Sharing and Learning Using Social Media in Formal Education

This week in our Social Media and Open Education course we are invited to think about the positive and negative aspects of student learning, and sharing the products of this learning, using social media outlets such as Twitter, Facebook, or blogging. In reading about this topic, I have identified both opportunities and challenges in sharing and learning using social media. I have also set out goals for myself as an educator to address some of the challenges listed. Finally, I leave you further questions for consideration.

Social media

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The integration of social media in education can provide a child with a deeper connection, not only with classmates, but with other students across the globe in the pursuit of knowledge. As illustrated in the article Is Your Child Ready for 21st-Century Learning?, results in enhanced critical thinking skills and social connection can be profound. As a high school student of the 90s, inquiry based, self-directed learning had its limitations. We had ONE computer in the library that ran the Encyclopedia Britannica on CD-ROM. There was a line up to access the information! Furthermore, our education was very much teacher-centered and connection to other students nationally was facilitated through snail mail.  Today, as an adult educator in a post-secondary institution, where the method of teaching still resembles more of a didactic approach, I am both challenged and excited to learn ways to integrate inquiry based learning through social media. What a powerful tool!

Below I explore in more depth the opportunities and challenges faced by educators in using social media to enhance learning.

Opportunities for sharing and learning using social media

9 Elements of Digital Citizenship

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Challenges for sharing and learning using social media

  • Impact of the digital divide
  • Social media may become a distraction – i.e. excessive non – academic use during classtime
  • Time in monitoring online activity for evaluation (post-secondary, in particular)
  • Discerning source credibility: Fake News
  • Privacy issues (primary education, in particular)

Addressing challenges using social media in my teaching

As an adult educator, my initial goals in social media integration are two-fold. First, connecting the use of open learning through social media to the course objectives in a meaningful way is paramount. Shifting from a lecture based, teacher-centered learning environment to one that promotes inquiry based learning using social media will be a welcome challenge. I found Ashley Jamison’s re-tweet on the difference between using technology and technology integration a great starting point.

Second, as an educator I would need to understand the full scope of digital citizenship, recognizing that it goes beyond basic netiquette rules. What about access? How does the digital divide impact my students? Can I assume that each student has quality physical access to the internet or devices? More importantly, what impact does the student’s digital literacy skills have on their ability to learn in a social media environment? Being aware of these challenges my students may face is an important factor in how I introduce and evaluate learning using social media.

Questions for further consideration

As an adult educator I have encountered adult learners who are hesitant in, and sometimes opposed to, using social media in education. Beyond introducing the endless possibilities of learning with this medium, can I expect them to comply?

With respect to younger learners in the K-12 system, at what age can we realistically expect them to understand the responsibility of being a good digital citizen? How do educators address the concerns of parents who may be hesitant in having their children’s work or identity being shared publicly? Should parental consent be required?

What are your thoughts?

The link to comment is below the title of this post. Thanks!


7 thoughts on “Sharing and Learning Using Social Media in Formal Education

  1. What a great post! You have so many interesting, and very complex questions that we deal with in high school as well. Equitable access to tech is such a huge issue.
    I also think that being a good digital citizen is a skill that is acquired through exposure to the internet. It’s something that students learn the more they explore and interact with the online world. I don’t know if there’s a certain “time” that we can expect them to have mastered it because it evolves as the reason for being online evolves. However, I think that as soon as a student is shown the online world that digital citizenship should be alongside that.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Coralee! Thanks so much for this thoughtful post – I am actually linking your blog to mine this week as many of your ideas make perfect sense with mine! 🙂

    To address your final question about permission, my answer is absolutely yes. I currently have a Facebook page for my grade 2 class and their families but in order for families to participate they must sign a detailed permission slip as well as read through a fairly lengthy explanation of what the page is, the intentions of the page as well as some information on the security and guidelines of the page. Families can choose to participate fully with video, pictures and the name of their child, pictures and videos with no name or not at all – if that is the case, I must just ensure their child is not included in any photos or post. I would not be able to offer this tool in my classroom without the signed permission slips. In my opinion there is far to much liability otherwise. I have had to shut my page down temporarily in the past because a parent shared a photo on their page, making it public which violated the terms of the slip they had all signed. I immediately messaged them to take the photo down and sent a Remind message out to the class to remind them that in their “Rules and Guidelines” booklet it stated no pictures were to shared. I think better safe than sorry!

    I have had families hesitant to participate in the past and that is why I gave multiple options to do so, so they could select a safe and comfortable way to be involved. If families opt out, I suppose I have no control over that, as at this point, it’s not a mandatory requirement of the ministry or division and they have the choice.

    Thanks again for the post!


    • It’s funny you mentioned how children reply “nothing” when asked what they learned in school. When I said that as a child my dad replied: “What do you mean nothing? You must have learned something, you were there all day.” Even today, my 3 1/2 year old tells me she did “nothing” in preschool. Having a social media site that shares what the students are doing provides a window into their academic and social life. I believe, when used appropriately, this provides families a conversation starter if you will.

      Alec made an excellent point last week when he said that posting a child’s learning online needs to be purposeful. The for profit preschool my daughter attends posts photos of the students engaging in learning and social activities; however, there is very little commentary of what they are learning exactly. So it leaves me wondering if the teacher is posting as a teacher or as a business owner. I enjoy seeing the photos nonetheless.

      It does sound like you have a lot of work in administering a Facebook page for your students given the strict guidelines of how the information is shared. Given the privacy measures in how you share on Facebook, do you think you would ever have a public blog or Facebook page? Do any other primary/secondary teachers have an open page?


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