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Is Social Media a Good Tool for Teaching and Learning?


Social media offers multiple benefits for the teaching and learning experience. Because of the number of access possibilities (facebook, pinterest, snapchat, twitter, Instagram, excetera, students and teachers can collaborate, build technology skills, gain feedback, and lead to engagement. These are critical elements of a positive learning experience and I do not what to discount the benefit of social media, but I would like to prompt a discussion on some of the negative impacts of social media on student learning and discover ways to mediate these impacts.

Many of our students use social media daily. They may also feel distress when they are not able to connect for a period of time due to FOMO, or fear of missing out. Health experts discuss the negative impacts of being connected all the time. Some believe that this leads to shorten attention spans, addictive behaviors, and a drop in academic performance. Multi tasking also makes it difficult for filtering irrelevant information.  Some experts say this is because the constant inundation of news, information, status updates email, and other notifications makes individuals believe that multitasking is possible. In reality, multitasking leads to habitual, distracted thinking. This sustained, distracted thinking can have significant negative impacts on the brain. Multitasking shortens attention spans and lessening the ability to think in high level situations.

Research at UCLA found when students are focused on a task such learning, the hippocampus in the brain is activated. However, when an individual is multitasking, the striatum is used. While this part of the brain holds memories, he striatum holds memories for learning physical tasks, but this is not great for building academic knowledge.

Moving beyond the academic issues, there are health experts that believe social media can have an addictive effect on the brain because of the release of dopamine when engaging in social media. 

How do we balance these concerns with the benefits of social media in the classroom? How can we balance technology driven instruction with the need to also include more traditional methods of instruction? How can we help our students move from multi-tasking to unitaksing? 

I'm looking forward your thoughts. 

Kathy Tracey


Paul Rogers's picture

Kathy - I added several groups on my Facebook page mainly to post "lessons" for my EFL students. The groups include pronunciation, reading and grammar exercises and ....songs from YouTube with the lyrics to study. I also have experimented with live streaming. People need to ask permission to become members, which is very easy. I believe it is a very valuable tool which provides a practical way to engage in continuing or life-long education.   

finnmiller's picture

Hi Kathy, Paul, and all, The pros and cons of using social media for instructional purposes is certainly a relevant topic. Paul and many other teachers are finding that social media offers many opportunities for learning beyond the traditional classroom.

Of course, social media is a big part of many people's lives these days. To get learners thinking about this, it would be fascinating to make the pros and cons of social media the topic of discussion in class. Having students search out articles that highlight both the positive and negative aspects of social media and discussing the issue in class would, no doubt, be of high interest to learners. They could also take a position and write a persuasive piece on the issue.

Cheers, Susan Finn Miller

Moderator, Teaching & Learning CoP

Paul Rogers's picture

Susan, this would be a great discussion in class and I am sure the majority of students would be in favor of using technology more in their education. At the same time I would suggest that we as educators present a list of sites that the students would benefit from studying. The term "Life-Long Learning" is now much more of a reality through the internet, and by now every class should have a few computers in it to at least show students what is available.


Kathy_Tracey's picture


I believe that there is a relevant space for social media in the classroom. As Paul has shared, there is room for innovation and certainly, it allows students the opportunity to direct their own learning and consume the media at a time that fits their hectic schedule. However, I am concerned about the current research on brain development.. We know that when students are constantly exposed to a rapid pace of information and attempt to balance learning with the constant interuptions, are we teaching them how to focus? I struggle with this balance. In order to teach, we need to meet students where they are - but how do we combine these needs with what we know about the brain? 

I'd love to hear your thoughts. 

Kathy Tracey

Paul Rogers's picture

Kathy, this is a good point to consider and I was wondering if you could post a review of the research that you found. I am only aware of the potentential problems associated with cell phones and brain tumors, so I encourage everyone to use the speaker on the phone. Thanks.

S Jones's picture

... so very, very much of people's activities are clicking from one stimulus to another.   

Another disadvantage is the weird social dynamics that happen w/ social media.  People can be pretty cold and heartless.   (Okay, I've just gotten slammed on an online forum for asking a question without including a screenshot... including being put on "moderated" status and getting my next question "denied approval" with the reason left blank )   In a moderated, small group setting I think it could work to our advantage, though, if we model positivity.  

Kathy_Tracey's picture

I find it fascinating that we are still discussing digital natives and nettiquette when it appears the world has moved beyond that. Simple errors or typos are now grounds for these types of experiences. I am sorry you had that experience - but mostly, to add to the research I will be posting (in response to a prior comment) I think I will also look fook for research that discusses how this negativity impacts vulnerable individuals. 

So, how do you see a similar experience impacting a learner who may be more intimidated by this awful type of respone you received/?