Latest Articles

Social Media In and Out of the Classroom

A brief discussion of class activities that incorporate social media and why you might want to do so.

Vintage Social Networking cartoon © John Atkinson, Wrong Hands
Vintage Social Networking cartoon

© John Atkinson, Wrong Hands

I think that most folks are familiar with most of the social media discussed here, so I’m going to jump right in. However, if you’d like more information, there are links at the bottom for additional reading. I’m also available anytime you have questions about technology in the classroom, just call, 375-2589, or email,

Some of the benefits or why you might want to incorporating social media into the classroom:

  • Meet students where they are
  • Provide alternatives for participation and collaboration
  • Improve information literacy
  • Promote positive online branding


If you’re using Facebook in your personal life and are thinking of utilizing it in the classroom, you may want to consider creating a professional page. That way you’re displaying your “instructor face” to the students and colleagues for networking and saving your personal account for your family and close friends.

Use Facebook to:

  • Create private groups to facilitate class discussions. Some instructors have found Facebook groups to be a more flexible option for students to contribute to the class discussion. Let’s face it, students are always checking their news feed, why shouldn’t you tap into that and encourage discussion from wherever they are?
  • Use to instant message/chat during office hours. When your students are studying, they almost always have Facebook open in their web browser. Posting a time(s) each week that you’ll be available for questions over Facebook chat is a convenient way to get students to “come by your office”.
  • Broadcast class announcements. Again, students are checking their news feeds on their smartphones in between classes. Sending out class announcements, deadline reminders, or additional information through Facebook is another way to reach students where they are.


Instagram is a mobile app available for Android and Apple devices that is used for sharing pictures and 15 second videos with the ability to add brief captions. There is a web version, but it is view only – there’s no way to upload photos in the web version. Instagram users follow each other and trends using hashtags (#).

Possible uses in the classroom:

  • Increase vocabulary in language classes by posting a photo with the translated word or phrase describing the image.
  • Use photos that they post as writing prompts – poetry, social journalism, ethnography study, etc.
  • Outlet for digital storytelling. Allow students to document and reflect on their experiences using photos and captions.


Twitter is a microblog in which a user’s tweets (or posts) can only consist of 140 characters. Tweeters use hashtags (#) to follow trends and create news feeds. There are a number of faculty who are successfully using Twitter in the classroom at Roanoke College.

Create a class hashtag to:

  • Send out reminders about looming deadlines and other items of interest or help to students.
  • Encourage discussion outside of class. In class, a shy student might feel more comfortable tweeting a question or contributing to discussion.
  • Write a story or poem.
  • Host a twitter chat with a subject expert or professional.

Further Reading:

Caldwell, J. M. (2015). Going where students are: comparing faculty and student uses and perceptions of social networking in higher education (Unpublished doctoral dissertation). The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. Available online.

Duggan, M., Ellison, N. B., Lampe, C., Lenhart, A., & Madden, M. (2015, Jan 9). Social media update 2014. Available on Pew Research Center’s website.

McCole, D., & Rivera, J. (2014). Integrating Facebook into the college classroom: student perceptions and recommendations for faculty. NACTA Journal, 58, 246-251. Available via Fintel.