What is social media?

This week we were asked to critically analyse a piece of research on social media use in language classrooms. As I have been using Edmodo I was looking for something similar to compare with my experience of social media. But what exactly is social media?

This question is much harder to answer than it might first seem, the word social media is a huge umbrella term encompassing a wide range of web 2.0 tools. Under the term social media, we find subcategories, such as blogging, microblogging, podcasting and social book-marking. Each of these application types has a range of features that help distinguish them. For example, most social networks allow users to set up a personal profile, publish or share content on message boards and communicate though chat or instant messaging features.  Despite these seemingly distinct categories and affordances, there is a lot of cross-over between these constantly evolving Web 2.0 tools.  For an exhaustive list of social media tools follow the link below to an interactive PDF from http://www.ovrdrv.com/.


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The research journal I found focused on the use of Facebook in language learning and students’ reactions to its use.  For further information, please see the the link to the research and my slideshow below.

Facebook-ing and the Social Generation: A New Era of Language Learning

My Critical Analysis on SlideShare

The journal starts out by outlining how the development of Web 2.0 tools and the social web have changed the way individuals interact with the world and the impact this is having on education (G. Blattner, L. Lomicka, 2012, p.2).  Many experts align themselves with this view claiming the widespread use of Web 2.0 tools require a departure from industrial mass-market approaches to education (K. Robinson, 2015, p.xv), (C. Mcoughlin, M. Lee, 2008 p1) (G. Dudeney, N. Hocky, M. Pegrum, 2013. p.5). C. Mcoughlin and M. Lee even go on to coin the term ‘Pedagogy 2.0’ to respond to these changes (2008, p.1).

‘Pedagogy 2.0 integrates Web 2.0 tools that support knowledge sharing, peer-to-peer networking, and access to a global audience with socioconstructivist learning approaches to facilitate greater learner autonomy, agency, and personalization.’

Notwithstanding the affordances of Web 2.0 tools, there are still many hurdles to cross before we can confidently dive into ‘pedagogy 2.0’. Although there may be many issues to consider, I would like to focus on the issue of privacy which came up in the research journal on Facebook mentioned above.

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Social Networks and Privacy

There is a general trend towards openness and sharing on the internet, marked by the multitude of blogs, YouTube videos and Facebook profiles (M. Weller, 2011 p23). However, not everyone is happy to share their personal information with the rest of the world or even their peers on a language course. In fact, in the study on Facebook one of the students did express concerns over the sharing of personal information (G. Blattner, L. Lomicka, 2012, p.11). Many teachers I know, including myself, refrain from using Facebook with students for the very same concerns. That said, G. Dudeney et al. argue that it is our responsibility as teachers to develop students’ ‘digital literacies’ for our networked digital age (2013, p.2). One solution suggested by Matt Britland from the Guardian is to use Facebook groups as they can be set up without participants needing to be ‘friends’(2012). Click here to read the article.

Education focussed alternatives

Tools like Edmodo can act as a more neutral space, where you can share as much or as little as you like with relative ease compared to Facebook. I have been using Edmodo for the last 2 months and it seems to be going well. It doesn’t have all the features and integration of Facebook but it’s good for sharing links, files, audio recordings, flipcharts and giving out assignments. Another use I recently discovered was using Edmodo to keep a running commentary of the lesson for absent students.

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Instant messaging

The instant messaging application WhatsApp has some similarities to Facebook, in the way that it crosses personal boundaries. As I’ve mentioned before in previous posts some of my classes create L2 only WhatsApp groups to keep track of homework and share pictures of the board. There is a lot of pressure though from the class for students to divulge their numbers for the group and resistance to do so can create tension in some groups. On our MA we have started using Kakao as an alternative to WhatsApp to avoid these issues. I personally have never felt like joining WhatsApp groups with my students, but this does leave me out of the loop and makes it difficult to monitor students’ contributions.


Perhaps the issue of privacy hides a deeper unconscious resistance from teachers and institutions to engage in social media, that of losing control. According to Stefana Broadbent, cognitive scientist and tech anthropologist, this fear of losing control due to technology can be seen across all areas of society.

‘what is going on is that these institutions are trying to decide who, in fact, has a right to self determine their attention, to decide, whether they should, or not, be isolated.’


Are you ready for pedagogy 2.0?

Where does all this organic communication and collaboration between individuals fit in with our current content delivery models of education? If we decide to embrace social media in education, how can we effectively monitor and assess our learners’ progress in these environments? I fear that our current approaches to SLA do not address these questions adequately. I therefore agree with the need for a ‘pedagogy 2.0’ (C. Mcoughlin, M. Lee, 2008). And with Ravenscroft when he states that we need to ‘reconfigure and reformulate learning and pegagogy’ to take advantage of the social web(2009).


Blattner, L. Lomicka (2012) Facebook-ing and the Social Generation: A new era of Language Learning. Alsic, Vol. 15, n1.

Britland, M. (2012) Social media for schools: a guide to Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. The Guardian, Viewed 29/11/15) URL: http://www.theguardian.com/teacher-network/2012/jul/26/social-media-teacher-guide

Dudeney, N. Hocky, N. Pegrum, M. (2013) Digital Literacies. Pearson.

Mcoughlin, C. Lee, M. (2008) Future Learning landscapes: Transforming pedagogy through Social Software (Innovate Journal of Online Education, Vol 4, Issue 5, p.1987-1989)

Ravenscroft, A. (2009) Social software, Web 2.0 and learning: Status and implications of an evolving paradigm. Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, Vol 25, Issue 1, p.1-5

Robinson, K.(2015) Creative Schools. Allen Lane.

Weller, M.(2015) The Digital Scholar, Bloomsbury publishing.


Social media image https://www.cite.co.uk/the-different-types-of-social-media/ (viewed on 29/11/15)

Facebook privacy https://www.facebook.com/help/325807937506242/(viewed on 29/11/15)

Edmodo https://www.edmodo.com/ (viewed 29/11/15)

Featured image

Facebook control http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2011/11/how-the-cia-uses-social-media-to-track-how-people-feel/247923/ (viewed on 29/11/15)


Stefana Broadbent How the internet enables intimacy TED.com (viewed on 29/11/15)