Social networking

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Often seen as the most ‘education friendly’ of the social networking tools, blogging is seen as having potential to improve several aspects of learning. One of the main distinctions made is between the blog as personal reflective space and blog as site of collaboration and participatory knowledge building.

There is limited academic research relating blogging to education and this tends to be in the field of higher education and to take the form of action or participatory research. It is divided between those looking at blogs as a single authored reflective space and those looking at the effectiveness of blogs as tools for collaborative learning. Some of the benefits identified in these studies include the development of student voice, self-reflection, participation and the search for new ideas in the information universe. Much of the research focuses on strategies for engaging students with the full affordances/potential of blogging and refers to the role of the instructor and the ways in which blogging activity needs to be linked to specific assessment criteria in order to fully function.

In terms of primary and secondary schools whilst blogging is taking place there is little academic work assessing its value. However, there is a range of articles, often written by primary teachers in the US, reporting on particular case studies of using blogging to improve specific aspects of literacy. For example, Lisa Zawilinski – link to article - offers a practical framework for HOT blogging – using blogging to develop higher order thinking skills while reading and writing. She argues that online communication has produced the need for new literacies, for example in the area of reading comprehension and that, correctly used, blogs are a good site for practising analysis, synthesis and evaluation.

An innovator in terms of the UK classroom is David Mitchell who in 2009 introduced blogs in the classroom at Heathfield Primary School. He has spoken with Pie Corbett at the National Literacy Trust’s annual conference about using new media to improve literacy in schools and quotes the example of Heathfield where following the introduction of blogging to engage disaffected pupils, Level 5 writing levels rose from 9% to 63% in one year, with pupils in Year 6 making on average 6.6 points progress in writing.

Mitchell also introduced the concept of quadblogging, where one school team up with three others to provide an external, ‘authentic’ audience for the students writing. The schools take it in turns to write their blog and then for the next three weeks they comment on the other schools work. In this way the function of commenting and providing constructive criticism is inbuilt and given as much value as the writing itself. The power of the audience in terms of collaboration, team-work and peer support is seen here as one of blogging’s most effective functions.

Christopher Waugh, an English teacher at the London Nautical School, on the South Bank in London has also piloted a comprehensive integrated student blogging scheme in his classes (secondary). The blog portal has a blog for every class and every student with a lesson stream that tracks and compiles the daily traffic of the classroom. The blog also has his yearly plans, links to student blogs, teaching resources, samples of excellent student work, moderated exemplars, lesson sequences, videos of student speaking, and of his teachings.The concept of Christopher's blog Edutronic is driven by his belief in the idea of 'Open Classroom'- promoting collaboration, authenticity, and transparency within and outside the classroom between parents, students, and teachers.Christopher's typical class workflow can be found here. Through this initiative, Christopher has has witnessed tremendous growth in the student learning, motivation, and engagement in the classroom. Also,through the blog portal, Christopher has managed to engage parents, and inspire other teachers in the school.

Schools using social networking

  • Darwen Vale High School - experimenting with using Twitter to engage the school community in a systematic way.


McGrail and Davis (2011) The Influence of Classroom Blogging on Elementary Student Writing. Journal of Research in Childhood Education 25:415-437

Hourigan and Murray (2010) Investigating the emerging generic features of the blog writing task across across three discrete learner groups at a higher education institution. Educational Media International Vol.47, No.2 pp. 83-101

Zawilinski (2009) HOT Blogging: A Framework for Blogging to Promote Higher Order Thinking. The Reading Teacher Vol.62, No.8 pp.650-661

Stuff to add

Vital/NFER Survey

See also

  • Megan Poore's essential guide to using social media in the classroom, for those teaching any age group.
  • Learning Analytics - particularly the section on Social Network Analysis