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How social networking tools like Facebook and Twitter can be used in education?

Deadline: 10 April 2011

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Andy Oakley
3 April 2011

As required by activity 5 in week 8, Lesley's group have chosen the above title as the subject of our flash debate.  We should be debating the uses of social networking tools as well as the pros and cons associated with their use.

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Damian Rivlin
6:23pm 4 April 2011

So how do we get this started?

Damian Rivlin
6:23pm 4 April 2011

So how do we get this started?

Damian Rivlin
6:23pm 4 April 2011

So how do we get this started?

Damian Rivlin
6:23pm 4 April 2011

So how do we get this started?

shaun Leonard
6:37pm 4 April 2011

Hi All,

My first question to the question would perhaps be, is anyone actively using twitter and Facebook for learning? And are you actively aware that they are using them for learning?  I use the word “aware” because perhaps I’m also inadvertently using these social media tools for facilitation in the unconscious consciousness.



Catherine Bell
7:05pm 4 April 2011

Hello, I can think of one academic who uses Twitter with their students but more to promote further reading, draw their attention to related news topics/ research etc. Largely in my faculty it's used for communications with current students/prospective students and alumni - largely run by marketing. We have student interns which are present in the spaces and communicate relevant topics/events. In terms of learning staff would generally be advised not to use Facebook and promote VLE use for learning, keeping the content within the institution. There are obvious issues with copyright and data protection with Facebook and privacy, plagiarism, identity issues, and harassment cases. I am aware of students setting up malicious groups and this has caused all sorts of issues. Obviously there are pros and it promotes student-driven learning and increases the ease of communication. I don't think it will be look for an academic Facebook to appear that replaces the need for a traditional VLE. I heard of a great twitter use example and that was students in history taking on a character in an historical event and tweeting as if they were in that time period. social networking allows you to interact with a much wider audience and that in itself can make much more effective learning experience. On Wednesday I am part of a meeting looking at a social media strategy for the school which of course will be interesting and is being run by V-Social

Andy Oakley
7:20pm 4 April 2011 (Edited 7:30pm 4 April 2011)

Like you Catherine I am aware of a couple of units who use Twitter to publicise new courseware and content on their VLE but don't actually use it as part of the learning environment

With regards to Facebook, I'm not so sure about its value as an academic learning environment. I couldn't argue that I learn things on facebook every week (usually who like whose picture or comments or what someone has done on a Saturday night) but haven't seen any examples of students sharing academic details.  I think you sumarised the two main issues Catherine, its advantage of reaching a wide audience traded against its data protection/privacy exposure.

I think the only future either will have in an academic environment is if they were to be used in a standalone environment i..e. a dedicated campus instance of 'facebook', separate to the global instance but then can't Moodle type VLEs provide this functionality already if equipped with dedicated plugins for sharing video etc.

A quick look at a couple of the links provided by Catherine see academic institutions' facebook sites mainly being used for accomodation queries/adverts and job related queries. 

Damian Rivlin
8:08pm 4 April 2011

apologies to everyone for my multiple posts. Seems like I was having connectivity issues at kept hitting 'post comment'. 

shaun Leonard
8:43pm 4 April 2011

Actually i suppose if  we can call this an aspect of learning I also use Twitter  and FB to remind students and Alumni of pending trips, school events and aspects of kitchen activities to catch up on being that the students use these tools so often, but the whole control and ownsership of what is posted is always in the back of my mind.



Andy Oakley
9:09pm 4 April 2011

Damian, It made me smile. I had this image of my son sat in the back of the car saying "are we nearly there yet?"   I wanted to answer yours but was chuckling too much.

It does beg the question, 'can postings be deleted' though?

Andy Oakley
9:11pm 4 April 2011

Shaun, I don't think I would credit use in that manner as being part of the learning....more an administration function.

Just my thoughts

Damian Rivlin
10:02pm 4 April 2011

Andy - yes I was 'mashing' the mouse button a little so your image is entirely approriate! :)



Damian Rivlin
10:05pm 4 April 2011

The idea that we can use twitter to promote further reading would be interesting - perhaps the use of twitter feeds to 'implant' extra material into courses and encouraging learners to explore those feeds for an activity would be interesting for me. In fact I've implemented in a course I'm running and we'll see if it works.

Damian Rivlin
10:05pm 4 April 2011

is there a way to order or collapse postings? - this thread is already very long.... 

Theodora Christodoulou
9:32am 5 April 2011

 Hi all,

 In my last course a colleague created a list on Twitter and added in students and tutors from the course (anybody who wanted to be added was giving his/her twitter name).

 While I was having an account, I was rarely using Twitter as I did not like its structure and did not know much about its use. Using it throughout the course though, I found it useful. Apart from sharing resources related to the course, it was nice that students and tutors from different groups were meeting  in an “informal environment” and were able to discuss or even criticize  aspects of the course. Tutors were giving their own opinion and advice in a more “informal” way and all had the chance to discuss about the course in a different environment than the course forum.  I liked the fact that especially during TMAs period, different people were sending messages about how they were doing with the TMA, and it was a relief to know how the others were coping with it and that I was not alone. I   must admit that I did not have the courage to take part more actively in the discussions but even by “lurking”, I found a way of “support” in some cases.

I can see that this sort of discussion and sharing of resources can also take place in the course general forums, but I have the feeling that by moving away from the formal environment (course forum)  students and teachers feel more free to express theit thoughts. I believe also that the people who were using the tool in their personal life, were feeling more confortable to use it  for their learning too.

These are just some thoughs of mine.

 I will try to find some resources about the use of social networking tools in education.



Andy Oakley
9:52am 5 April 2011

>>>is there a way to order or collapse postings?<<< Good question Damian and one that had occurred to me,  Grainne Conole asked for any feedback on use of the system and I was going to question this at the end of the course.

I haven't currently found a way of doing it.

Andy Oakley
7:37pm 5 April 2011

>>>We should be debating the .... the pros and cons<<<

I feel that the use of facebook and twitter in particular removes the formality that I need for academic learning. While I think there may be a place for them both in, say, work place learning (notwithstanding security implications) but don't feel that they could contribute to academic learning other than to articulate a resource list say.

That said, the concept of Web2.0 and the blogs and forum aspects of social networking, is able to provide a valuable source of qualitative information. The downside to this as has been identified in seting up this flash debate is where do you draw the boundaries in terms of attendees to the forum? A bit like talking to a friend in the middle of a busy street perhaps...

Andy Oakley
7:37pm 5 April 2011 (Edited 8:23pm 5 April 2011)

Seem to have the same problem as Damian here ....apologies but couldn't allow the same posting twice.

shaun Leonard
7:35am 6 April 2011

Andy you say " I don't think I would credit (twitter /FB) use in that manner as being part of the learning....more an administration function".  Twitter/FB is in this case not the actual tool used for learning but is however a link to the tool which would be used for facilitation, or ued as a reminder to complete certain tasks, so it is in a way linked with achieveing the outcomes but indirectly. other than that its also a popular tool amongst students which allows us to share information effciently.



Catherine Bell
10:24am 6 April 2011

I have found some great links on uses of twitter in education: - I like how practical this one is giving you ideas of twitter tools to use.

There are some great ideas that I hadn't thought of before such as coming together with another class in a different university with the same interest and  #14 global assembly and will definatley be advertising these resources to my staff.


Having a quick look at the facebook reasons for use - don't you agree that most of the things that it is listing as ideas can be done in the VLE or with other tools? So what makes it unique - just that it appears to be in the one place, in an environment that the students are comfortable with?

Andy Oakley
9:10pm 6 April 2011

Shaun says "it is in a way linked with achieveing the outcomes but indirectly".

I can't disagree with that Shaun but doesn't a class time-table contribute indirectly to achieving learning outcomes? I wouldn't argue that there isn't a place for such tools in the learning environment, I simply meant that I don't believe they are effective in delivering learning.

Damian Rivlin
3:18am 7 April 2011 (Edited 3:19am 7 April 2011)

Interesting counter-point to this discussion also taking place on cloudworks: 

A well-designed VLE or LMS can support any kind of online learning activity, so there is no need to use web tools for learning.

it was brought to my attention via a twitter search using hashtags: #VLE #H800

now I see why a social network may work - since it's open it allows ad-hoc groups to form & coalesce... - perhaps we should be posting on their wall?


shaun Leonard
11:15am 7 April 2011

thanks for the links Catherine, very useful indeed.


Damian Rivlin
11:27am 7 April 2011

I've tagged catherine's links in diigo under h800, if anyone's following on there.

Jane Kendall-Nicholas
5:32pm 9 April 2011

Following on from Catherine's link about Facebook on 6 April:

The link gives loads of ways of using Facebook in education, but as Catherine says, many of them are available in other ways eg slideshare functions, forming online study groups, peer reviewing each other's work - but these can be done in slideshare, tutor group forums, class blogs.  It seems to me that your question about why we should bother to use Facebook for all these, instead of doing it in other ways,  is actually at the heart of the use of social media in education. 

Do students actually want to use something they use in their social life in an educational context or not?  I'm sure I have read about studies suggesting that in fact they may want to keep them separate?  Do students want to have everything in one place, or are they actually not bothered about having to use several different tools?  Unless there is good evidence that students have a preference for using Facebook, I can't see that they get more from it than from using a range of other tools. 

Also I think there is a negative public perception about lack of privacy and protection with Facebook, which might be a barrier for those who are not already members.  If, as Beetham says in the chapter we read in Actiivty 2, learning designs should extend the technological competance of learners, then it might be counter-productive to use something that has a bit of a negative reputation.  Does anyone agree that the 'baggage' that Facebook comes with could be a negative factor?

paul jonathan smithers
11:06am 10 April 2011

Facebook! Twitter!! Please, I have enough problems with getting students to engage with their course work as it is without giving them yet another excuse to dissappear into cyberspace.

Eileen Frampton
3:45pm 11 April 2011


I agree with Andy,  I would not feel comfortable using these open social sites for educational purposes and there are also issues with privacy and confidentiality.

For administration - possibly yes - but what about those who are not familiar with, or have access to this technology?

Rustom m
7:55am 13 April 2011

I've used social networking sites (ning) in the past, instead of a VLE. It had blogs, forums, links can be posted, and live chat. The same could be done with facebook.

Im also thinking of using a facebook page to support teacher volunteers on one of my projects. The idea is that they would belong to a community that brings them together across geographies. They can then swap experiences, resources, upload photos of their classes etc. The client has already set up its own site with similar affordances, but it is less successful, because its tedious to register, and people don't check it. So I am trying to convince them to ditch it, and just use facebook.

I've used twitter on an m-learning course - instead of having a forum to debate issues, we used twittter. People then posted their comments using a specific tag - this could be #H800 etc. It would work well for mlearning, but I don't see the point if you have computers at your disposal, as forums allow better ordering of themes and debates.

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