Learn 2.0There has been a shift. We see it every day. Facebook is getting older. Twitter is breaking news. Everywhere we turn social media is changing our world.


In education, this shift has not been as seamless. Every school tries to minimize the misuse of social networks, but while there may be some bumps along the way, social media offers an opportunity to truly transform education. This technology offers a powerful way to engage and motivate our students through by creating a transparent and participatory learning environment. A number of posts, including one by George Siemens, the co-creator of Connectivism, got me thinking about just how this could happen.

Transparent and participatory learning happens when we allow our students to share and learn from each other. When our students can learn from one another, by connecting and thinking through problems together, learning becomes much more intrinsic.

“We participate, therefore we are”

This quote was taken from an article written by John Seely Brown and Richard Adler. The authors mention how learning happens through interactions, not by having knowledge handed down.  When students can learn from each other their understanding of material is much greater. Social media can be the conduit that creates this open and social learning environment where knowledge is shared and ideas are discussed rather than handed down from a teacher. Here are some examples:

1. In his Latin classroom, R. Richard Wojewodzki had his students use Twitter to take a test. The students were given Latin text in one browser tab, a Latin dictionary in another tab, and Twitter in the third browser tab. Using those three tools, the students were to communicate via twitter and translate the text into English during class. They worked together, sharing their ideas and interpretations of the text on Twitter and in 35 minutes had completed the test. Not only were the students working together and learning from each other but Wojewodzki was able to monitor who was contributing to the discussion as he followed his Twitter feed.

2. Blogging offers another model for transparent and participatory learning. Used as a student’s primary writing platform, a blog can improve writing as well as shift the learning process. Because a blog is open to the public, the student will be much more thoughtful in his writing. When discussion of ideas or edits via blog comments becomes a core component of a classroom, the openness of the discussion creates a rich learning environment.

Social media has the potential to create a learning environment where learners can share and develop ideas but teachers are an important part of this process. In a speech at Penn State, danah boyd said,

They’re [students] coming of age in a culture where these structures are just a given. They take them [technology] for granted. And they repurpose them to meet their needs. But they don’t necessarily think about them. Educators have a critical role when it comes to helping youth navigate social media. You can help them understand how to make sense of what they’re seeing. We can call this “media literacy” or “digital literacy” or simply learning to live in a modern society. Youth need to know more than just how to use the tools – they need to understand the structures around them.

In an age where social media can create connections and an open and vibrant atmosphere for learning, it is critical that we learn to guide our students through this medium and help them understand its true potential.


Photo Credit: aaron schmidt

Follow David Bill on Twitter @dcinc66 or on his blog http://davidbill.org

David Bill

Design Strategist at db


  • Jay


    Great piece. I would make one slight observation, it is possible that it is people changing the world, and social media is giving us the tools

    great read best j

  • Jay.

    People are the drivers of any educational change, the tools are useless otherwise. In my mind, social media tools are similar a car. Alone, a car doesn’t get you from A to B but when an educator drives that car (i.e. social media) it can transport us almost anywhere.

    While we must ensure that educators understand the rationale behind these tools and see why our classrooms need to change, the tools will implement the change we are looking for.

  • I wonder if Sir Ken Robinson agrees with handing the keys to the educators.


    great to have a space to actually have critical discussions

  • Ah, Sir Ken. Gotta love him. Going with the analogy again. We wouldn’t give the keys to someone who didn’t know how to drive. We need to educate our faculty. They need to learn on how social media can define what Sir Ken is promoting.

    His new book, The Element, is definitely on my summer reading list:


  • Great to know how twitter is being used in the class room. Thanks for sharing this.

  • The example of a Latin translation being done by Twitter is incredibly lame. Pen and paper and/or a word processor are far more appropriate tools for the job. What is twitter adding here apart from novelty for its own sake, and monitoring by the teacher? Yawn…