Social Media: It Can Play a Positive Role in Education

Social Media: It Can Play a Positive Role in Education

Matthew Reeves (Queensland University of Technology, Australia)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-0010-0.ch006


This chapter investigates the positive role social media can play in education. It looks at the various formats in which the tool can be used and how it can enhance the learning experience of all students. The chapter analyses the ability for social media to act as a communication channel as well as an educational interface where every student can learn through their peers and through their educator. It also discusses the need for further research as to how this increasingly popular tool can be successfully integrated into educational environments.
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There is little debate that social media has moved from being simply a form of communication to becoming a multi-use tool for different organisations. Education, despite initial hesitancy, is one industry that stands to benefit immensely from this tool. Two of the most popular forms of social media, Facebook and Twitter, started out as a method of communication between friends. However, they have rapidly expanded to provide much of the information and news we seek, resulting in educators no longer being the main source for information (Chelly & Mataillet, 2012). Despite their reputation, and the belief of some politicians that they represent merely “electronic graffiti” (Battersby, 2015), the ability to share, reflect and discuss ideas with multiple users anytime at any location far surpasses any previous communication channel. We are exposed to businesses, politicians, charities, sporting clubs and many more institutions on social media. So, too are schools. Many educational organisations have taken to social media as a way of communicating with past, current and potential stakeholders. Social media is both a challenge and an opportunity for all educational organisations, including schools.

Whilst hesitancy and, to be fair many serious issues, surround full integration, there is a steadily growing notion that social media can effectively amplify institutional communication (Stoner, 2012). Further, the tools provided by the uptake of social media are said to increase the ability to achieve educational goals (cf. Stoner, 2012). Schools are one such industry that has taken to using Facebook and Twitter to communicate with stakeholders. These stakeholders include parents, students, staff and the wider community. As schools have a unique role in many communities, especially in rural and remote communities, Indigenous communities and in specific groups such as Muslim and Jewish communities, their use of social media is an important expression of the changed media landscape. This usage, coupled with what some regard (cf. Bennett, 2014) as the gendered nature of social media, favouring women over men, has revolutionised the ways that young women communicate online. In addition, it is noted that the target audience for these schools’ communication through social media is generally women as it is women who assume the family’s responsibility for their children’s education (cf. Griffith & Smith, 2005).

Principals are able to use social media platforms to advertise their school through highlighting activities and events in which the school is involved. This ‘free’ form of advertising is an important avenue for schools that wish to demonstrate their effectiveness, and their engagement with the wider world in an increasingly competitive market for education. To illustrate, one small former government school in Queensland uses its social media activities through Facebook and Twitter to showcase its events. This school is a one-teacher school, run by a female teacher/principal, who is actively engaging stakeholders through social media. The school’s major events (assemblies, sporting carnivals, excursions) are all extensively covered through their Facebook page, as are the quotidian activities of schooling (lessons and lunchtime play). The use of social media democratises the dissemination of information in a way that is unprecedented. However, it is more than just a marketing tool for principals short on money and time. In this chapter, I explore the ways that schools are using social media platforms to democratise information, meet curricular requirements and, in the case of female students, prevent harm and injury.

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