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 https://davidbill.org

David Bill

Design Strategist at db