8 considerations for social networks in classrooms

Research into the potential of web-based technologies will undoubtedly go in many new directions in the coming years, but the following eight questions offer some departure points to consider while planning for the use of SNSs in higher education onsite or online classroom settings:

1.  What is the impact of classroom SNS use on your students’ motivation?  Is that impact different for heavy SNS users as compared to infrequent users of the platform? Any motivational benefits associated with using SNSs would still need to be weighed against any negative effects that may accompany them.

2.  Do efforts at incorporating a particular SNS unfairly disadvantage certain groups due to their lack of proficiency in and/or familiarity with its interface and functionality? Decisions to incorporate SNSs in classrooms settings are not done in a vacuum, but rather they intersect with the digital inequalities that already exist in students’ lives.

3.  Do SNSs encourage inappropriate or negative social behavior amongst students in a classroom setting that would not occur otherwise? Psychologists, such as John Suler, have found that an “Online Disinhibition Effect” can lead to a host of antisocial behaviors, which can undermine collegiality in collaborative activities.

4.  Would incorporating a specific SNS into the classroom setting pressure non-users to adopt a practice that they might not otherwise consider? More specifically, would college students who are currently philosophically opposed to using SNSs feel pressured to include them in their technology repertoire, despite their personal reservations?

5.  Do the third-party or personal event components of the SNSs user interfaces result in more off-task activity when used in a classroom setting than would occur with Learning Management Systems (LMS), such as Blackboard or Moodle, that don’t include such components?