Social Media

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1 Social Media

Serena Matheson, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada

2 Definitions and background

Social media is understood as a set of technologies by which people can create, collaborate, and network and share content (Woodley & Silvestri, 2014). Blogs, wikis, social networking, social bookmarking, wall posting, and video sharing, etc. are just some of the technologies that make up social media. (Poellhuber, & Anderson, 2011).

The first social networking site was introduced in 1997 and has grown exponentially over the years (Ahn, 2011). What was once a one-way communication tool is now multi-tiered system of communication between peers (DeAndrea, Ellison, LaRose, Steinfield, Fiore, 2012). Global social media use has made sharing large amounts of data much easier; this data can then be “mined in collaborative, interdisciplinary teams to illuminate complex issues” (Greenhow & Gleason, 2014, p. 397). Social media applications can be found in online gaming, education, the business world, news networks, and in social contexts such as Facebook (Poellhuber & Anderson, 2011).

Over the last 6 years, Facebook and Twitter have exploded in popularity demonstrating the growth in social media usage (Evans, 2014). Young people today use social media as their main method of communication (Casey, 2013). Students are using social media to watch and create Youtube videos, to play video games, to communicate with their peers, and to do assignments for school (Appel, 2012).

3 Affordances

Social media is the tool that students use to seek and share information to create solutions for problems in the workplace or at school (Dabbagh, & Kitsantas, 2012). With social media it is much easier to be creative as we are not bound by the limitations of traditional, non-digital mediums (Friedman & Friedman, 2013).

With the use of social media in the classroom, teachers are moving beyond teaching content and information toward a process-driven approach, thereby enabling students to take ownership of their own learning.(Powers, Alhussain, Averbeck, & Warner, 2012). Social media is moving “education away from a knowledge-object orientation towards process-driven approaches – not what to know, but how to know” (Tay & Allen, 2011, p. 154). Using social media, as well as a problem-based learning, makes for good pedagogical practice, “as the main interpretations of social media/web 2.0, highlight more social, student-centered, collaborative and production-oriented pedagogical strategies” (Buus, 2012, p.21). Teachers who use social media in the classroom are no longer giving information but are utilizing the power of social media to guide their students on the process of how to learn, thereby making the student responsible for their own learning (Powers & al, 2012). When teachers use social media in their delivery of course content, they “force students to be self-starters” (Friedman & Friedman, 2013, p. 14).

“Emotional, social, and academic support” from fellow students and teachers are a few of the benefits afforded to students who use social media in their education (Woodley & Meredith, 2011, p.1). Social media permits discussions as well as analytical exploration which allows for peers who work together online to meet common goals (Rambe, 2012). With the spread of social media technological use, students no longer have to work alone to amass information; instead, they are connecting with other users of social media and gaining knowledge from them (Chen & Bryer, 2012). Casey found that getting students to give feedback to their peers on social media sites such as blogs allowed for not only good feedback to high achieving students but also gave a variety of support to students who were weaker (2013). With informal learning taking place on social media sites, it is possible for teachers to reduce the achievement gap of their students (Chen & Bryer, 2012).

4 Constraints

While social media may allow for a more process-driven approach to learning, that does not mean that students are ready to accept this process (Tay & Allen, 2011). The tools of social media are sometimes seen by students not as learning tools to aid with learning but as tools that are there to entertain and facilitate online interactions (Chen & Bryer, 2012). Not all students use social media sites such as Facebook and some students who do use these sites complain of their addiction and associate social media communication with a drop in academic performance (Woodley & Meredith, 2012). According to Rambe (2012) social media could be perceived as a distraction to students who are not academically inclined.

Social media makes it easier to be part of a team without actually collaborating with the group; people will often meet online and divide the work equally among the group members and complete the tasks without getting feedback from their collaborative group members (Tay & Allen, 2011). During classroom student collaborations, it is presumed that everyone is doing their fair share of the work but with the use of social media/web 2.0 technology, that is not always the case and sometimes means that one person can get away with doing very little work (Buus, 2012). According to Dabbagh and Kitsantas, students are not adopting social media and web 2.0 technologies because they do not have experience with these tools in an educational setting (2012).

Social media also has the potential to cause concerns legally, ethically, and socially, making it necessary for professionals to put into place protocols, etiquette, and suggestions surrounding social media use in their place of business (Woodley & Silvestri, 2014). Scouts are recruiting students and using social media as part of the hiring process; checking social media activity and demanding passwords to social media sites before hiring or accepting potential applicants (Woodley & Silvestri, 2014).

Universities are dealing with problems with student misuse of social media (Woodley & Silvestri, 2014). Schools systems are hesitant in allowing the use of social media for learning in the academic realm because “the “copy-cut-and-paste” generation frequently exploits the powerful affordances of Web 2.0 technologies to re-organise, edit, remix, recreate, repackage content for republication, thus plagiarising texts with impunity” (Rambe, 2012, p. 134).

5 Links

1. How Social Media is Being Used in Education by Katie Lepi

2. 10 Social Media Sites For Education by Lila Daniels

3. 6 Pros & Cons of Social Media in the Classroom by Aimee Hosler

4. Socia Media Cheatsheet For Teachers (And Other Bipeds)

5. Digitally Speaking / Using Social Media to Reach Your Community by William M. Ferriter

6 Works Cited

Ahn, J. (2011). Digital divides and social network sites: Which students participate in social media? Journal of Educational Computing Research, 45(2), 147-163. doi: 10.2190/EC.45.2.b

Appel, M. (2012). Are heavy users of computer games and social media more computer literate? Computers & Education, 59(4), 1339-1349. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2012.06.004

Buus, L. (2012). Scaffolding teachers integrate social media into a problem-based learning approach? Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(1), 13-22.

Casey , Gail. (2013). Social media in the classroom: A simple yet complex hybrid environment for students. Journal of Educational Multimedia and Hypermedia, 22(1), 5-24.

Chen, B., & Bryer, T. (2012). Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal and informal learning. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 13(1), 87-104. Retrieved from

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal learning environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 3-8. doi:10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.06.002

DeAndrea, D., Ellison, N.B., LaRose, R., Steinfield, C., Fiore, A. (2012). Serious social media: On the use of social media for improving students' adjustment to college. Internet and Higher Education, 15(1), 15-23. doi: 10.1016/j.iheduc.2011.05.009

Evans, C. (2014). Twitter for teaching: Can social media be used to enhance the process of learning? British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(5), 902–915. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12099

Friedman, L. W., & Friedman, H. H. (2013). Using social media technologies to enhance online learning. Journal of Educators Online, 10(1), 22. Retrieved from

Greenhow, C. and Gleason, B. (2014), Social scholarship: Reconsidering scholarly practices in the age of social media. British Journal of Educational Technology, 45(3), 392–402. doi: 10.1111/bjet.12150

Liu, C., Liu, K., Chen, W., Lin, C., & Chen, G. (2011). Collaborative storytelling experiences in social media: Influence of peer-assistance mechanisms. Computers & Education, 57(2), 1544-1556. doi: 10.1016/j.compedu.2011.02.002=12378

Poellhuber, B., & Anderson, T. (2011). Distance students' readiness for social media and collaboration. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 12(6), 102-125. Retrieved from

Powers, L., Alhussain, R., Averbeck, C., & Warner, A. (2012). Perspectives on distance education and social media. Quarterly Review of Distance Education, 13(4), 241-245.

Rambe, P. (2012). Constructive disruptions for effective collaborative learning: Navigating the affordances of social media for meaningful engagement. Electronic Journal of e-Learning, 10(1), 132-146.

Tay, E., & Allen, M. (2011). Designing social media into university learning: Technology of collaboration or collaboration for technology? Educational Media International, 48(3), 151-163. doi: 10.1080/09523987.2011.607319

Woodley, C., & Meredith, C. (2012). Supporting student transition through social media. American Journal of Distance Education, 26(2), 86-95. Retrieved from

Woodley, C., Silvestri, M. (2014). The Internet is forever: Student indiscretions reveal the need for effective social media policies in academia. The American Journal of Distance Education, 28(2) 126-138. doi: 10.1080/08923647.2014.896587