Awesome Free Ed Tech Resources eBook!

  • Nearly 200 Free Applications and hundreds of resources to help you get the most out of them!
  • Tools for interactive collaboration, gamification, OER, mobile learning, & so much more!
  • YOURS FREE just for signing up for blog posts!

Sign Up Now


7 Ways That Social Networking Tools Can Enable Social Learning in the Classroom

by Kelly Walsh on June 5, 2011


Instructional uses of social networking software can provide opportunities for learning, connecting, and engagement.

This year, I’ve written frequently about popular social media tools, and education-specific social networking apps, and social enterprise solutions. I’ve also noticed increasing coverage of this topic in the media recently. Maybe it’s just me paying more attention to it … or maybe it signals an increasing acceptance of these types of tools as legitimate and effective resources for the classroom.

Social networking tools aren’t going away any time soon, they appear to be here for the long term. But do these kinds of applications really belong in the classroom? I think they do, and here are a few reasons why:

7 ways in which “social learning applications” can play an impactful role in education:

Engagement: Using social media and networking tools obviously has a social aspect to it, and it requires proactive effort on the part of the user. In other words, using these tools to communicate and interact requires a student’s active engagement. Socialization also provides opportunities for emotional engagement (this article from The Chronicle discusses the importance of emotional engagement as part of the social learning process).

Social Learning: Bandura’s Social Learning Theory posits that “people learn from one another, via observation, imitation, and modeling”. Of course, the type of socialization that occurs via “social” computer tools is certainly different than face-to-face social interaction, but it still offers opportunities for social learning.

Use time outside of class better, so you can use in-class time better: Social learning tools also position instructors to deliver content outside of the classroom, and then “flip” the classroom – working on what would have been homework during class sometimes. (And yes, this is the same idea I loved from Salman Khan’s recent TED talk the other week).

It provides opportunities for writing and writing assessment: While tools like Twitter lend themselves to abbreviated “texting” style uses of language, there is no need for this in most other forums. Teachers can choose to include grading of writing quality as part of the rubrics they develop for grading social media based assignments and class work.

Encourage dialogue, reach more students: It’s social! “Let’s talk”! Sometimes anything that can draw out reluctant teens and pre-teens is a good thing when the goal is to communicate. One clear advantage of socializing across the Internet is that it is seen as less intimidating that face to face contact, and can allow shy students to express themselves more comfortably.

Help students get ahead of the professional curve: One of the fundamental goals of education is to position young people for enjoyable, successful careers. Social media is becoming more important to business with each passing year. Many organizations have moved from just discussing “social media awareness” and “social marketing” to including actually social media business planning as part of their strategic planning efforts. An increasing number of professional positions desire or require social media awareness, and it seems likely that more positions will call for this skill in the future.

Build connections: Using social networking tools to deliver social learning experiences in the classroom provides opportunities to meet other students and have access (depending on the tools being used) to other educators and professionals. Maintaining connections and communicating with these new colleagues has never been easier, thanks to these Internet based applications.

Of course, it’s a pain that many of these tools are also blocked on school’s networks (hopefully this list can help you make the case for unblocking some of these sites at your school!). I do also realize that these tools can be used in a distracting way, and expose kids to inappropriate content, so there must always be an appropriate level of guidance, selection of tools, and oversight.

Learning More
If you’re new to Social Learning, and are thinking about learning some more about these tools (maybe over the summer, if you’re a teacher who is off during those months), here’s a set of posts that discuss the use of mass market tools Facebook and Twitter in class work, as well various education-specific tools like Edmodo and Room21.

If you’re a regular reader (and I hope you are :)), you know we love to hear comments and insights from other readers, so please click here and let us know about your experiences with social media in the classroom, your questions, or any other reasons you think social learning tools are a good idea!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
10 internet technologies that educators should be informed about

10 Free Educational Game Sites
Adaptive Learning, An Idea With Powerful Potential


Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer at The College of Westchester, in White Plains, NY, where he also teaches. In 2009, Walsh founded He frequently delivers presentations and training on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. His eBook, the Flipped Classroom Workshop-in-a-Book is available here. Walsh became the Community Administrator for the Flipped Learning Network in June of 2016. In his "spare time" he also writes, records, and performs original music ... stop by and have a listen!

[Disclaimer: The opinions expressed here are my own, or those of other writers, and not those of my employer. - K. Walsh]

Print This Post Print This Post

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Daodu E March 13, 2012 at 1:01 pm

Your comments on this topic has been quite commendable.And i will like to say that it’s high time our schools embrace and incorporate social networking in day to day teaching-learning experiences.

The Social Media People February 29, 2012 at 3:58 am

A lot of parents maybe concerned by social teaching as they feel this causes a distraction and detracts from actual academic activty.

Bridgett February 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm

I love the way you view social networking to motivate students. Why not engage students using tools that they already want to use. I might imagine there could be plenty of strategic lesson plans, just as when the internet first popped on the scene. Kudos to you!

K. Walsh August 20, 2011 at 7:15 am

Another reason that I should have included here is Social Motiviation! As many educators have experienced, the inherent competitiveness in a social situation can often lead to participants pushing each other, either directly or indirectly, to achieve at a higher level.

Rod June 13, 2011 at 9:40 pm

Social Learning Network NoteLog ( is a great example I have used in my college classes.

Rita Oates, PhD June 7, 2011 at 9:30 am

Look at some products created for K12 education. (Lots of alternatives especially for students under age 13.)
ePals offers enterprise-grade district-level deployment of integrated web 2.0 tools. Register students once and they have email, blogs, wikis, digital lockers, and more through LearningSpace. There’s a modest fee, but it’s 95% e-rateable, so your district pays pennies for a powerful, safe, learning-focused web platform.
To have widespread use of web 2.0 tools, it’s got to be a lot easier to manage them in instruction. With a district-level deployment, there’s a handshake between the Student Information System and the web 2.0 platform, and all teachers and students are registered, sorted into classes/schools, and teachers can turn on and off the web tools they want to use for a particular class at a particular time. One username/password for kids to remember. One interface to learn for multiple kinds of web 2.0 tools. All that saves instructional time and energy, both for students and for teachers.
And products like ePals qualify for TRUSTe certification of child privacy and safety. Almost all school districts in the US allow ePals to be used because of the way they are concerned about students and data privacy.

Niadin H June 6, 2011 at 10:34 pm

I found this course really helpful and interesting when getting my head around social media and it’s place within the education system and it’s relevance for the students Social Media Education Group

Leave a Comment

{ 70 trackbacks }

Previous post:

Next post: