Skip to: Navigation | Content | Sidebar | Footer

Social Networking in Education: Beyond the Big 3

In last week's #IOLchat, we asked participants to share the social networking platforms they preferred for professional and educational purposes. We were both pleased and surprised to see more than just FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn mentioned.

With this post, my goal is to provide an introduction to other systems currently used by educators and students for both professional networking and course-level community building, and highlight some of the special features offered.


Last year I presented Google+ as one of the more recent additions to the growing number of social media alternatives. Google+ allows students and educators to set up individual accounts that include a profile with links and information about their professional work history and education. Groups, including schools and programs, can also establish Google+ accounts to encourage discussion through posts and comments. The format allows for a more lengthy post than Twitter, as well as additional communication features. South Seattle Community College has created helpful resource pages for those interested in using Google+ in higher education.

Look for:

  • Hangouts are video chat sessions that can host up to 10 participants. These sessions could be used for instructor office hours, student study groups, and other discussions in which real-time video would benefit the conversation.
  • Circles allow you to create groups of accounts, based on criteria you choose, and could be used to create a circle for your class. You can then post messages, such as course announcements and links to relevant resources, specifically to this circle.


With this online bulletin board, users "pin" items in their own collections, or boards, which can be shared with others. Each "pinned" item can be repined by other users and "liked." You can also leave comments on pinned items. The boards consist primarily of images, making it a very visual resource. Pearson School Systems recommends Four Ways to Use Pinterest in Education: as inspiration for lesson planning, for sharing ideas and encouraging collaboration, to organize resources, and as a tool for student presentations. Take a look at educator Shelly Terrell's boards as an example of topic and organization strategy, and Pearson Online Learning Exchange's Pinterest class activity, as an example of use in a class setting.

Look for:


Creating an individual account with this social bookmarking tool allows you to collect web-based resources for future reference. Collections are searchable through the tags users assign to each link. You can implement Diigo as a tool for your own organization and research purposes, as well as share your collection and comment on the collections of others. Take a look at the Techntuit wiki page that has been bookmarked by over 100 people. You can also see in this example the tags used to describe the content, two comments and a Diigo "sticky note" left on the page, as well as material that has been highlighted by other Diigo users. View How to Use Diigo for Education for a quick demonstration of the tools educators and students may be interested in, such as highlighting, annotation, and creating resource collections.

Look for:

  • Educator accounts allow you to create spaces specifically for your students or group members, in which you can upload a roster and assign passwords to access a collection. After signing up for an educator account, you can request an upgrade with more premium features.
  • Join the Diigo in Education group to participate in discussion boards and learn from other educators using Diigo.


As a community-building platform, Edmodo offers educators and students secure ways to interact with each other online. The features are similar to some of those found in a learning management system and include communication tools, file storage and sharing, and collaborative workspaces. Users create their own personal profiles within the system through which they can access posted materials and engage in online discussions. Other uses include professional development activities, development of a personal learning network, and communication with parents, which is particularly relevant for K-12 groups.

Look for:

  • A series of recorded Edmodo Webinars provides help in getting set up and exploring potential uses of the platform at the course level. Check out the District Spotlight Series for examples from across the country.
  • The Edmodo Blog features ongoing articles about the platform's resources and use by educators. Categories include Best Practices, Communities, How-To, and Integration Ideas.


"Take your class conversation online" with HootCourse. This platform connects individuals through their Facebook or Twitter accounts and a common hashtag (#). Instructors and students can meet in a virtual space on the HootCourse site through a unique URL. Similar to a live Twitter chat, participant tweets are organized chronologically, but users can choose to have their posts appear in just the HootCourse space or also in their public streams. The interaction could be structured as asynchronous or synchronous, and can be used for a variety of discussions. I recently participated in an online book club, for example, that took place in a HootCourse space with new questions posted by the group leader every two or three days.

Look for:

  • Tabs in the interface allow you to filter the instructor's tweets from the rest of the participants' input.
  • With the Essay option participants can post a response that is longer than the 140 character Twitter limit. These essay posts must be linked to a blog, and the Blogger, Posterous, WordPress, and Xanga platforms are currently supported.

I've included just a few of the features of these platforms that might be of interest to you as an independent professional or for use in your courses. All are free to use, but do have terms of service that you should review and require account registration. As you continue to explore these and other social networking sites, consider which tools and capabilities will be the most effective in facilitating communication, building relationships, and exchanging resources with others.

Which social media platforms are your favorites for use in educational settings? Please add your suggestions to the list via the comments section on this page.

Image credit: 10ch, Flickr, CC-BY