Using social online networks in teaching. Week 30. By Tracy Simpson

I’m a novice when it comes to using social media to enhance ako in my classroom. To me, Facebook = social media, and in the thirteen years since it was launched I have managed to avoid anything to do with it. I’m not proud of the fact that I’m a laggard in this respect. Now I realise that using online social networks is an exciting development in education. With 2.46 billion people (including 90% of my senior students) using social media, I should no longer avoid its potential to connect my students to a variety of learning opportunities and expertise.

Media user stats

I am particularly keen to tap into sources that will ‘bring learning to life by summoning up different times, spaces, characters and possibilities’ (Sharples et al, 2016). Thus far, I have stuck to recommending reliable data bases that offer students essays and information, but are not interactive. Some suggested sources that I have not yet tried but that look interesting are:

quotationEncouraging students to interact via blogs or sites such as Twitter will actively engage them in ‘creativity, collaboration, communication’ (Sharples, et al 2016), all of which are essential components of 21st century pedagogy. I want my students to be active rather than passive participants in their education. So far, I have used Office 365’s OneNote, to store resources, set assignments and give feedback. The ‘collaboration’ space offers another way of sharing ideas and opinions, and my junior students have enjoyed participating with this during research and text analysis. Now it is time for me to expand upon this.

Recently, I came across a book called Twitterature (Aciman and Rensin, 2009). This uses the register and conciseness of Twitter to summarise some of the great works of literature. I set my senior students the challenge of applying the ‘Twitterature’ lens on the class novel. What they produced surprised me. Not only were they fluent in what to me seemed to be another language, but unhindered by essay conventions they demonstrated great insight into the text. Humour and using a social media register offered them an engaging way to ‘contextualise and engage’ (Melhuish, 2015). Although talking primarily about the impact on teachers, Melhuish discusses how the motivation to use social networks becomes a ‘strong indicator of engagement’.


My year 13 students were clearly motivated and engaged; however, when I asked how many of them would like to use Twitter for real as part of their class learning, three quarters of them did not like the idea. I think this is because they see it as something personal for use out of school, which is true. Like all change, it needs to be meaningful and carefully planned. I need to model creativity and innovation in planning the use of such tools.

The following questions are recommended when planning the use of social online networks:

  1. Why am I using social networking?
  2. What is the benefit to my students and for me?
  3. What ways can I use it and reduce significant risk? (Education Council, 2012)

Planning will help to create a safe learning environment and mitigate some of the risks associated with:

  • quality control
  • unplanned ideas
  • Privacy issues
  • management of information

(Melhuish, 2015)

These questions will also provide a framework for the important post activity evaluation that will help me to constantly evolve and improve the learning experience.

Being a part of the dynamic learning community that is Mindlab has helped me to experience using social network platforms to learn, share and create. I now wish to develop the same opportunities for my students and facilitate their transformation into the digital experts they will need to be in this technology driven century.


Sources: Statistics Portal

Aciman, A., & Rensin, E. (2009). Twitterature (1st ed.). Australia: Penguin Books.

Education Council.(2012). Establishing safeguards.. Retrieved from

36-44 in Chapter 3 of Melhuish, K.(2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’professional learning. Master Thesis. The University of Waikato. Retrieved on 05 May, 2015 from

Sharples, M., de Roock , R., Ferguson, R., Gaved, M., Herodotou, C., Koh, E., Kukulska-Hulme, A., Looi,C-K, McAndrew, P., Rienties, B., Weller, M., Wong, L. H. (2016). Innovating Pedagogy 2016: Open University Innovation Report 5. Milton Keynes: The Open University. Retrieved from



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