Using social media for learning, teaching and research

We want our students to

  • develop confident face to face and online communication skills
  • work collaboratively both synchronously and asynchronously
  • develop a professional online presence
  • use digital tools responsibly and effectively

To help our students develop these skills and knowledge we need to have clear pedagogic outcomes, embedding opportunities for them to learn and become fluent in a range of digital literacies. Information, media and technological fluency are all important. Futurelab’s report on Digital Literacy across the curriculum highlights the importance of both creative and critical uses of technology in the classroom and considers the following as key areas to focus on:

  • functional skills
  • e-safety
  • effective communication
  • the ability to find and select information
  • collaboration
  • cultural and social understanding
  • critical thinking and evaluation
  • creativity

Social Media

The use of social media has grown exponentially with an almost ubiquitous use of mobile technology to access information any time and anywhere. These technologies provide useful affordances in relation to learning, teaching and research. However as educators we have a responsibility to provide our students with guidance and help them understand the impact of using social media. At Sheffield Hallam University we have now created a series of guidance leaflets (available at which come with a Creative Commons licence so that others may use. These include:

  • How to use social media responsibly
  • Staying safe online
  • Managing your digital footprint
  • Using social media for learning

There are also resources and case studies being developed at

The slidedeck at the top of this post provides a wide range of examples of how social media can be used and serves as a discussion point inviting further examples to be shared. The key areas covered are:


  • Blogs to share introductions and other induction activities
  • Wikis and Google Drive for project collaboration
  • Google hangouts for group online meetings
  • YouTube videos for how to guides
  • Screencast tools such as Jing and Screencast-o-matic to create short summaries
  • Pinterest for visual reading lists, Diigo for social bookmarking

Academic Professional Development

  • Sharing information via Twitter and LinkedIn
  • Discussion forums such LinkedIn groups and Google+ communities
  • Curation tools to gather resources on specific topics such as


  • Be known as an expert in your field on LinkedIn
  • Research your project definition, funding and collaboration reaching out to a rich personal learning network of educators using social media
  • Share and promote publications: papers, books, articles, websites, presentations via Twitter, Mendeley, ResearchGate, and LinkedIn

Student Guidance

  • Facebook and Wikis for FAQs and space to raise questions
  • Twitter to signpost support areas such as wellbeing, study support, disability support
  • Social Bookmarking tools such as Diigo to tag and highlight key documents and web resources
  • Pinterest board of Who’s Who in Student Support
  • Newsletters using Blogs

Peer Support

  • Maintain/make new connections/friendships via Facebook happens!
  • Course blogs to share interests, hobbies etc.
  • Collaborative Pinterest boards to share inspirational quotes or picture quizzes of places and people in University
  • Online group chat using Google+ hangouts, Skype or Blackboard Collaborate

Student Professional Development

  • Share information via Facebook groups
  • Professional networking
  • Learning about companies via LinkedIn company pages
  • Job opportunities/career development on LinkedIn and Twitter


  • Communicate events/open days via Facebook, Eventbrite and Lanyrd
  • Showcase event photos and videos on Pinterest and Flickr
  • Company presence on LinkedIn Recruitment – Post info and links to undergraduate and postgraduate courses, distinguished lecture series, careers opportunities and the university Media Centre

University Communication

  • Having an active presence on Twitter, LinkedIn Company page and Facebook
  • Clearly place links to university social media spaces on websites and written communication
  • Utilise social sharing buttons so that information can be easily shared by readers to their connections via LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Google +

Professional Development

To take these ideas forward it is important that we also focus on the staff development of those working in higher education. Social media is still for many a relatively new communication channel. It is equally important to understand how its use can have both a negative and positive impact. Providing a scaffolded and supported integration of digital skills within the curriculum will ensure our students are confident users of these technologies.

What would you add to these suggestions? I’d love to hear from you.

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Using Social Media in the Social Age of Learning #lifewidelearning

Magazine 10 June 2014

Lifewide Magazine is published four times a year under a Creative Commons license. Each issue examines a different aspect of lifewide learning, education, personal development and achievement. For this latest issue my colleague Chrissi Nerantzi and myself were invited by Professor Norman Jackson to be Guest Editors. This was a wonderful opportunity from which we have learnt so much. I would also like to mention Jenny whose creative expertise has been the key to setting out the articles in the magazine. Finally a huge thanks to all of the authors who have contributed articles. This was truly a co-operative effort.

The edition can be found at and is also free to download here: Using Social Media in the Social Age of Learning  Continue reading

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Choosing the right Creative Commons licence for your work

Creative Commons licencesWhy would you want a Creative Commons licence?

The Creative Commons copyright licenses give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. As more people adopt this ever growing ‘digital commons’ they share a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law.

It is an opportunity for others to share your work with attribution and dependent on the licence you give it even build upon this work and re-share it with the wider community. There are a variety of different licences to choose from and this post aims to introduce those to you. Full information and guidance can be found on the Creative Commons website. Continue reading

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Hurrah! An easy way to attribute Flickr images


 Image source: creative commons licensed (BY-NC-ND) flickr photo by Jonas Tana:

Flickr is an image and video hosting site. Registering an account also allows users to create a profile page containing photos and videos that the user has uploaded. Users uploading an image can set privacy controls that determine who can view the image. This can be set to public or private, or to a specific group. Flickr offers users the ability to either release their images under Creative Commons licenses or to label them as ‘all rights reserved’. Images can be filtered by licence and may also be given tags which can help users of Flickr locate themes images. Continue reading

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Twitter photo tagging – how to opt out

photo tagging in Twitter


You may have picked up that Twitter has just made some mobile updates enabling photo tagging. It is now possible to tag up to 10 people in a photo and it does not affect the character count in the tweet. Unless your Tweets are protected this means anyone can tag you. Continue reading

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The Wonderful Web at 25

Happy Birthday

Image source: Wikipedia

March 12th 2014 marked the 25th anniversary of the World Wide Web. It is hard to believe that pre-1989 there was no Web (or at least public access to). In recent years as the price of computers have decreased and affordable smart technologies increased, access and use of the Web for many has become a daily part of our lives. The growth in smart mobile technology has meant that users can access the Web and social networking sites on the go when and wherever they want to. The first handheld cellphone was sold on March 13, 1984 for $3995— 30 years ago!  What a long way we have come. Today not only can we use these devices to hold telephone conversations, we can also text, take photos and video and share these through social networking sites, and access information from websites. WiFi hot spots are increasingly found in public spaces – buses, cafes and shops, making it easier for users to connect. Continue reading

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Visualising your LinkedIn connections

LinkedIn connections

LinkedIn Maps is a really nice way to visualise your connections on LinkedIn. Above is an image taken as a screen shot, however when created online it is actually interactive. Each dot is a node which links to one of your connections. As you click on the node it brings up that person’s photo and headline. Continue reading

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Google Search has finally added a simple way to search for images that have reuse rights!

Google search

Google Search has finally added a simple way to search for images that have reuse rights!

First of all enter your search keyword, then click on Images. You will then see Search tools. Select this and it reveals Usage Rights with a drop down menu. The default is ‘not filtered by licence’. You can then choose one of four further options:

  • labelled for reuse
  • labelled for commercial reuse
  • labelled for reuse with modification
  • labelled for commercial reuse with modification

Check the best match and you will then only see the images that have those rights. Continue reading

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Changes to Gmail: How to adjust your settings

Gmail logo

The BBC Technology article was the first alert I received to changes being made by Google and Gmail.

Users of Google’s Gmail service will soon be able to send messages directly to other Gmail accounts, regardless of whether the recipient has shared their email address. Continue reading

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My Blogging Journey


I began this blog a few years ago when teaching Journalism students how to use WordPress to create their own blogs. As I introduced how to embed images, video and audio; I realised that it would be more authentic if I started to write posts of my own. Colleagues new to social media often asked questions about what certain tools were and how to use them. These became the focus of my posts.

Reading articles about blogging, I was encouraged to blog on a regular basis. However writing does not always flow easily. Juggling other commitments the ‘I don’t have time’ is a big issue. However I learnt that taking a gem of an idea I could write a few bullet points and save the idea as a draft post. Very often with a clearer mind I would go back to the draft and complete it. Other times I have discarded the draft, but gone on to write something else in its place.

You go diving for pearls every night but sometimes you end up with clams.” ~ Jerry Garcia

Blogging has given me a voice and granted whilst it may not be heard by many, the craft of blogging has helped me develop a new confidence in writing. The act of blogging and tagging allows me to catalogue and curate short posts about social media which have been fascinating to research and learn from along the way. The feedback I have had via comments or tweets has been encouraging. Continue reading

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