Social Media in Teaching and Learning

Social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Google Plus, and Flickr, as well as open social practices such as blogging, are being used in learning for the purpose of convenient communication with other students and potentially with others outside the class such as students of the same topic and subject experts. Many social media, as commercial endeavours, are attractive in that their features often surpass those of internal firewalled environments. The fact that these media are generally open to the world implies a need to carefully consider the risks of openness as well as need for ongoing communication with students in order to address their concerns and deal with issues in the use of social media as they arise. These risks are counter-balanced by the benefits of open discussion and academic debate in authentic online environments.

Quick Resources

Using blogs in learning and teaching
University of Leeds

Nine essential social media tips for educators
eSchoolsNews

Google Plus: It’s very simple
Alan Cann (University of Leicester)

Getting started with Twitter
Terese Bird (University of Leicester)

To get started using social media in teaching, consider what you want to achieve.

  • Do you wish to help students with their writing or reflection? Encourage or assign them to begin a blog. Wordpress is a simple blogging platform used by many at the University of Leicester.
  • Do you wish to help students discover and discuss the very latest in breaking news and issues? Encourage them to use Twitter, and to tweet using a hashtag # identifying your course. The case study of Paul Reilly in Media and Communications, below, is a good example.
  • Do you wish to help students share scholarly articles and discuss in an academic fashion? Consider using Google Plus. Alan Cann’s case study will be helpful.

Case studies

I have integrated Twitter into the teaching of my Activism and Protest in the Information Age module. Many students have reported that it helps them make the links between theory and breaking news stories. The module is supported by a class hashtag (#actandprotest- see www.storify.com/PaulJReilly where I have curated these links), which I use to direct the class to additional resources throughout the semester. Students are encouraged to share content with their classmates via the hashtag and this was very successful in prompting weekly discussions.
Paul Reilly
from Media and Communications.

Dr Alan Cann, Senior Lecturer, Department of Biology encouraged students to begin a Google Plus account and to use that site to discuss current events in Biology. Students were assessed on how well they engaged with each and developed academic discussion and discourse skills. Alan wrote about his experience.

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