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Internet @ Schools

TOOLS FOR LEARNING: We’re Talking Social Media in Education

By Victor Rivero - Posted May 1, 2011
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As fast as a trending Twitterstorm and as powerful as a flood of Facebook fans, there’s a curious phenomenon moving through our schools these days: social media. It’s both a problem and a solution. It’s a controversial challenge and a welcome relief. But, as with anything fairly new, confusion must flutter up and fall away before we see a clear way forward. And that early stage is where we find ourselves as we ask, “What is the scene regarding social media in education?”

For starters, type “social media in education” into the Google search bar, and you’ll get the following suggestions:

* social media in education the power of facebook

* social media in education 2010

* using social media in education

* why use social media in education

* use of social media in education

* how to use social media in education

* what is social media in education

* benefits of social media in education

* role of social media in education

That’s a lot of options. It makes sense: We’re talking about social media. Everyone has something to say. According to “Digitally Inclined,” a national research report from Grunwald Associates, LLC and PBS, one-quarter of K–12 educators (and growing) belong to an online community specifically for teachers, and those who use social networking sites are comfortable with a variety of online activities. Results are similar for Pre-K educators, but they say nothing yet of student use—a whole separate challenge.

To stay focused, let’s move forward from here with a working definition: Social media is anything Facebook-like. Alright, good. So, social media in education means anything Facebook-like in education (no matter the users involved).

Sure, move anything online and you’ll run into a whole new set of challenges: Bullying becomes cyberbullying, note passing becomes sexting, and social media becomes … a potentially huge liability to learning.

Nonetheless, what is the value of a Facebook-like platform for academic use? What happens when the parameters are set and teachers can move forward using social media tools truly tailored for improving student performance?

It might very well be a huge classroom distraction, but why can’t social media become a bigger boon for education than we’ve ever seen? New and emerging technologies have largely sought to bring us greater freedoms, and with freedom comes responsibility. Schools that nurture this will do just fine. So, check out these helpful tools and resources, have fun, find your crowd—and see you online!

Edmodo. Two school district web pros put their heads together back in 2008—a million users later, it seems like a good idea. A social learning network for teachers, students, schools, and districts, this Facebook of education provides everything you’d expect: Users can post classroom materials; share links
and videos; and access homework, grades, and school notices. Users can also store and share blogs, pictures, documents, and presentations. Access it via mobile devices; special features for schools and districts are free and accessible by administrators.

SchoolTube, Inc. It’s billed as the nation’s largest K–12 moderated video-shar­ ing website. Yep, it’s the YouTube of education, and it’s safe, free, and approved by a dozen education associations. It provides a fun video-sharing environment for students, teachers, and parents. Using what they call a “chain of accountability” process, all content is teacher-moderated, student-appropriate, and academically useful. Since 2006, it’s been a simple, good idea—and a great resource.

Glogster EDU. It used to be that kids made dioramas, mobiles, or posters and tried not to eat the paste. In the 1990s and 2000s, they pasted encyclopedic content into PowerPoint and re-presented it in fascinating fonts with dubious knowledge gains. Today, there’s Glogster, thank God. Student presentations are finally making proper use of available technologies in an attractive format, but you’ve gotta see it for yourself to truly appreciate it.

Collaborize Classroom. Extend your classroom discussions into this structured, private online community. It’s designed to complement classroom instruction and allows students to participate on their own time. Your students can embed Microsoft Office documents, videos, pictures, and PDFs, and you can download free lesson plans to get started. As the site points out, teachers can save on monthly printing costs and reduce grading time by up to 2 hours per week.

EDU 2.0. “The free, easy way to teach and learn online” is how it bills itself. Schools or universities sign up for the free plan and get a 30-day free trial of all the premium features—advanced customization, analytics, certificates, and support. With more than 300,000 members, this learning management system allows for Facebook-like social networking, newsfeeds, mobile access, and the ability to administer all schools and your district with just a few clicks. Groups, blogs, wikis, forums, and chat are all built-in. This site is designed for elementary and middle school teachers who want to provide their students with their own unique blogs. It’s simple, but don’t let that fool you. It’s a robust platform without the distracting bells and whistles, and at one level, this is really everything you need and what you actually want.

Edublogs. With more than 701,744 blogs and counting, this service straightforwardly unrecommends others: “[Y]ou should absolutely not consider using services like Moodle, Blackboard, Desire­ 2Learn or other CMSs [content management systems] as blogging platforms—they do not provide authentic, engaging or ‘genuine’ blogging tools and will not allow you to, in any way, untap the full potential of blogging in education.” You can decide for yourself at

Ning, Inc. The world’s largest platform for creating social websites offers a 30-day trial. You get creative freedom and control, built-in social integration, mobile and service extensions, and a revenue-generating solution when you use Ning to create social experiences that inspire others into action. There’s also Ning pro, Ning plus, and Ning mini versions.

Elluminate. This company (now merged with Wimba, Inc., both swallowed up by Blackboard, Inc.) gives a 50-second presentation explaining just exactly what it provides. In a sentence, you can go beyond web conferencing with web, audio, video, and social networking solutions for 21 st-century education and training. Elluminate calls it “unified learning and collaboration”—you can call it how you see it at

SurveyMonkey. Online conversations and collaborations are great, but what would social media be without a way to quantify all that talk? This solution allows you to create smart, professional surveys with ease. Creating questions is fun; there are survey templates, themes, and real-time results. Education and training evaluations, quizzes, online tests, and student feedback are all part of this site.

edSocialMedia. Want to talk further about social media in schools? At edSocialMedia’s site you can find a thoughtful conversation of people writing and reading about the role of social media in education (especially independent schools and colleges). Boot camps, conferences, and consultations are also available, but you might just want to listen in until you’re comfortable raising your hand—or getting on a plane.

Blogs, Wikis, Podcasts, and Other Powerful Web Tools for Classrooms. It’s the book that fueled a movement (by Will Richardson, Corwin Press 2006; third edition, 2010). ­ Richardson is a former teacher turned tech evangelist and one of the very first educator bloggers (visit This book is popular for good reason and can help you understand the details of social media for educational use.

Technology Integration in Education. Greg Limperis is a teacher and technology facilitator from Lawrence, Mass., who decided to help other teachers incorporate technology tools into their classrooms, so he created a professional learning network for more than 3,000 of his closest friends. This popular site is loaded with resources, and it is a social media tool in itself, a community for teachers reaching for tech tools.

There are literally thousands of solution providers in the education and technology sector that are creating options right now that will soon change the way education happens—whether it’s student learning or teacher professional development. In fact, if you’re not already on LinkedIn—an essential tool for businesspeople, teachers, school administrators, and anyone in and around education—you can sign up now and have a look at the group, Ed Tech Start Ups, where more than 2,300 people have begun to discuss what the next generation of social media tools can do for schools. Social media is alive and well, but to really get a sense of all this, you’ll have to join in the conversation and experience it for yourself. Talk again soon!

Contact Victor Rivero at

"Quotable Quotes" (Compiled via LinkedIn)

“Social media sites such as Facebook are being used for ‘social purposes’ and are more of a distraction from education than anything, I think.”

Selina Jantz, Regional Manager, Fuze Digital Solutions, Austin, Texas

“I don’t feel that social media sites offer enough control in their current state to be effectively used in K­ –12 educational settings.”

Todd Ulses, Information Systems Coordinator, Clovis Municipal Schools, Clovis, N.M.

“There are social media sites that are safe. It’s a myth and an over-generalization to say that the safety issue is what disqualifies social media from being used. Just look at edmodo. Over a million users. Safe. Teacher-controlled. Creative. Easy.”

Douglas Crets, Former Founding Editor,, New York

“Social media has a place with specific groups of teachers and students, and doesn’t have a place with others. One size doesn’t fit all. It’s the requirements of the instruction that dictate the need.”

John Laws, Executive Director of Technology, Lakota Local Schools, Ohio

"Social media tools can play a big role in the classroom as it opens the door to collaborate easily like never before, but there still has to be some level of control on the content.”

Kabir Khanna, CEO, Chalkpad Technologies Pvt. Ltd., India

“Social media tools extend learning beyond institutional constraints, so casual and social learning from YouTube, etc., can be included and enhance the learning experience. As educators, we have to start thinking ‘outside the box’ which is the institution and its structures!”

Noreen Dunnett, Visiting Tutor, Bishop Grosseteste University College

“The ‘giant’ social media tools have gotten stigmatized as threats and distractions (rightfully so), but there’s a lot more out there! As fast and creative as we teachers are, I’m certain something new will be out tomorrow.”

Danver Chandler, Teacher, Atlanta

“In higher education, social networks are possible game changers using all tools. In K-12, mediated networking may be as important, but accountability and compliance come first.”

Kevin Kvalvik, CEO, Shadowbox Design, Former Director of Swysgood Technology Center at The University of Montana Western

“The students in our community are having very meaningful experiences because they’re very excited to communicate with peers from other cultures and learn from each other.”

Jeff Dionne, Teacher currently in Japan, CEO and Co-founder of PikiPeople, Inc.

“We can choose to ignore the social revolution or embrace it.”

Cheryl Capozzoli, Parent, Teacher, Education Technology Advocate, Harrisburg, Pa.

“There are many new social media and Web 2.0 tools springing up that offer both the opportunity to collaborate and interact and learn in a safe and mentored environment.”

Lee Drake, President and CEO, OS-Cubed, Inc., Rochester, N.Y.


An Internet@Schools Index

22: average minutes per day 8- to 18-year-olds spend on social networking

63: percentage increase between 2004 and 2009 in the amount of time that kids ages 2–11 spent online

74: percentage of all 7th–12th graders that say they have created a profile on a social networking site

95: minutes per day 7th–12th graders spend sending or receiving texts

Index Sources:
22, 74, 95: “Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8- to 18-Year-Olds”

63: The Nielsen Co.’s report “Nielsen Online Data Quick Take: Kids Online”

Contact Victor at

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