Using social online networks in teaching.

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.

By Tracy Simpson

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



One thought on “Using social online networks in teaching.

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  1. Hi Stewart, thank you for sharing this information with us which I found it interesting to read. I do realise that managing the use of social media for my senior class especially Year 13 Calculus is pleasing.

    Due to their own learning commitment and maturity, students benefit the most from using the Facebook group and their own blogs. One of the advantage students found using social media (GeoGebra) for 3D simultaneous equation is that it illustrates clearly about the relationship between each equation as a plane, Students could easily color different planes and rotate them to see the demonstration of interception between three planes. In addition, students also encouraged to make their own scenario applications and share it through their student blog. similarly, they also post the demonstration on the Facebook group for other students who is doing the same topic or share the same interest.

    I do find out sometimes issues may arise in terms of students spending too much time on social media than educational purpose. So teachers should work with students’ parents and whanau to monitoring students’ performance of using social media for educational purpose rather than other uses.

    Martin (2009) states that using social media in the classroom allows collaboration, sharing of knowledge and content among users. Students get an opportunity to work collaboratively with discussion and sharing their expertise so they would solve the problem together. Nowadays in the workforce, projects are not funded, designed and completed by individuals. People working together to accomplish the task, discuss issues and matter that arise during the process of the project completion. As a practitioner, we should provide the supportive and collaborative learning environment, encourage students to use social media more often to communicate and share ideas.

    Martin, C. (2009). Social networking usage and grades among college students: A study to determine the correlation of social media usage and grades. University of New Hampshire. Retrieved: July 25, 2011 from


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