Posts from the ‘ELPCG1’ Category

Social Networking Research Critique

Social Networking is the process of connecting individuals who share some kinds of commonalities. This is not a new phenomenon, social networking is a fundamental part of the human experience. Online social networking first emerged in 1997, with the launch of  and has slowly advanced its way into the populace  (p.3, Boyd & Ellison, 2007). Thus it is a relatively new circumstance, with a small field of research from which to draw conclusions. The application of Social Networking in Education is even more recent and consequently the research field is in relative infancy. Successful implementation of SN in educational environments requires constant academic analysis to ensure that the research used for policy decisions is up to date and specific in its focus. Focus areas should include risk mitigation, parental and administrative inclusion, academic achievement, and teacher training that links learning with pedagogical practice.  These were discussed in the previous ELPCG1 Research Journal. This critique collates the findings drawn from that journal.

Research showed that over 90% of Victorian students access some form of Social Networking on a daily basis (pp. 2-4, de Zwart et al., 2011). This implies some degree of parental approval or acquiescence. Future research might target this apparent gap in risk mitigation. Parents allow Social Networking in the home but are hesitant about its implementation in an educational context. Nor do they engage in educated dialogue with their children about the risks of online communities (pp. 2-4, de Zwart et al.,2011).  Research found that parents and teachers/school administrators are overly concerned with sexual predatory risks and cyber bullying (p.1, de Zwart et al.,2011). These concerns are also perpetuated by media and political bodies. Despite these concerns, the high percentage of teen use demonstrates that as a society, social networking amongst teens is condoned or at least tolerated. Why then, is it not widely implemented as a part of the school curriculum? Specific programmes could work to negate the aforementioned risks, and also address legality issues such as copyright infringements, privacy issues, defamation and breaches of confidence (p. 3, de Zwart et al., 2011).  Indeed, research found that these types of breaches were more common than either cyber bullying or issues of a sexual nature. The legal risks for teachers and schools should also be identified and programmes  implemented for risk reduction/mitigation, including legal protection tailored for teachers if the need arises.

A focus area that requires further research, is the effects on student learning after introducing Social Networking into the school curriculum. Quantifiable results detailing either improvements or deterioration in academic achievement might help advance the discussion to the policy level, with the current focus on test scores and school rankings. Alternatively, if the aim is to increase student engagement, it would be pertinent to study whether Social Networking in the classroom relegates it to the status of the common text-book, inducing yawns and groans where one might expect engagement and enthusiasm. After all, the research refers to the digital generation, for whom such resources are not technologically advanced but rather, a part of their daily fabric. Therefore more studies should direct analysis on future technologies and how to best utilise them for educational purposes. Currently, the technology advances the research, which is conducted retrospectively. For instance, the current discussions relating to Web 2.0 being replaced by cloud computing could  be considered in research projects analysing the use of ICT in education. How will it be implemented? How will  schools migrate successfully between the two technologies and at what economic cost? It is better to direct the technological research rather than technology retroactively directing the research.

Teacher training in Web 2.0 technologies demands immediate and extensive attention. Research by de Zwart et al. (2011)  highlighted the lack of awareness amongst parents and teachers concerning the legalities of online participation. Educating teachers in effective uses of Social Networking is important to ensure safe passage for students in the virtual world. Currently, online networking appears sporadically in schools and it appears to depend on the teacher’s personal knowledge, rather than as a by-product of professional training. Scaffolding of student learning is a basic tenet of education, why then are teachers not given scaffolded training to implement specific kinds of Web 2.0 such as Social Networking?  The research might better direct participants as to how to implement online networking and education. Students and staff at the University of Leicester were given mobile devices and asked to use Twitter by researchers (Badge et al, 2011). Whilst this provided valuable data on how Twitter use unfolded, future studies could achieve two aims, training for specific educational purposes and then measuring the effects of that use on either academic achievement, digital literacy, student engagement or the acquisition of life skills. de Zwart et al (p. 3, 2011)  highlight the need for schools to produce “effective digital citizens” and to implement “specifically tailored programs” but to achieve this end, teachers require specific training. This training could extend to parents and school administrations although such programmes introduce fiscal concerns that likely prove difficult to countenance. However, scientific data can only enhance the discussions of whether or not to implement technologies in a curriculum, especially if further funding and programmes are required.

Risk aversion is one of the main reasons for school and parent reticence at implementing formal programmes of Social Networking. However, blanket avoidance is not an acceptable analytic response to the many benefits of such technologies in schools. Research highlighted many benefits such as improved digital literacy, creativity, etiquette and overcoming geographical isolation (Collin et al., 2010). Perhaps most significantly, the research proves that pedagogical applications are still very relevant within the medium. Social Networking facilitates an online collaborative classroom that draws upon existing learning theories such as Piaget, Vygotsky and Social Constructivism, emergent learning; and learner centric methods such as enquiry based and problem solving learning. The potential to achieve hidden curriculum objectives such as improving student safety by modelling appropriate online behaviour is also very valuable. Williams et al. (pp. 50-51, 2011) discussed online emergent learning and the need for teachers to guide the construction of knowledge in order to achieve a qualitative learning environment. This demonstrated that pedagogy is integral to a learning environment, whether virtual or physical.  These worlds are merging for students; clear distinctions are no longer the norm. (Pp.17-18, Collins et al., 2010). Pedagogy and technological familiarity will guide teachers to implement effective programmes that link theory and practice, drawn from scientific research.

Social Networking for educational purposes extends learning potential beyond the borders of classroom walls and school boundaries. As with all things in life, there are benefits and risks. Therefore, its inclusion in an educational context requires rigourous study to ensure safety for all participants, including teachers. This critique concludes that a wider scope of research, with education for teachers that keeps pace with new technologies and facilitates a suitable flow of information to parents and administrators, should combine to form a comprehensive framework that insures formal, analysed implementation. This framework would then combine practice with pedagogy to ensure the highest quality of teaching and learning.


Badge, J., Johnson, S., Moseley, A. &  Cann, A.Observing Emerging Student Networks on a Microblogging Service (2011). MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2011.

Boyd, D. Streams of Content, Limited Attention : The Flow of Information Throughout Social Media, (2010). EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 26–36.

Boyd, d. m., & Ellison, N. B. (2007). Social network sites: Definition, history, and scholarship. Journal of Computer-Mediated Communication, 13(1), article 11.

Collin, Dr. P.,  University of Western Sydney,  Rahilly, K., Inspire Foundation, Richardson, Dr. I., Murdoch University, Third, Dr. A., University of Western Sydney. The Benefits of Social Networking Services. (2010). Literature Review, ISBN: 978-0-9871179-1-5.

de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., Phillips, M., Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites, (2011).  Monash University, Faculty of Education Building 6 Monash University Victoria 3800 Australia.

Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (2011), International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol. 12.3, March 2011.

Benefits of Social Networking

I have defined Social Networking and given examples as to how it can be used in education. I have discussed pedagogical applications and how these translate to both the physical and virtual classrooms. I want to conclude with the benefits of Social Networking because I am a glass half-full gal who likes to focus on the positives. Do not mistake me, I am a full supporter of risk mitigation, but since writing these Research Journals for ELPCG1, I have become a pretty passionate proponent for using 21st Century teaching techniques.

This post discusses research analysing the benefits of social networking. Refreshingly, this research found the “challenges and risks have been over-emphasised in recent years, both in popular media and social research”. (p.21, 2010). I use the term “refreshingly” because I have noted the tendency for some people to demonise social networking as the devil. It reminds me of 1950’s attitudes to Rock n Roll. Or perhaps its virtual McCarthyism. (Disclaimer: the author read about these historical events. The author was not alive when they occurred. She may have been alive shortly afterwards though.)

In any case, as a teacher I hope to use all available tools to engage my students. They are  21st century learners, remember? However, it is imperative that I consult scholarly opinion on both my teaching methods and resources. It is not enough to say that I believe social networking has benefits, it is far better for me, my school administration and my

students and their parents, to draw upon peer-reviewed work that is available. Nor should we hoard that lovely intelligent literature in our staff rooms but make it readily available to our school communities…perhaps you could start a forum where parents, teachers and students could debate its effectiveness. See how I did that? Social networking is already at play.

The diagram below maps out the ‘interconnectedness of connecting’ with our students and our students connecting with each other.  These are the findings of the research project. The basic tenet is that the use of computers for social networking encourages digital skills, etiquette, creativity, education possibilities outside our classrooms, and the ability to connect on a global and intergenerational level.  It is also important to note that the corporate, consumer and tertiary academic world are already operating in these environments.

What is our mandate as teachers? I believe it is to equip our students with the skills to enter their world. Our world. The 21st Century world. For this generation, the lines between society are blurring. On-line worlds are melding with off-line worlds.(pp. 17-18, 2010). If we do not equip them with digital literacy and etiquette, how do they become discerning, skilled and appropriate members of that world?

The best part of that statement, is you don’t even have to take my word for it. You can go to the academic source, educate yourself in the discussion and start to take part. Your students will thank you for the opportunity to participate.


Collin, Dr. P.,  University of Western Sydney,  Rahilly, K., Inspire Foundation, Richardson, Dr. I., Murdoch University, Third, Dr. A., University of Western Sydney. The Benefits of Social Networking Services. (2010). Literature Review, ISBN: 978-0-9871179-1-5.

Tweet, tweet, tweet.

I tweet.

Do you?

Not your cup of tea?

Doesn’t float your boat?

Have you asked yourself WHY you feel that way?

Perhaps you are too busy, too old, too clever, too academic.

Or perhaps, dare I write the words, you are simply uninformed.


Let’s fix that and start the induction process.

It begins with peer review. That is correct. Twitter is open for the business of research and rigorous analysis. I would say that it warrants (at least) a second look…

This post discusses the work of four researchers from the University of Leicester, regarding the application of Twitter with two divergent groups of students : undergraduate and postgraduate . Several factors emerged that concluded with the consensus that micro-blogging sites such as Twitter are worthy of inclusion in a learning environment.

Of course, there is more. But I wanted you to stick with me till the end so I gave away the ending : Twitter has its place in a place of learning.

Firstly, it should be noted that the research was conducted at the university level but the findings are applicable to senior high school in particular. Indeed, the undergraduate students were of a similar age to year eleven and twelve students, with an average age of 18-19 years. Also, the below clip demonstrates some uses of Twitter at the high school level.  Here are the research findings on how Twitter was employed (as detailed on p.97, 2011)

  • Administrative issues such as coordinating field trips,  lecture schedules.
  • Between individuals to arrange meetings and projects.
  • Staff and students employed it to communicate subject-specific discussions
  • students formed “peer-to-peer support for academic and/or social aspects of University life”. (p.97, 2011).

The establishment of these peer-to-peer groups demonstrated the highest usage around assignment and exam periods suggesting a virtual tutorial group. (p. 93, 2011). The possibilities for emergent learning here are strong as is the very basic issue of reducing pre-exam stress particularly for socially isolated students. (p.93, 2011).

The ability to contact staff out of hours raises  questions, such as the  intrusion into teachers’ personal lives and student expectations about appropriate response time. This is a valid question that I believe warrants further analysis. As teachers, the line between the personal and the professional is one of utmost importance and is getting more difficult to manage with the addition of Web 2.0 possibilities. However, we must not shy away from the difficult, and must ensure that both teachers and students are using these technologies ethically, professionally and successfully.

The practical applications for Twitter are as various as your mind will explore. For further information, including examples of how it has been used across schools, click on the below links.

1. 5 Real Examples of Using Twitter for Education

2. Over 100 Ways to Teach with Twitter

3. Best Practices in a Twitter-Enhanced High School

As I continue to research this journal and ICT in general, the conclusion that emerges repeatedly is that as teachers, we must be reflective practitioners and continue to assess our practices, be informed about new technologies and use pedagogical application in order to engage our students in a manner that also demonstrates morally appropriate usage of Web 2.0.

Try it, or more accurately, tweet it. You and your students might just learn something!


Badge, J., Johnson, S., Moseley, A. &  Cann, A.Observing Emerging Student Networks on a Microblogging Service (2011). MERLOT Journal of Online Learning and Teaching Vol. 7, No. 1, March 2011.

Something old, Something new, Pedagogy in the virtual and physical classroom: a mutually beneficial marriage

This post reviews the article  : Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (prepared for the International Review on Research in Open and Distance Learning).

According to Wien, (2008, in pp. 184-185, Churchill, 2011)  emergent learning  occurs when “participants bring  genuine responses to the topic and collaboratively create the course to follow out of these multiple connections”. Emergent learning is a collaborative process, with foundations in the approaches of Vygotsky’s Social Constructivism and the philosophy of Reggio Emilia (p.184, Churchill, 2011). This is not a new phenomenon and some degree of emergent learning can occur in any classroom as a part of a normal lesson.  However, integrating emergent learning with the multifarious collaborative possibilities of Web 2.0 creates such a wide scope of eventualities that the need for analysis has arisen.

Schools, teachers and students have increasing access to Web 2.0. Yet Williams, Karousou and Mackness argue that Web 2.0 accessibility does not in itself guarantee “sufficient conditions for learning.”  (p.40, 2011).  Accordingly,  it requires specific management by teachers skilled in both virtual and physical classrooms.

The paper identifies the need for scaffolded approaches to emergent learning in the Web 2.0 medium, such as  “constraints and inclusive values” without which learning can deteriorate to a prejudicial and intolerant environment. (pp.50-51, 2011).  In such an environment, qualitative learning cannot occur. Suitable constraints do not deter from the openness that is integral to emergent learning but rather facilitate the  process with parameters that ensure an inclusive  environment.

In applying this to my future classes, I see the need for scaffolding in both virtual and physical learning environments, especially as I hope to foster a social constructivist atmosphere. I also believe that teaching mutual respect and appropriate collaborative practices in either the virtual or physical environment will have mutually beneficial results so that students will partake responsibly no matter the medium.

Also integral is the teacher’s ability to deal with “troll behaviour” from  disruptive participants (p.51, 2011). Photobucket

(Image courtesy of

Again, this is not singular to the online medium – many of the suggestions for effective use of Web 2.0 for emergent learning are imported from physical classroom management techniques.

Emergent learning requires a teacher to facilitate and scaffold a collaborative and adaptive environment. Emergent learning in the Web 2.0 domain, requires a teacher with the confidence to operate in a complex and dynamic learning environment, whilst affording control to the students, who can then navigate the content and ensuing knowledge. In doing so, the use of Web 2.0 becomes a qualitative educational resource that encourages an emergent curriculum.

Our students need teachers who are adept in the new technologies, and willing to explore new technological pedagogies, to better facilitate their path to adulthood in the digital age. Current pedagogy and learning theories can and should be applied in both virtual and physical classrooms.

The below diagram is an informal look at how schooling might develop during the digital revolution, in comparison to the industrial revolution and also, which of the GRAD DIP course provocations might apply. The findings are  informed by, and quoted from the reading. Let’s call it Jodi’s Hope for the Future Digital Classroom.


Williams, R., Karousou, R., & Mackness, J. Emergent Learning and Learning Ecologies in Web 2.0. (2011), International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, Vol. 12.3, March 2011.

Let’s talk about risk, baby.

This article talks about the risks of Teens and Social Networking. It reviews research undertaken by Monash University.

The benefits of scholarly research in this area is vast. Firstly, it can it overcome the spectrum of hesitations concerning Social Networking in education (ranging from reticence due to an absence of skills, to demonising and a good old witch hunt that regards ‘that internetty thing as the devil”). Second, it identifies those areas that require our immediate and particular attention, because risk is inherent in every activity, including that internetty thing.

The research found that both media and political focus were generally concerned with cyber-bullying, such as harassment;  and cyber-sex activities such as grooming and predatory behaviours. (p.1, de Zwart,2011). However, the most common risks involve the legal ramifications that emerge through the ability to share media, images, information and opinions.

Here are the research findings that may affect students’ use of social networking (as detailed on p.2).

  • privacy, disclosure, breach of confidence

  • intellectual property rights – particularly copyright issues
  • defamation
  • criminal law – harassment and offensive material

Most concerning, is that students, teachers and parents have a “general awareness” that risks exist but a “worrying lack of understanding of…legal risks” (p.1. 2011). Not surprisingly, risk analysis is different between these groups. Students are not as concerned as teachers or parents, whose main concern are those areas relating to cyber bullying and sex. Neither student or adult groups are educated on the legal risks and do not engage in ongoing dialogues related to these areas. (pp. 2-4, 2011).

The study identified a strong need for such discussions and certainly, as a future teacher, I would hope that this would replace having to constantly  monitor students’ social networking use. After all, we want to facilitate their safe passage into the digital world as much as the physical world.

The research also found that the “majority of teachers do not use social networking in their classrooms” which makes it almost impossible to engage in fruitful dialogue with students. (p.3, 2011). If we do not use it, how can we lead by example? Perhaps some of the reticence is related to the fact that teachers are also not aware enough of the legal ramifications for themselves using social networking and thus avoid it altogether.

To this end, I state the simple formula :

Information = knowledge = power = student and teacher safety.

The study makes the call for  “specifically tailored programs” to produce “effective digital citizens”. (p.3 2011).  It also introduces the term “legal literacy” (p.3, 2011). Legal and digital literacy could be included within a SOSE and Legal Studies unit in either the Years 7-10 or 11-12 curriculum.  However,  to ensure effective implementation, it is then imperative that  teachers receive sufficient education in this area. Future policy decisions relating to digital literacy  must include extensive familiarisation and education for teachers. We must first lead by example and therefore require the skills to achieve this end. In the words of Albert Einstein:

“Setting an example is not the main means of influencing another, it is the only means”.

Now, to conclude on a lighter note, for those at risk of forgetting the difference between Facebook and real life,  please enjoy the below clip.

de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., Phillips, M., Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites, (2011).  Monash University, Faculty of Education Building 6 Monash University Victoria 3800 Australia.

Social Networking and the Classroom

The video is another reminder that we are teaching students to exist in a dynamic 21st Century environment. Our job is to prepare them for that future, using all the relevant available tools.

One of those tools is :

The use of  Social Networking in Education. This is my second topic for the ELPCG1 Research Journal.

Firstly, let us briefly define Social Networking in general, and then how it can be applied in the learning environments.

Building a word cloud for the definition of Social Networking reveals that it is all about collaborative information sharing.

Wordle: Defining Social Network.

Words such as “communicate, interaction, construct, community, building, create” inform us of its function to connect groups in order to share information, opinions and ideas. Online social networking extends the possibility of this collaboration to a global scale.  So how does this affect our classrooms?

A recent survey found that 93.4% of students in Victoria engaged in some kind of daily Social Networking. Yet only 36.1% of teachers surveyed had used it for educational purposes. (p.p 2-4, de Zwart et al. 2011).

Our students already have access to a very powerful and immediate medium. Used incorrectly, social networking can have lasting social, emotional and legal ramifications. (pp.1-4, de Zwart 2011) We must teach our students appropriate online conduct.

We have moved from the time of Broadcast media where a central figure disseminated information. Social Media is a two-way transmission, a collaborative venture that is  fuelled by clips sent via YouTube, Facebook and email. (p. 28, Boyd,2010). Concomitantly, we are moving away from an education pedagogy that touted a teacher-centric/information transmission approach. Today’s terms such as emergent curriculum, dialogic pedagogy, inquiry-based  and problem-based learning all require a collaborative and learner-centric environment. Furthermore, Churchill identifies a new learning style “technological”  to include with “visual, kinaesthetic and  linguistic.” (p. 226, Churchill, 2011). Social Networking can help to foster these pedagogies and learning styles in our learning space.

It can also benefit our ability to engage students in a meaningful way. Used correctly, it is a fairly low-cost educational tool that can widen our classroom reach.

Perhaps you would like to study Antarctica? Unfortunately the school excursion budget does not stretch to fly your class of thirty students down there for a look-see.

Perhaps you are an art teacher and would love for your Year 11 students to consult with an Art Curator from MOMA about their final assessment projects. Of course, you are in Narranderra. Or Wagga Wagga.

Or Gawler.

Do not despair, teachers with small field trip budgets. There are several Social Networking tools designed specifically to enhance our learning environments such as which details how to use Skype for education. Projects range from a monthly Book Club with American middle school students to discussions with climbers that have conquered Mount Everest.

I hope after reading this and the next four posts, I will have convinced you to at least consider investigating the use of Social Networking in your classrooms. Perhaps our classrooms can set up a collaborative venture in the future and we can work together to instill best practice methods in our 21st Century students.


Boyd, D. Streams of Content, Limited Attention : The Flow of Information Throughout Social Media, (2010). EDUCAUSE Review, vol. 45, no. 5 (September/October 2010): 26–36.

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

de Zwart, M., Lindsay, D., Henderson, M., Phillips, M., Teenagers, Legal Risks and Social Networking Sites, (2011).  Monash University, Faculty of Education Building 6 Monash University Victoria 3800 Australia.

Gaming and Special Needs

The last few posts have discussed implementing gaming within the context of set content in our curriculum. Today I want to highlight the use of gaming for students with special educational needs.

As the video shows, gaming can be used to help students on the autism spectrum  to identify facial expressions – an important facet of socialisation. In this context, gaming extends beyond traditional education by increasing life skills.

The Center of Autism Research (CAR) in America is undertaking a research program also based on increasing facial recognition skills via the game FACE STATION:

“computerised health games can motivate players to perform a wide range of activities that promote learning and skill development in ways that have the potential to exceed conventional teaching and training methods by tapping “reward” circuits in the brain.”

The Center of Autism Research (2011).

The results of this research will include brain imaging before and after gaming to measure the effect on the brain. Whilst there is still need for further research, Churchill discusses similar research on the effects of technology on the brain:

“individuals who used the internet showed twice as much activity in regions of the brain responsible for decision-making and complex reasoning compared with those who had limited exposure to the internet”

Churchill, (2011).

How can we apply these findings to education?

By continued scientific research, innovation and discussion.

Assistive Gaming is an online organisation that “make accessible games that were not made with accessibility in mind.” Indeed, its staff consists of editors who themselves use and create “assistive technology”:

“Of course, gaming’s possible, just about anything in life is possible. Sure, I’ll never walk, but I sure as Hell can rock at World of Warcraft.”

Harushimana (2008) found games greatly enhanced his students’ print and digital literacy skills as a part of an after-school literacy programme in an urban city high school. Gaming can be applied to a multitude of special programmes, including abused children.

Inclusive education demands individualised approaches to students with a variety of special needs, from physical to emotional, students at risk to students with literacy issues. Yet individual learning approaches can be costly and difficult to implement in a classroom environment. They require funding to cover materials, special education aides and training. Further feasibility studies focusing on the fiscal benefits of gaming within this context would be extremely useful towards future policy discussions.

Discussion being an imperative to ensure the resource of gaming for special needs is utilised properly in our classrooms.


Assistive Gaming, The Assistive Gaming Team,

The Center for Autism Research (2011), Computerized Gaming,

Churchill et al.  (2011). Teaching Making a Difference. John Wiley & Sons, Australia.

Harushimana, I.  (2008) Literacy through Gaming: The Influence of Videogames on the Writings of High  School Males, Journal of Literacy and Technology 35 Volume 9, Number 2: August 2008, ISSN: 1535-0975.

Terdiman, D. (2005). Second Life Teaches Lessons,