Using Social Media to Support Student Engagement

cc Flickr photo by Bionicteaching
Just as the social features of many of social media resources has attracted the attention of millions of young people, these same features have the potential to also draw the attention of students to the learning opportunities provided by their school. Educators could take advantage of these social and interactive features to encourage students to become actively engaged in co-constructing their learning experience with their teachers (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007), collaborating with fellow students, and sharing resources and ideas beyond the schoolhouse walls. 

Using social media resources such as Google Apps for Education, Office 356, Moodle, and Ning as repositories of learning objects would allow students to access valuable and necessary learning objects regardless of their location and time of day. Not only could this negate the excuse, ‘I left my book at school’, easy access to a plethora of learning resources may also help to extend the amount of time students time spend engaged in academic pursuits. Within the traditional classroom, providing students with supplementary learning resources can be very expensive and logistically complicated. Including hyperlinks to supplementary resources to extend the learning experience in addition to required resources and class assignments as part of a class Moodle or Ning site may serve to support academic engagement by extending the amount of time a student spends actually doing homework or related school projects. 

cc Flickr photo by Kaswenden
The results of the 2009 High School Student Engagement Survey (HSSSE) noted that only 2% of student report that they were never bored in class, while the majority of students (66%) reported being are bored at least every day in class and one out of every six students stated (17%) stated that they are bored in every class everyday. The dynamic and participatory nature of many social media resources could be used to re-engaged previously bored students. Collaborative and participatory tools like Wikis, Google Docs, Office 356, Poll Daddy and Survey Monkey can encourage students to become active participants or co-producers rather than passive consumers of content (McLoughlin & Lee, 2007). The HSSE results also revealed that instructional methods that involved working with and learning with their peers were the most highly rated of all instructional methods that teachers use (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). Creating learning experiences that are social and interactive would serve to enhance behavioural engagement, which is reflected in active class participation, asking questions, and participating in discussions. 

The second most cited reason given by students who considered dropping out of school was that they did not see the value of the work that they were being asked to complete (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). This highlights a lack of cognitive engagement, which refers to the extent to which students perceive the relevance of school to their future aspirations (Furlong & Christenson, 2008). The HSSSE survey also noted that of those students who reported being bored at school, 81% indicated that it was because the material was not interest-ing, and 42% said that their boredom was caused by lack of relevance of the material (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). To counter classroom boredom and support cognitive engagement, social media resources like iTunesU, Twitter, Skype and YouTube could be used facilitate authentic learning experiences that require students to learn from and interact with experts outside the classroom. 

cc Flickr photo by Breity
Integrating social media resources like Blogger, Twitter, Tumblr and Wordpress into the classroom may provide students with greater opportunities to get to know their peers and in turn develop a positive relationship with them (Rutherford 2010). This may result in greater levels of affective engagement, which refers to a sense of belonging and connection to their peers. Affective engagement also includes the sense of connection to and the support students receive from the adults in the school (Furlong & Christenson, 2008). 

cc Flickr photo by Breity
Social media can also be used to enhance and increase the number of interactions students have with their teacher by overcoming the barriers of time and location (Rutherford 2010). Increasing the number of potential opportunities to interact with students regarding schoolwork can be as simple as having teachers use a blog, Tumblr or Twitter where students can ask questions or leave a comment. As the number of positive interactions a student has with a teacher increases, so does the likelihood that a student will have the opportunity to develop a supportive relationship with at least one adult. Yassie-Mint (2009) states that connecting with at least one adult at the school is critically important for students to remain in school and be engaged with the learning environment. The importance of connecting with even a single adult is high-lighted in the fact that of the students who have considered dropping out, 16% identified “No adults in the school cared about me” as a reason for thinking about dropping out (Yazzie-Mint, 2009). 

Furlong, M. & Christenson, S. L. (2008). Educating students at schools with learning: A relevant construct for all student. Psychology in the Schools, Vol. 45(5). 

Lenhart, A., Purcell, K., Smith, A., Zickuhr, K. (2010). Social media and young    adults. Washington, D.C.: Pew Research Center. Retrieved from

McLoughlin, C., & Lee, M. J. W. (2007). Social software and participatory learning: Pedagogical choices with technology affordances in the Web 2.0 era. Paper presented at the Australasian Society for Computers in Learning in Tertiary Education Singapore.

Rutherford, C. (2010). Using Online Social Media to Support Preservice Student Engagement. Journal of online learning and teaching, Vol. 6(4).

Yazzie-Mint, E. (2009). Charting the Path from Engagement to Achievement: A Report on the 2009 High School Survey of Student Engagement. Bloomington, IN: Center for Evaluation & Education Policy Indiana. Retrieved from


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  2. Engaging social media in a class setting can be really beneficial especially if you want to give updates to your students.
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