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1. Social Networking in Teaching

user_48.png1.1 Lecturers

  • Ning provides a range of the Web 2.0 tools that we have covered in previous sections of this site. You can use these tools in the ways that we have covered in previous sections of this wiki.
  • Collegial conversations about teaching and learning.
  • Add an RSS feed on your subject discipline to provide students with up to the minute information.
  • Start a blog to provide up to date information to your students.
  • Start a discussion forum on a particular topic of interest.
  • Create an online community so that students can work together any time and anywhere.
  • Create groups so that your students can work together in teams using a problem based or case based learning approach.
  • Add an event such as an assignment with a start and end date and a link to further resources.
  • Add applications to share document files with students.
  • Upload media rich resources for students to view.
  • Customize the appearance of Ning to reflect your distinct personality and teaching style.

user_48.png1.2 Students

  • Create an online community so that students can work together any time and anywhere.
  • Share resources with one another.
  • Add RSS feeds for your fellow students on resources you have found useful.
  • Use the blog feature to keep a reflective record of their learning experience.
  • Use the discussion forum to discuss a class assignment.
  • Share media rich resources such as videos and photos.
  • Use the space informally for socializing and community building.
  • Personalize the space to reflect their unique personalities and interests.

2. Example

Social networking is . . . well. social. It's about connecting with people to share ideas, learning, stories, life events and news. Social networking is about making connections which begs the rather obvious question. What place does social networking have in teaching? The research articles below will give you some ideas about how social networking sites might be used to support students in their learning.

paper_content_pencil_48.png3. Research Articles

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image_add_48.png Boyd, D. M., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social Network Sites: Definition, History, and Scholarship. Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 13(1).
Retrieved from

This article describes features of social networking sites and proposes a comprehensive definition for social networking sites. The article then looks at the history of such sites including the key changes and developments that have occurred with social networking sites over the years (interesting but if you're pressed for time you might skip this section). After briefly summarizing existing scholarship concerning social networking sites, the authors discuss the social networking articles in the special section of this edition of the journal. The scholarship section is useful for thinking about the different dimensions of social networking that might be researched e.g. self presentation, networking behaviors and privacy issues. The scholarship section includes some reference to use of social networks in education with the authors noting that scholars are documenting the implications of SNS use with respect to schools, universities, and libraries. For example, scholarship has examined how students feel about having professors on Facebook and how faculty participation affects student-professor relations. The paper concludes with an overview of the special theme section and with a look at possible directions for future research. Overall, this article serves as a very good introduction to the features, functionality and uses of social networking sites.

image_add_48.png Ellison, N. B., Steinfield, C., & Lampe, C. (2007). The Benefits of Facebook "Friends:" Social Capital and College Students' Use of Online Social Network Sites Journal of Computer Mediated Communication, 12(4).
Retrieved from

This paper looks at the affordances of social networks through a study of Facebook. The authors note that previous research has tended to focus on the negative aspects of using Facebook - e.g. identity theft resulting from poor privacy control practices. However, this research focuses on the relationship between use of Facebook and the formation and maintenance of social capital. Social capital broadly refers to the resources that a person has at their disposal as a result of their social network/connections e.g. being able to call on a person for help. Relations in a social network can be of various types and these types can be characterized as either weaker or stronger e.g. a relation with a passing acquaintance might be characterized as week. The authors analysis of the different types of social connections might prove interesting for educational research e.g. type/intensity of student engagement both in face-to-face teaching and in online teaching. The findings about how undergraduate students use Facebook are also of potential interest for the use of social networking sites in education. For example, participants overwhelmingly used Facebook to keep in touch with old friends and to maintain or intensify relationships characterized by some form of offline connection such as dormitory proximity or a shared class. This might suggest that online social networking serves to reinforce existing relations and/or that students do not choose to form new relationships online.

image_warning_48.png Figg, C., & Rutherford, C. (2010). Using Social Networks to Enhance Pre-service Teachers’ Understanding of Professional Identity. Paper presented at the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (SITE) 2010, San Diego, C.A.
Retrieved from

This paper reports on the use of a social network for the Faculty of Education at Brock University. The purpose of the social network was to facilitate interaction and communication between the faculty, staff, and students. In addition to fostering intra-institutional relationships, the network was designed to foster inter-institutional connections by strengthening the faculty’s rapport with the surrounding teacher community that supports the institution’s mission. The study employed mixed methods with a group of pre-service teachers to investigate two research questions: (1) Provided with a social networking tool designed to meet specific needs of the Faculty of Education, how would participants use the tool? (2). How did participating in such an environment foster or impede the development of identity in pre-service teachers? Quantitative data sources, in the form of frequency of visits, number of unique visitors, and length of time on the site, were collected using Google Analytics. Qualitative data sources in the form of individual or group blog posts, wiki posts, resource posts, or bulletin board posts were collected and analyzed using a content analysis process.

image_add_48.png Gray, K., Kennedy, G., Waycott, J., Dalgarno, B., Bennett, S., Chang, R., et al. (2009). Educating the Net Generation: A Toolkit of Resources for Educators in Australian Universities.
Retrieved from

This resource provides a page of references on the use of Social Networking applications in teaching.

image_add_48.png Griffith, S., & Liyanage, L. (2008). An Introduction to the Potential of Social Networking Sites in Education. Paper presented at the Emerging Technologies Conference, Wollongong, Australia.
Retrieved from

This is more of a report than research. The paper reviews Facebook and MySpace with reference to potential uses in education. Identified uses tend to relate to the social aspect of social networking i.e. students engaging with one another, students engaging with their lecturers, increased student motivation as a result of lecturers presenting themselves on a social networking site.

image_warning_48.pngHolcomb, L., Brady, K., & Smith, B. (2010). Ning in Education: Can Non-Commercial, Education-Based Social Networking Sites Really Address the Privacy and Safety Concerns of Educators? Paper presented at the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (SITE) 2010, San Diego, C.A.
Retrieved from

This paper reports on research into the use of a social networking site amongst graduate students enrolled in one fully asynchronous distance education instructional technology courses and two hybrid, synchronous distance education educational leadership preparation courses at North Carolina State University’s College of Education. Essentially students reported that they found the social networking environment useful for collaborating with local and distance classmates. However, students noted that the time commitment involved in remaining current with the social network was a drawback.

image_warning_48.pngHung, H., & Yuen, S. C. (2010). Exploring the Use of Social Networking in the College Classroom. Paper presented at the Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (SITE) 2010, San Diego, CA.
Retrieved from

This paper reports on an exploratory study which explored the use of social networking technology to facilitate teaching and learning in the college classroom. Preliminary findings indicated that the use of class social networks in the
observed classrooms was found helpful for strengthening students’ connectedness among class members and promoting classroom communities of practice.

image_warning_48.png Mazer, J. P., Murphy, R. E., & Simonds, C. J. (2007). I'll See You On "Facebook": The Effects of Computer-Mediated Teacher Self-Disclosure on Student Motivation, Affective Learning, and Classroom Climate. Communication Education, 56(1), 1 - 17.
Retrieved from

This experimental study examined the effects of teacher self-disclosure via Facebook on anticipated college student motivation, affective learning, and classroom climate. Participants who accessed the Facebook website of a teacher high in self-disclosure anticipated higher levels of motivation and affective learning and a more positive classroom climate. In their responses to open-ended items, participants emphasized possible negative associations between teacher use of Facebook and teacher credibility. Participants offered recommendations for teachers regarding the use of Facebook and other weblog services. This article is useful if you are interested in looking at how teacher immediacy - physical and psychological closeness - impacts on student motivation and learning.

image_add_48.pngMcCarthy, J. (2010). Blended Learning Environments: Using Social Networking Sites to Enhance the First Year Experience. Australasian Journal of Educational Technology, 26(6), 729-740.
Retrieved from

This study explores blending virtual and physical learning environments to enhance the experience of first year by immersing students into university culture through social and academic interaction between peers. It reports on the progress made from
2008 to 2009 using an existing academic platform, the first year design elective course Imaging Our World, in the School of Architecture, Landscape Architecture and Urban
Design at the University of Adelaide. Over one semester, 120 design students, including 27 internationals, engaged with their peers through an online forum within the host site Facebook, in addition to the traditional teaching mechanisms of lectures
and tutorials. Students were required to submit work online to Facebook and provide critiques of peers’ submissions. Resulting discussions were then transferred into the
physical classroom with the aim of building meaningful relationships between peers based on the embryonic online connections. The evaluation process involved pre and post semester questionnaires, weekly feedback from students and project-specific
reflections at the completion of the semester. The findings are discussed in light of the conflicting attitudes and assumptions regarding the ‘digital native’ student cohort, and the use of social media to support learning and teaching in higher education.