Robelia, B., Greenhow, C. & Burton, L. (2011): Environmental learning in online social networks: adopting environmentally responsible behaviors. Environmental Education Research, 17(4), 553-575.
In this article, Robeliaa discusses how an application within Facebook, called Hot Dish, can be integrated and used to help students learn about the environment. The study performed was an examination of using Facebook in education in order to help those with like minds communicate and share information about a subject area, specifically, environmental studies. Applications such as Hot Dish can be developed to integrate on the Facebook platform. Programmers can develop their own applications to leverage the Facebook environment, and Hot Dish is an example of this. First, they defined and discussed the SMS (Social Networking Site) and then described how Hot Dish was integrated into Facebook. The key features that Hot Dish were leveraging from Facebook is the ability to have unique profiles, share connections with others that have common interests, and be able to access and communicate with this list of connections. Hot Dish specifically was designed to share information within the Facebook SMS about pro-environmental and climactic change topics and activism. Since the SMS is a common way for young people to communicate, it can be layered upon for a more specific purpose. As an open-source application, Hot Dish has many authors and contributor, and can be extended and enhanced by a community of technical people, programmers to enrich it beyond a proprietary application. The study did a meta-analysis of studies in environmental subject matter, and showed how Facebook can be used to help learner communities to study and share information about environmental science.
However, the application Hot Dish, can work as a way to disseminate information about the environment, but a Facebook group may be adequate for most types of special interest applications. The Hot Dish enhances the community building process that Facebook facilitates. Facebook applications, as well as other social media applications, can be built to further the features and functions of the parent, or hosting SMS. The applications can be customized to focus on such things as sub-community creation, creating deep and rich learning experiences, facilitating areas to post, share and showcase specific articles on the topic, in this case, the pro-environmental movement. This particular application can prove to help those involved in environmental studies to develop and create new knowledge, be able to share through a powerful medium, particularly through social means. As a subject area such as environmental studies evolves, a software system like this can develop learners and help build skills and qualify people for careers in environmental industries, as well as enable further research and study into this area of science. The Hot Dish system can be used to model ideas and practices for those that want to further their knowledge and ability in affecting constructive improvements to environmental science. By creating rich learning environments like this, the meaningful engagement that students have with the subject matter increases.
The potential for building custom applications on top of SMS’s can be very powerful for researchers and educators to have already-established foundations for their content and learning experiences. Since Facebook is so ubiquitous and universal, it has great value to educators to use it’s already-built community basis to develop learning communities. It can be tied to many learning theories that researchers and educators are interested in such as social learning theory, free-choice learning theory, and behavior-change theory. The open-source applications on Facebook which is highlighted in the article is just one example of using the networks and infrastructure of systems that are already established to perform and provide new purposes. Other applications for subject areas of interest to learning science such as government, medicine, business, museums, hobbies, science education and others can be developed.