4 Social Media Tools to Promote Connected Teaching and Learning

What social media tools should instructors use to engage students outside of the LMS?  Here are 4 simple examples of how to engage students using readily available and mobile friendly tools.


Having students blog about their learning is a great way to chronicle their experiences and reflect on the overall process.  The more students write the better writers they become.  One of my favorite bloggers: Stephen Downes has a blog titled Half an Hour which is how long he spends writing every day.  His recent post chronicles the last 19 years of blogging: http://halfanhour.blogspot.com/2014/04/oldaily-over-years.html 

Blogs make thinking visible by allowing students to reflect on the course, lessons, activities and chronicle their experiences and connections to the content, their peers or instructors’ experiences. It is the connections to prior knowledge and to others that aid in the deeper understanding of new information.

Expanding visibility of your learning and thoughts connects learners to a professional Community of Practice.  Learners who are encouraged to share their blog posts with communities of practice may receive feedback from a larger audience than their peers and instructor.  This may aid in reflection or evolution of ideas into actionable items.

This student shares his concerns about blogging and how he overcame his hesitancy and fears about sharing his learning out on the open web.


Twitter is an effective and desirable way to enhance social presence. The researchers state that Twitter allowed students to present themselves as “real people”.  Through Twitter instructors and students are able to collaborate, brainstorm, solve problems, and create experiences.

Benefits of using Twitter:

  •  it helps address student issues in a timely manner; it forces the participants to write concisely.
  • due to Twitter being an open community, it influenced students to be thoughtful and sensitive to their audience.
  • because Twitter consists of a professional community, students were able to discuss and get feedback from textbook authors. s
  • students were given support and resources that facilitated informal learning which they incorporated into their coursework.
  • Twitter broke the bounds of an LMS structure and extended duration time for student- student as well as student-instructor interaction.
  1. The instructor should establish how using Twitter is helpful and relevant to the student.
  2. The instructor must articulate clear student participation expectations.
  3. The instructor should model effective Twitter use and be an active participant.
  4. The instructor should encourage students to use information and resources provided in Twitter interactions into their coursework.
  5. Instructors should continue using twitter after the course is completed to achieve a desirable level of social presence as well as creating future interaction with past students.

Dunlap, J.C. & Lowenthal, P.R. (2009). Tweeting the night away: Using Twitter to enhance social presence. Journal of Information Systems Education, 20 (2).

Google+Screen Shot 2014-04-20 at 10.12.40 PM

While there are many ways to use Google+, there are a few worth highlighting:

  1. Circles: Create a community for your degree program so that students can be a part of the community during their time in the program.  A community could also be created for a course.  Many Massive Open Online Courses (like #ETMOOC) have used Google Communities as their “hub” location.
  2. Hangout: Live video streaming service that allows students to connect, instructors to hold synchronous office hours, and even allows for ScreenSharing.  Hangouts on air allow for not only broadcasting live to an open audience but the video can also be archived on YouTube for later viewing.
  3. Google Docs: This service has been around longer and may be more familiar but combine this with google hangouts and now students can collaborate on google docs in real time while talking through the project.
  4. For more ideas see: 31 ways to use Google+ in Higher Education


University Pages – This feature allows potential students and alumni to become connected and remain connected to their institution.

Relevant ePortfolio – Developing your LinkedIn profile will connect students to possible future employers.  This tool becomes a relevant ePortfolio tool.

Learn about Career Options – Exploring LinkedIn can give students insight into possible career options and the skills required to pursue certain career options.

Connect with Mentors and Colleagues – Expanding your connections may lead to job opportunities after graduation.

For more ideas on how to use LinkedIn in Higher Education: http://www.colourmylearning.com/2013/02/how-linkedin-works-for-education/ 

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