and in accounting for student access to the intervention. Most importantly, interventions should be designed with specific outcomes in mind, with the aim of assessing or enhancing their impact. For these reasons, Junco articulates the importance of conducting research on interventions utilizing social media. Disseminating findings, critically engaging research, and being open to the possibility that social media may not yield desired results are all critical...