Reflection – Social Media and Participatory Learning

am cross-posting this from my ‘note’ from a doc i dropped in fb group:

If one were to do a Google/Bing search, you’ll notice that the most widely cited definition of Social Media is the following:

“a group of Internet-based applications that build on the ideological and technological foundations of Web 2.0, and that allow the creation and exchange of user-generated content.” (Kaplan and Haenlein, 2010)

Personally, I observe that Social Media is but a term that took over the limelight of “Web 2.0”. If we look at the popular social media platforms (facebook, YouTube, twitter, etc.), these platforms spot Web 2.0 technologies in the backend. So what’s Web 2.0?

The term “Web 2.0” is computer science-ish, because “0.9, 1.0, 2.0 …” is used by software developers/companies for software versioning. In other words, Web 2.0 can be understood as ‘newer release’ of Web 1.0 (a term that doesn’t exist before ver. 2 appeared). Web 2.0 is first used and discussed at a conference between O’Reilly and MediaLive International (Tim O’Reilly, 2005[1]). Though it’s in the year 2005, one can already see that the various names that have grown (or waned) over the years (for e.g. Wikipedia, Flickr, Google AdSense). So what are common among these names and social media platforms?

Personally, I think one word captures it all: participation.

Just take a minute or two to think of the information and communication technologies (ICT) that you may have used or come across lately, do these ICT encourage participation in one form or another? Commenting, tagging, (re)tweeting, Liking, sharing, etc. are the actions that are commonly involved, and one form or another, I summarise them as “participation”.

What is the value of Social Media for education? Why use Social Media? I would think the answer can be found if we try to answer, “What is the value of participation?” for education. Back in 2004, some educators (including myself[2]) have begun to explore the use of blogs (then called “weblogs”; aka “edublog”). In the use of blogs, participation comes in two forms: posting and commenting (and commenting on comments).

Posting as the first form of participation, allows a student to practice his/her writings (language teachers would like this), and in formulating the contents, the student can practice his/her thinking skills (all teachers will like this), clarifying his/her own understanding of a topic or some subject matter (all teachers will like this too). “But this isn’t too different if a student does it in an exercise book or a piece of foolscap paper?” Yes, excellent question. The value-addedness of blog (and I’m arguing for other Web 2.0 ICT and Social Media platform) is the writing is now placed in a public space. Not just the teacher, but peers and even anyone on the internet, can now appropriate the contents posted. This calls for the next form of participation.

Commenting is the second form of participation in blog. By commenting on a peer’s blog post, or comment(s) under a post, I begin to bring my view and understanding of the matter to the public domain too. While viewing my friends’ comments, I may begin to clarify my own understanding, and it doesn’t stop here! I could further engage my peers in discussing their views while clarifying my own thoughts. Learning is deepened if this is carried out properly. Teachers, at the start, will need to scaffold the students, or in simpler words, teach students when to ask questions, how to clarify thoughts, how to respect others’ ideas, how to build on others’ ideas, etc.

Using Social Media for learning and teaching is to engage students in a participatory mode of learning. It is grounded in Vygotskian’s theory of social meaning making (Vygotsky, 1978)[3]. Once a teacher integrates Social Media as part of his/her lesson design, s/he embraces the socio-constructivist way of learning. Indeed, to some teachers it may involve a paradigm shift, a shift in his/her epistemological beliefs. Are you ready? (:


[3] Vygotsky, L. (1978). Minds in Society. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

[This reflection was written in the morning of 3 Nov 11 (Thu), the last day of the 3-day TWA Programme @NYP). It’s not meant to be complete in nature, but this serves as some consolidation of the three days’ learning and my past explorations, which can be found in my storeroom http://EduBlog.NET . Thank you dear friends@NYP who have put in a lot of efforts to pull together the programme. It’s meaningful to me personally. “Thank You!” once again (: ]

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