Getting social


Social media has been around since 1997, with the creation of Six degrees. It only took off at the start of the 21st century, with Twitter and Facebook rapidly dominating. I have always taken an interest in IT matters and joined Facebook in 2008 and Twitter in 2009. But using either for educational purposes didn’t happen until later.

From my perspective, I use Twitter (you can find me there as @Delta_Cephei) as my main PD resource. I follow a variety of accounts related to my interests- Education, Science etc. These often draw to my attention events and news that I can then incorporate into my lesson planning. E.g. I caught the Nobel Prize for Medicine announcement via Twitter this week and immediately used the tweeted links to find out more. The prize this year went to the scientists who discovered the mechanism for biological clocks- something that would be really useful for my Level 3 biology group.

Very useful for the Level 3 Biology topic

Twitter also allows me to get involved in conversations- e.g. via #edchatnz. Sometimes  I have been able to talk directly to other educators, asking questions. I’d never be able to do this without social media. I believe it has enabled me to be more up-to-date with my subject knowledge and become a better teacher.

Facebook is slightly different. I used to see Facebook as being solely a family and friends network. However, over the past decade Facebook has changed and more companies and organisations are using the platform, so that’s no longer the case. I have [shhh!] unfollowed many of my contacts and now mostly receive information in my feed. It’s now got a similar role to Twitter for me. Again, there are discussion groups that I contribute or lurk on which give me useful information that aids my teaching.

When I started at MBC in 2012 I did sign up (and use) the VLN. This was quite good but it’s main failing was that it was not ubiquitous. Facebook and Twitter have apps and can be accessed anywhere. To access the VLN I had to be more proactive; I had to log in deliberately to see the content. I think that Twitter and Facebook have taken over the VLN function, I don’t see many using it any more.

How many teachers now use the VLN?

One thing that I have not done well at this point is to use a social network in a lesson. I have had students use Twitter to ask questions of others, but this was more an ‘off-the-cuff’ activity. It would be better to plan this more and design an activity where students could collaborate with people more effectively. Of course, there are potential issues using social media in a classroom. Liu, Kirschner and Karpinski (2017) found in a meta analysis that use of social media by students had a negative affect on grades. Presumably the students need to be taught how to effectively use it first.

Having said that, social media is not going to go away. Greenhow and Lewin (2015) argue that as society gets used to using social media (particularly the young) then its use formally (and informally) in education becomes easier (and more effective).

A big issue with both Facebook and Twitter is being able to relocate conversations and valuable information. Using Tweetdeck helps with keeping on track of conversations, particularly with edchats, but locating information is difficult, unless you have hit the like button. I think that there is an opportunity to develop workflows that store social media content- e.g. saving to OneNote or Evernote.


Greenhow, C., & Lewin, C. (2015). Social media and education: reconceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal learning. Learning, Media and Technology, 41(1), 6-30.

Liu, D., Kirschner, P. A., & Karpinski, A. C. (2017). A meta-analysis of the relationship of academic performance and Social Network Site use among adolescents and young adults. Computers in Human Behavior, 77, 148-157.



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