Unit 2: Identifying strengths and weaknesses


Social networking header.jpg

Unit 2 Activities

Now that you know some of the more popular versions of social networking sites that exist and how students are already using these resources, let's explore how we might best use these sites in an instructional context. In this section,we'll revisit some of the social networking sites we've already looked at to seek out which ones offer features to best support today's learners. We will also explore the pitfalls and problems of working with this burgeoning technology. Each site offers different possibilities for engaging with learners in unique ways, with their own strengths and weaknesses, and different tools to educators.

Some of the features offered on most social networking sites include:

  • Asynchronous chat features through the use of bulletin boards, wall posts, etc.
  • Synchronous online chat features
  • Dedicated spaces (literally as in an island in Second Life or virtually through a FaceBook group, for example) for specific groups via invite-only or password-protected portals
  • Customizable user spaces with the ability to post and store multimedia files, text, and images or a customizable avatar, as in Second Life
  • E-messaging functions with online inboxes and message management

Some perceived drawbacks to social networking sites:

  • Safety and security risks
    • Teachers have run into trouble with social networking sites recently. There have been cases of students creating “dummy” profiles for their teachers and posting inappropriate content. Educators are advised to use caution and common sense in considering what they post about themselves and their lives to a social networking site profile page.
    • Some young people have experienced cyber-bullying and inappropriate contact from adults in the online social networking sphere. However, most sites have safety measures in place to help curb these instances and react accordingly when they are reported. If desired, see this recent article from eschoolnews.com on safety improvements to FaceBook [[1]]
  • Student resistance
    • As you heard from the video in Unit 1, some students are resistant to the idea of their teachers “invading” what is perceived as their space. The fact is thousands of adults of all ages use social networking sites everyday for personal and professional reasons. There is no reason to think that an educational presence shouldn’t be a welcome addition to this realm.

Learning Objectives

  • You will be able to discriminate and choose which, if any, social networking sites will be effective enhancements to their class.
  • You will be able to demonstrate an understanding of the types of learning spaces and tools available on social networking sites.

Readings and More

  • Andrews, R. (April 19, 2007). Don't Tell Your Parents: Schools Embrace MySpace. Wired. [[2]]

  • Huber, J. (March 18, 2008). Ryerson Student Spared Expulsion. The Windsor Star. [[3]]
    • This article approaches a recent case of a student using FaceBook to help himself and other students and being caught up with issues of cheating. It effectively begs the question: is the potential of cheating a drawback to collaboration or was this simply a case of innappropriate use?

  • Guess, A. (May 14, 2008). Facebook, meet Blackboard. Inside Higher Ed. [[5]]
    • Just released, Facebook users can now include a Blackboard (many institution's preferred distance learning platform) application to their profiles.


  • Go back to the links for some of the social networking sites we've already looked at and/or read about (FaceBook, Ning, MySpace [[6]], Elgg [[7]], Second Life [[8]] and their resource page for educators [[9]]) and explore the features.
  • Other sites are more specifically designed with a learning goal in mind and also include a social feature. See Live Mocha, an online language learning community, at [[10]].


Take a moment to talk with your colleagues and students about what features available on social networking sites might be beneficial enhacements to their teaching and learning experiences. Do the positives of bringing an educational experience to this forum outweigh the negatives in their eyes? In yours?

What kinds of features would be most beneficial to your classes? (I've offered suggestions of some things to consider. Please note, that this is is no way an exhaustive list.)

  • Asynchronous online discussion boards?
  • Synchronous online chat?
  • Resource sharing?
  • 3D modeling capabilities and online virtual spaces?
  • Online collaboration, group work, and consensus building?
  • Variety of communication methods such as written, oral, and visual means?
  • Online portfolios?


Take a moment to write your thoughts to these questions in your learning journal or visit an educational blogger's page (like Tony Karrer's award-winning blog [[11]]) and post your thoughts.

  • What are some of the positives and negatives you see in using social networking technologies as an enhancement to education?
  • With so much work already being done by students perpetually toting their laptops, how can the collaborative features of social networking sites work to connect individuals through their preferred medium?
  • What ideas would you have added to the discussion if you attended the online meeting which resulted in the concept maps?
  • What aspects of your classes could be enhanced by adding a feature offered by social networking sites?


Header image taken from cover of report by: National School Boards Association. (2007) Creating and Connecting: Research and Guidelines on Online Social and Educational Networking. Alexandria, VA: Vockley & Lang


Move on to Unit 3: Create a strategy for using a site in your class

Back to course main page: An Introduction to Using Social Networking Sites in Education

Feel free to view the workspace for this course on Caelynn's Portfolio Page