What can social media tools bring to your course?

Social media tools provide the opportunity to add user-generated content to your online or blended course. Tools such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Flickr, and YouTube enable your students to easily share ideas and add to the core content of online learning experiences – particularly in light of the 'any time', 'any place' access offered by mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.

Your students are probably using many of these social media tools already, and will be eager to contribute to the core course content using building blocks that they are familiar with.

The next activity will introduce you to some of the key social media tools available and the ways in which they can be easily integrated, adding valuable content to your course.

The following paragraphs will introduce you to some of the key social media tools available and the ways in which they can be easily integrated, adding valuable content to your course.

In the following activity, click on each example technology tool for an explanation and some practical tips for using that tool.

Useful links

'Learning in Facebook: First year tertiary student reflections from 2008 to...

Did you know?

When uploading and sharing content, and when encouraging students to...

Portfolio activity

Using a social bookmarking application such as Diigo, start to...

Twitter

Twitter is a microblogging application which enables you to share short text messages (under 140 characters). Through the Twitter interface and mobile apps you can post 'tweets', and follow other users and topics.

Practical possibilities:

  • Follow a subject matter expert and develop discussion around the posts
  • Create a class Twitter account and post announcements and links to topics of interest
  • Ask your students to collaborate on a list of related Twitter users and topics to follow throughout the duration of the class.

Facebook

Facebook is a social networking platform which enables you to create a profile, share content, and connect with other users.

Practical possibilities:

  • Create a Facebook page and ask students to share links to current events or related topics
  • Create a Facebook page for a fictional character or historical figure and ask students to post and comment
  • Ask students to create study group Facebook pages where they can have an informal space for working on collaborative projects.

Pinterest

Pinterest is an online pinboard which enables you to collect and display selected images with links to related sites. The focus of Pinterest is on creating a visual collection of resources. You can share and re-pin postings from other users as well.

Practical possibilities:

  • Develop and share a Pinterest board with images related to a specific topic or event
  • Ask your students to develop and share a Pinterest board with images related to a specific topic or event
  • Ask your students to collaborate on a Pinterest board to accompany course reading lists
  • Use Pinterest boards as a foundation for student dialogue and peer critiques.

Flickr

Flickr is a photo management space which enables you to post and share photographs and other images.

Practical possibilities:

  • Create and share a virtual field trip on Flickr
  • Ask students to create and post photos and images for class projects and assignments to a closed Flickr group for review and discussion
  • Post an image related to a topic or current event and ask students to add comments and discussion.

SlideShare

SlideShare is a document sharing space which enables you to upload, share, view, and comment on presentations and presentation-related resources.

Practical possibilities:

  • Create and post presentations from your online lectures for student review and comment
  • Ask students to create presentations and share them with the class for review and comment
  • Ask students to explore SlideShare resources related to a specific topic or current event and share these with the class.

YouTube

YouTube is a video sharing space which enables you to upload, share, view, and comment on videos.

Practical possibilities:

  • Create a course YouTube channel and add topic-related videos to the channel for student review
  • Ask your students to create YouTube channels in support of project topics and research
  • Ask students to create and share (upload) video with the class for review and comment
  • Create and upload video lectures in support of assigned readings and activities.

Diigo

Diigo is a social bookmarking application which enables you to save, share, and annotate web links online. Diigo allows you to create groups within which you can share and discuss saved web links.

Practical possibilities:

  • Create a course Diigo group with web links of interest for students to explore
  • Create a course Diigo group and encourage students to share and comment on shared web links.
  • Create Diigo groups for students to use in support of online group assignments.
Source: Twitter logo: © 2014 Twitter, Inc.; Pinterest logo: © 2013 Pinterest; SlideShare logo: LinkedIn Corporation © 2014; Flickr logo: Reproduced with permission of Yahoo. ©2013Yahoo.

Have a look at the 'Useful links' pod to the right, which contains links to articles and resources giving further information on, and examples of, practical uses of social media in the online classroom.

Consider the 'Useful links' pod at the end of this section, which contains links to articles and resources giving further information on, and examples of, practical uses of social media in the online classroom.

Tagging content

Keeping track of social media-generated content can be simplified by using a method called 'tagging'. Tagging content allows you and your students to easily search for all content related to your course, or topic. Creating tags means creating keywords to associate with content in order to make finding that content much easier. All you need to do is determine what tag (keyword) you want to use (be sure to make it distinctive!) and to remind students to tag all content using that determined tag.

For example, you can combine your course identifier and the year to create a tag, such as IDTWC2013, and ask your students to include that identifier as a tag in all content that they create using social media. That will enable you to search on that term and find all social media content associated with that tag.

Note that sometimes tags are preceded by the 'hash' symbol (#) and are referred to as hashtags. They can be searched on using the full identifier, such as #IDTWC2013.

Take some time to find the places where you can enter tags when you are using social media tools!

Potential problems: A note of caution

Your context

Check with your institution for information related to institutional social media...

Did you know?

When you or your students create content to share online, you should...

Social media is changing the way many of our students communicate and interact. Harnessing these methods of interaction can add a rich collaborative component to your online classes. It is important, however, to weigh the benefits and risks of using social media before you integrate it into your online teaching and learning. Key concerns about using social media in the classroom include:

  • Lack of privacy/security
  • The potential for distraction in using a social interaction tool for learning
  • Difficulty in regulating use or integrity
  • Lack of necessary skills amongst students and/or teachers

The next activity will encourage you to think about some of the issues and considerations related to using social media in your teaching, and possible strategies to combat them.

The following exercise will encourage you to think about some of the issues and considerations related to using social media in your teaching, and possible strategies to combat them.

In the following activity, consider the issue presented on the left-hand side and click on a panel at the bottom to match it with the appropriate strategy to combat that issue.
You will now be presented with a list of common concerns or issues relating to the use of social media in the classroom, and a list of possible actions to take to mitigate each concern. Consider which action matches with each concern, then continue on to check if you are correct.

Common issues

  • Conversations may get out of hand and students may post inappropriate content
  • Someone will copy and reuse content that you or your students have posted without giving you credit
  • Content that you and your students post will be accessible to the world
  • Students will get distracted by social media tools and lose focus on assigned tasks
  • The institution will not let you use certain social media tools in your online teaching.

Possible actions

  • Review the options for attributing work under Creative Commons licensing
  • Check privacy settings for any tool before you use it in your online course and consider using closed group settings
  • Check for institutional and departmental social media policies
  • Establish clear codes of conduct for student content contribution
  • Provide detailed instructions for social media activities along with mapped learning objectives for students to aim for.

Now check to see if you are correct:

Correctly matched pairs

Conversations may get out of hand and students may post inappropriate content: establish clear codes of conduct for student content contribution.

Content that you and your students post will be accessible to the world: check privacy settings for any tool before you use it in your online course and consider using closed group settings.

The institution will not let you use certain social media tools in your online teaching: check for institutional and departmental social media policies.

Someone will copy and reuse content that you or your students have posted without giving you credit: review the options for attributing work under Creative Commons licensing.

Students will get distracted by social media tools and lose focus on assigned tasks: provide detailed instructions for social media activities along with mapped learning objectives for students to aim for.

Useful links

'Overcoming Hurdles to Social Media in Education' (Tinti-Kane, 2013) is an...

For further advice on some of the potential disadvantages of using social media for teaching and learning, and how to mitigate them, see the 'Useful links' pod to the right.

For further advice on some of the potential disadvantages of using social media for teaching and learning, and how to mitigate them, consult the 'Useful links' pod at the end of this section.

In summary...

Social media is changing how we access information and communicate with each other. Students are already using Facebook, Twitter, and a variety of other applications to connect and share. Be aware of the concerns surrounding social media usage in teaching and learning before trying to integrate social media components into your online teaching. Remember, you can ask your students to help guide your selection and implementation of specific social media applications.


Useful links

Did you know?

When uploading and sharing content, and when encouraging students to do the same, bear in mind copyright and IP issues and that these can vary by tool! Make sure that the original authors of materials are fully acknowledged, and ensure that you don't distribute copyrighted materials without permission from the copyright owner. Also check the impact on the status of your own copyright with a tool you plan to use.

If you are considering providing video content, bear in mind that videos may not play in certain regions of the world.

Portfolio

Duration: 30 minutes to set up, plus regular updates

Using a social bookmarking application such as Diigo, start to compile a library of the technology tools you use and discover as you progress through this course.

Share your library of bookmarks with your peers and ask them to do the same. Are any of the new technology tools that you have found particularly helpful in improving your online teaching?

You may wish to use the attached document to make a note of your thoughts, or complete the relevant page of your Teaching Online portfolio.

Your context

Check with your institution for information related to institutional social media policies and accepted practices for using these tools and approaches in your online teaching.

Did you know?

When you or your students create content to share online, you should consider adding a Creative Commons licence to add terms to the use and repurposing of your work. Visit the Creative Commons website for a full review of licensing and permission types before you publish open resources: http://creativecommons.org/

Useful links