Social Media in Teaching and Learning

What is Social Media? Why would I use it?

Social Media tools are tools that allow for social interaction and easy creation of content by users. Examples of popular Social Media tools are Twitter, Facebook, Blogger, WordPress and Pinterest.

Social Media can be an effective tool for teaching and learning in higher education. It can help connect students to information and help them generate a dialogue with their teacher and other students about a course. It can also help students and faculty build professional networks that connect them to communities beyond the U of S.

How could I use Social Media in teaching?

A Social Media Panel presented by the U of S and the GMCTE during Technology Week 2012 discussed the use of social media and technology in the classroom:


The following tools are currently used at the U of S and elsewhere:

  • USask WordPress: Blogs for students and staff.
  • Twitter: Share resources, connect with others, elicit feedback from students, all in 140 characters or less
  • Diigo: Your bookmarks go where you go (access them from any computer or mobile device) and you can share them with students, colleagues and others.
  • Delicious: Another social bookmarking tool. See Diigo.
  • Google Reader: Subscribe to Websites, Twitter feeds and podcasts much like you subscribe to magazines.
  • Google Docs / Drive: Collaborate on documents with colleagues and students and your documents are accessible from anywhere.
  • Piazza: Students ask question and other students or the instructor can provide answers and resources.


The following resources are intended to help you learn more about technology and the use of social media in the classroom:

Social Media for Teachers: Guides, Resources, and Ideas

It can be a challenge to incorporate social media into lessons. There are many gray areas for teachers to navigate, like setting guidelines, accessibility at school, and student safety. But to help teachers navigate this ever-changing landscape of social media tools, here are some of the best guides on the web for four popular networks, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Pinterest.

Web 2.0: A New Wave of Innovation for Teaching and Learning?

Social software has emerged as a major component of the Web 2.0 movement. The idea dates as far back as the 1960s and JCR Licklider’s thoughts on using networked computing to connect people in order to boost their knowledge and their ability to learn. The Internet technologies of the subsequent generation have been profoundly social, as listservs, Usenet groups, discussion software, groupware, and Web-based communities have linked people around the world. During the past few years, a group of Web projects and services became perceived as especially connective, receiving the rubric of “social software”: blogs, wikis, trackback, podcasting, videoblogs, and enough social networking tools like MySpace and Facebook to give rise to an abbreviation mocking their very prevalence: YASN (Yet Another Social Network). Consider the differences between these and static or database-driven Web pages. Wikis are all about user modification; CNN’s front page is decisively not. It is true that blogs are Web pages, but their reverse-chronological structure implies a different rhetorical purpose than a Web page, which has no inherent timeliness. That altered rhetoric helped shape a different audience, the blogging public, with its emergent social practices of blogrolling, extensive hyperlinking, and discussion threads attached not to pages but to content chunks within them. Reading and searching this world is significantly different from searching the entire Web world. Still, social software does not indicate a sharp break with the old but, rather, the gradual emergence of a new type of practice.

These sections of the Web break away from the page metaphor. Rather than following the notion of the Web as book, they are predicated on microcontent. Blogs are about posts, not pages. Wikis are streams of conversation, revision, amendment, and truncation. Podcasts are shuttled between Web sites, RSS feeds, and diverse players. These content blocks can be saved, summarized, addressed, copied, quoted, and built into new projects. Browsers respond to this boom in microcontent with bookmarklets in toolbars, letting users fling something from one page into a Web service that yields up another page. AJAX-style pages feed content bits into pages without reloading them, like the frames of old but without such blatant seams. They combine the widely used, open XML standard with Java functions.3 Google Maps is a popular example of this, smoothly drawing directional information and satellite imagery down into a browser.

Like social software, microcontent has been around for a while. Banner ads, for example, are often imported by one site from another directory. Collaboratively designed Web pages sometimes aggregate content created by different teams over a staggered timeline. And if we consider e-mail messages, discussion-board posts, Usenet-hosted images, and text messages to be microcontent, then users have generated this material for decades. But Web 2.0 builds on this original microcontent drive, with users developing Web content, often collaboratively and often open to the world. Moreover, technical innovations suggest still further refinements in microcontent. Arnaud Leene outlines a series of characteristics, including variable licenses, feeds, Web APIs, and single identity.4

This openness is crucial to current Web 2.0 discussions. The flow of microcontent between domains, servers, and machines depends on two-way access. Web 2.0 can break on silos but thrive in shared services. Still, silos and shared services are not mutually exclusive., for instance, lets users harvest ISBN numbers from its listings but does not allow access to a customer’s shopping cart. Some wiki platforms allow users to lock down pages from editing or restrict access to authorized users, as does the popular blog service LiveJournal. Yet openness remains a hallmark of this emergent movement, both ideologically and technologically.

Openness and microcontent combine into a larger conceptual strand of Web 2.0, one that sees users as playing more of a foundational role in information architecture. Drawing on the “wisdom of crowds” argument, Web 2.0 services respond more deeply to users than Web 1.0 services. A leading form of this is a controversial new form of metadata, the folksonomy. Whereas traditional metadata is usually hierarchical (topics nested within topics), structured (e.g., the fields within Dublin Core), and predetermined by content authorities, folksonomic metadata consists of words that users generate and attach to content. A historian photographs the Waterloo battlefield, uploads the result to Flickr or 23, and adds keywords meaningful to her: Napoleon, Wellington, Blucher, 1815. A literature scholar creates similar images but tags them according to his interests: Thackeray, Hugo, Clarke.

Why does this matter, and why do such projects not degenerate into multisubjective chaos? First, users actually use tags. Folksonomic services fill up with tags rapidly enough to make information professionals take notice. Second, Web 2.0 services tend to provide tools for helping users with their folksonomies. Tags can be arranged into concept maps called “tag clouds,” which allow revisualization of the way one considers one’s work.5 The social bookmarking innovator automatically reminds users of previously deployed tags, suggests some tags, and notes tags used by others. Third, people tend to tag socially. That is, they learn from other taggers and respond to other, published groups of tags, or “tagsets.”6 There are of course limitations to folksonomies, including the difficulty in scaling up tags from several to many users and the problem of quickly grasping contextual shifts between tagsets. But the rapid adoption and growth of folksonomies is noteworthy. Popularly created metadata is a rarity. Yet as of February 2006, tag-centric Flickr hosts 100 million images