Social Media and Education (Weekly Assignment #4)

#Education #eLearning #OnlineClassroom #MIT #Future

Reconceptualizing the Boundaries of Formal and Informal Learning

Christine Greenhow and Cathy Lewin did a research on social media as a space for learning with attributes of formality and informality. They argued that, there is not enough use of digital technologies in ‘formal contexts’ and the kinds of use do not always take account of the richness of some learners’ experiences outside institutions. They believe technologies can empower learners through greater agency, opportunities to participate in networked communities and access to a wide range of resources to support knowledge building and collaboration.

In this research, two case studies were analyzed. In the first study, conducted between 2010 and 2014, the students seeks resources from social media to embed into their learning inside classrooms, yet everything remained teacher-initiated. Also, due to reasons such as school policies blocking social media access and concerns about privacy issues are hindering the appropriation of social media supported learning. This results in an emphasis on formal learning attributes as teachers feel the need to exert greater control and put more rigid structures in place.

Another study explored young people’s voluntary use the Hot Dish app on Facebook. The study took place from 2008 to 2009. It focused on learning online outside of school. This case demonstrated the use of social media for learning practices, and it’s been discovered that learning process was self-initiated and self-directed as people chose which article to debate and which actions to perform. This examples also demonstrated the benefits and challenges of appropriating social media for learning, which supported learning and environmental activism without the restrictions associated with formal learning attributes.

These two studies offered different perspectives of the same subjects, one focused on the usage of social media inside classrooms, which ends up being similar to formal learning, while the second study focused on a community of learning existing outside classrooms, which developed an informal but more self-driven learning process.

Examples of success and failures in Social Media and Education

Example of Success:
MIT – Massachusetts Institute of Technology

MIT is considered to be one of the top universities in the world. The institute is especially known for its research and education in engineering and physical sciences. They recently gained a lot of positive media attention by their long-time faculty member, economist Bengt Holmström winning a Nobel.

MIT is a perfect example of successful usage of social media in higher education institution. It is known for being active in social media and sharing both entertaining and educational content. They share stories and successes of students, staff and alumni with everything from a robotic cheetah to an art show.

The university has nearly 190,000 subscribers in their basic YouTube-channel and the most popular videos have millions of views. However, the most popular YouTube-channel is the MIT OpenCourseWare with over 1 million subscribers. The channel offers an wide section of lecture recordings from different minors and well known lecturers. This gives an opportunity for all students worldwide to expand their knowledge and learn from these top university courses. On top of YouTube, they are big on other channels as well with 900,000 likes on Facebook and nearly 570,000 followers on Twitter. To make following MIT in social media easier, they also have a page called MIT Connect which gathers everything that is happening in their social media – from tweets to blog posts.

What makes MIT so successful is that on top of being educational and significant in its field it also is very cool. They offer content for professionals and students in their own field but also entertaining “popular science” content which makes science understandable for everyone.

Example of Failure:
Bethany Thomson

Social Media is incredibly upcoming and is becoming important part in the curriculum of modern schools. However, there’s a downside. Social Media attracts all the attention from the students in class because they think it is way more interesting. This means that the students aren’t paying proper attention to the teacher. One extreme example of the negative side of the use of Social Media is the case of Bethany Thomson, an eleven year old girl from Ohio. Bethany suffered from a tumor when she was younger. During the operation a nerve in her face got permanently damaged. This caused Bethany to live with a crooked smile for the rest of her live. Due to her different appearance, her classmates started to make fun of her. They were making fun of her, on a offline and online basis. Unfortunately, this caused Bethany to make an end of live, at the age of just eleven.


MIT is not the only university which has reacted to the increasing usage of social media by offering educational content and lectures, but it certainly is the most successful one. But what makes quality educational content so wanted then?

BBC Active (n.d.) describes the development of social media and the reason why it is so successful while used in education in the following way “Since it was first imagined back in those Harvard rooms just ten short years ago, social media has exploded and has transformed the way we interact with one another – first of all on a personal level, and then on a business level, with marketing experts quickly seeing the commercial opportunities offered by an instant, direct communication link with their existing and potential customers.The possibilities for social media in education are equally exciting. Universities don’t even need to convince students of the value of social media – the students have already been won over, so it makes sense to talk to them in the online world they already spend most of their time inhabiting”.

According to Education World (n.d.) “studies suggest that approximately 70 percent of all organizations engage in structured collaboration using online social learning tools such as blogs, wikis and podcasts. The rise parallels the increased use of online tools like social media sites in schools”.

In the light of these two examples, MIT has really been early and advanced on developing their content in social media in an easily approachable way.
MIT also studies social media, and it was granted with 10 million dollars from Twitter for a social data analysis. The research that would explore how people use and achieve shared goals using social networks. (Reuters, 2014)

Bethany is perhaps the most extreme example in this category. Fact is, cyberbullying has become a great part of the nowaday youth. It is way easier to make a negative comment on a person’s appearance when you don’t have to face them in person. Because of the rather anonymous way of acting on the internet, people say things they normally wouldn’t have said. Luckily, Institutions and governments acknowledge this and have started a lot of campaigns about this topic. Social Media can be a real addition of the way we know our education, but I every student need to be aware of the effects.

Playlist of Social Media and Education

The Rest of the Playlist:

Playlist Description:

Video 1 Duke University. This video was chosen because it shows how social media is used as an advantage for the lectures. Students tweet during lectures which allows them to be more active during a lecture. Students feel more connected. Duke university wants to be in the game of social media and want to continue using it. We think it is a great start, and a good example for other universities.

Video 2 shows us the impact of social media and the impact it had on us. It shows the facts and figures which can be good information for educators and students alike.

Video 3 is yet another video from duke university where they give tips as to how to use social media. They want their students to use social media effectively in their personal lives and during class. They also show how the university itself uses social media. Duke is a great inspiration.

Video 4 is another informative video. Which also talks about what negative impact social media can have. They do explain that social media is vital to higher education. The way it is implemented is key.

Video 5 is a video from Iowa University. In this video a professor speaks about his research on social media in the classroom and how he uses it. What he found that if students talk online their discussions become more rich. As an educator you want to have your goal straight. Yet again this video could inspire educators to think outside the social media box, and how positive the use of social media can be in the classroom.

Video 6 is a animation video with tips for students on social media which could definitely help educators as well. It is clear and quick like a tweet. This video is a great introduction to social media in the classroom.

Video 7 is a ted talk about digital engagement in higher education. Ed cabellon talks about how education can get better because of the social media. Ted talks are a great inspirational way to reach educators. And TED talks are also often used in the classroom. Ted has really made the boundaries of seeing great talks almost non-existent. They can be used in the classroom and even explain social media itself. We think this is a perfect example.

Video 8 is a video talking about research  in education and social media. This is a quick way of getting into the research that is done, which can inspire educators to finally getting started with social media. Most educators would want proof of what they are about to do, so this is a great resource.

Video 9 is a video of a presentation in a classroom. The presentation is about social media in higher education. This video is a good example of how we can watch what happens in the classroom from our own sofa, but it also gives us more information on social media in the classroom.

Video 10 is an inspirational talk about social media. From dr derek muller who is not just an expert but also a enthusiastic and charismatic speaker. So he doesn’t just give you the facts straight but it also comes across very convincingly.

Video 11 is a Dutch video from a Dutch history teacher, who explains the 10 tijdvakken (timeslots). The 10 timeslots are compulsory for every Dutch student, and it is a lot of information (from 3000 bc till now). Many Dutch students have learned their final history exam on secondary school with these videos. The teacher had made them for his own students, but the videos took off and now have hundreds of thousands of views. It shows how social media can not only expand your own teaching of your students, but also how it can affect thousands of students across a country. 

Video 12 is a informational video that shows examples from a small community college. It shows that the students weren’t only learning and doing assignments, but also saw that students were getting more connected with each other. The students became more open inside the classroom as well. This is a great best practice.


BBC Active. (n.d.). How social media is changing education. Retrieved from

Education World. (n.d.). Study Suggests Benefits of Social Media in the Classroom. Retrieved from

MIT Facebook page. (n.d.). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Retrieved from

MIT Twitter page. (n.d.). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Retrieved from

MIT Youtube channel. (n.d.). MIT OpenCourseWare. Retrieved from

MIT Youtube channel. (n.d.). Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Retrieved from

Reuters. (2014, October 01). Twitter grants $10 million to MIT for social data analysis, new tools. Retrieved from


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