Social Media in the Classroom


The phenomenon of social media has altered the ways in which teenagers communicate and engage with each other. Social networking platforms are the second most popular form of communication among teenagers; 29% of youth send messages through these sites (Lenhart, 2012). In the past, teenagers reported using Twitter to follow their favourite celebrities and receive news updates. However, they now report using Twitter to post their own content as well as following their friends (Madden et al., 2013). The use of Twitter has gradually increased among teenagers; 24% now use Twitter, a figure that is up from 16% in 2011 (Madden et al., 2013).Yet, despite these numbers, social media platforms like Twitter are not being integrated into classrooms to impact and enhance learning, communication, engagement, and motivation.

I know several teachers who have voiced various concerns over the use of social media, the most significant factor being the issue of privacy. Some measures you can take:

1) Read your school board’s social media policy (they should have one!)

2) Read the policies and guidelines of the social media platform you’d like to use (for example, one must be 13 years or older to have a Twitter account, hence students in grade 8 and above can create their own)

3) Ensure students set privacy settings so only confirmed followers can view their content

4) Ensure students do not include any biographical data on their account, which might identify them (i.e., full name, school name, school district, pictures)

5) If you are posting pictures, make sure students faces are not visible (there are apps that can blur out student faces)

6) Send a letter home to parents outlining which platform you are using and why; provide explicit examples of how the social media tool will be used in class

7) Have parents sign a consent form and keep a copy for your records

8) Encourage parents to follow you so they can see what kind of learning is happening in class

9) Inform your administrators about your use of social media and encourage them to follow you!

10) Integrate digital citizenship with the use of social media; teach examples and non-examples of the proper use of social media

11) Have students complete some fun icebreakers or activities to get them accustomed to the platform and the proper use of the tool in terms of etiquette and good behaviour

*Remind students whether it’s their personal account or their educational account, nothing is private! They are responsible for anything they post to a social media site and if anything is posted that has a hint of bullying, they are accountable and there will be consequences.*

Using social media in the classroom is a great way to teach students not only about digital citizenship but also about the dangers of social media. We teach our kids not to talk to strangers they meet in public places so by the same token aren’t we responsible for teaching them the same dangers in online learning platforms? Isn’t it our obligation to teach them how to be safe online? The majority of our students believe that they are safe behind their computer, ipad,  or iphone because no one can ‘see’ them. They share information freely without realizing not only how far that information can reach but also who has access to that information. This is why one of the first things I do in my classroom is have students Google themselves. I still remember one of my grade 8 female students, who after Googling herself, shouted out a bunch of expletives because she didn’t understand how a personal picture she had posted on Facebook was now online for anyone to see. This led to a great discussion with my class about being safe in today’s digital landscape.

I have used Twitter in my classroom for the last couple of years with great results. I want my students to be active participants in their learning rather than just being passive consumers of information. Twitter has allowed every single one of my students to have a voice. As educators, we always talk about getting our students ready for the “real world” or wanting to bring the “real world” into our classrooms. So why aren’t we doing that by integrating social media into the classroom? What better way then to interact with the “real world” by using social media platforms like Twitter where a class can connect with someone like Chris Hadfield or a mathematician or an environmentalist so students can ask questions and engage in critical dialogue?

If you haven’t integrated Twitter or other social media platforms into your classroom, I encourage you to do so. It is only through using and interacting with the platform that you will see the value. You can’t really judge until you’ve tried it, right? 🙂

Next Post: Ideas on how to Integrate Twitter into Your Classroom


Lenhart, A. (2012). Communication choices. PewResarch Internet Project. Retrieved from

Madden et al. (2013). Teens and social media. PewResearch Internet Project. Retrieved from

Open Ended Questions In Math

Over the last few years, there has been a shift in mathematics instruction and learning as we move away from the more traditional forms of teaching (e.g., using textbooks, sitting in rows, and unit tests at the end of a chapter) to more engaging and innovative methods in order for students to understand the big ideas and concepts of mathematics. One such strategy is the use of open ended questions in the math classroom. As an AQ Instructor, teachers in my courses often express the value in having students work through these types of problems. Open ended problems have many advantages. The first being that these types of problems allow for multiple entry points as well as students recognizing that there isn’t one conventional method of solving a problem. Students can work on the problem with strategies that make sense to them. They realize there isn’t only one way to solve a problem and hence their self confidence increases because of their “aha” moments. I struggle with the issue of the most “efficient” method or the strategy that is the “fastest”. The entire objective of open ended questions is allowing students to recognize that their way of solving a problem is valued. Not every student’s brain works the same way and that in itself needs to be celebrated. Just because it’s the most efficient or fastest way does not mean it will work for every student. It’s about the understanding and learning; its not about the achievement, speed, or performance. We want students to succeed in life and by allowing them to solve problems that make the best sense to them will allow them to transfer those skills to real life, when they are adults. You could pair up the student who is using the “more efficient” strategy with the students who is using the “less efficient” strategy. Give the pair some guiding questions to keep the conversation focused, have both of them reflect on their conversation in a journal, and then have a follow up conversation with the student who is using the “less efficient” strategy and ask them about what they though of the “more efficient” strategy – does it make sense? why or why not? If a student is not ready to use other strategies, don’t force it. It needs to come naturally when they are ready.

The biggest challenge in terms of using open ended questions is creating these questions in the first place. Marian Small’s books are a great place to start to gain some knowledge and experience with these types of questions. After reading her books, I then turned to the math textbook and started turning their close ended questions into open ended questions. After gaining experience and understanding with open ended questions over the last couple of years, I created the following mini-guide:

Open Ended Questions in Math: Four Main Categories


Category Closed Open
Provide Conditions Find the mean of the following numbers: 7, 15, 12, 20, 17, 13, 19, 16 Produce sets of data that satisfy these conditions.

a)  mean = median < mode

b)  mean = mode < median

c)  median = mode < mean

Give the Answer Round 37.67 to the nearest tenth Generate three different numbers that when rounded to the nearest tenth give 37.7
Similarities and Differences Find the LCM of 40 and 35 How are the numbers 40 and 35 alike? How are they different?
Create the Context/Omit Information What is 1/3 + ½? You add two fractions and the sum is 5/9. What could the fractions be?

Analyzing the Task

  • What prior learning does the student need to understand and respond to each question
  • What scaffolding can we provide struggling students to engage in the problem?
  • What scaffolding can we provide competent students to go deeper into the problem

Points to Ponder

  • When would you engage students in these types of questions (beginning, middle, end of unit; after closed problems)?
  • How would you use these types of questions (assessment of, for, or as learning)?
  • What type of classroom environment is needed to promote these types of questions and this type of learning?

It is also helpful to know the difference between these two terms:

Open Routed: A question with more than one strategy to obtain one correct answer

Open Ended: A question or problem which has more than one correct answer and more than one strategy to obtain this answer


  • WHAT? Open-ended and parallel tasks allow for multiple entry points and multiple answers
  • WHY? Questions engage learners at all levels
  • HOW? Allow students to choose numbers, the context, generate the question
  • WHO? All students as parallel tasks allow for the removal of potential barriers

Example for you to try 

Create a question that uses the words double, triple, 3 and 8.

Being a Connected Educator

October has been Connected Educator’s Month and as we come to the end of the month, I have taken some time to reflect on what it means to be a connected educator. One of the most significant aspects of being a connected educator is to have opportunities to connect with a variety of educators to challenge your thinking by examining multiple perspectives. We can not grow as teachers if we do not learn each and every day. We emphasize the important of fostering a growth mindset in our students yet do not seem to highlight its importance for teachers. Being a connected educator affords us the chance to pursue our passions and achieve our own personal learning goals and there are many venues in which we can do so.

I have successfully used Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube, and blogging to not only connect with other educators but also with my students and their parents/guardians. In this regard, our students need to be able to see the power of being connected. Many of them might not see the value of using a tool like Twitter for learning so why not help them get started by using their passions as a springboard? Furthermore, show them real life examples of how these types of tools have helped other students to learn and thrive? Equally important is modeling for students. We need to scaffold for them in order that they can use these tools for educationally relevant purposes. When I started using Twitter with my students, they were reluctant to get on board; however, with time and scaffolding they eventually came around. After about a month, we were tweeting questions to a scientist about stem cell research and the environment and it was extremely powerful!

My advice to those just getting started:

1) Jump In! There is no correct way to get started in becoming a connected educator. Go ahead and explore, think about your goals, what you want to learn, and then start connecting and participating!

2) Follow a Variety of People: it doesn’t matter what tool you are using but be sure to connect with educators that have opinions and views that are different from yours; it’s a great way to learn and grow!

3) Set Aside Time: block out a day in the week when you will connect with your community; it can everyday or once a week depending on your schedule and other commitments

4) Join: try joining a Twitter chat or a Google Hangout to get the feel for the different tools that are out there.

5) Ask!: When in doubt, ask questions; you have an entire connected community who would be more than willing to answer your questions and help you out.

Connecting helps us to reflect on and improve our practice, share tools and resources, and communicate with educators from around the world.

One of my philosophies has always been, “If we don’t take risks in our teaching, how can we expect students to take risks in their learning?” 


DVDs vs VOD: Increasing Returns or Red Queens?

These days you can watch movies in a variety of formats; you can access them through Netflix, buy the DVD or Blu-Ray, or download from your cable provider. As a PhD student in Educational Technology, I have recently become fascinated by the short stories of Philip K. Dick. Many of his stories have been made into popular movies such as Minority Report, Total Recall, Blade Runner, Next, Paycheck, and A Scanner Darkly. I recently re-watched Minority Report with fresh eyes and the technologies were fascinating!

I could have downloaded the movie from Netflix but I ended up purchasing a DVD copy, which I just happened to find at my local Wal-Mart. The store was having a sale and the movie was $5 so I picked it up along with a few others. It was the last copy of Minority Report so I thought best to grab it now and add it to my collection.

The fact that I could choose between a DVD option or video-on-demand option got me thinking about the forces in emerging technologies. Two of the six forces are Red Queens and Increasing Returns. Dr. Thornburg (2009) defines Red Queens as a competition between two technologies and in the process the others get left behind (Thornburg, 2009). The force of Increasing Returns is defined by Dr. Thornburg as two technologies which hit the market at the same time and just by chance one of the technologies becomes a “hit” driving the other technology to extinction (Thornburg, 2009). It should be noted that it is not always the best or most superior technology that survives. An example of this, provided by Dr. Thornburg is that of the battle between Betamax (Sony) and VHS (Panasonic). The Betamax version was by far the superior option but VHS was adopted by the public (Thornburg, 2009).

Currently, the battle between DVDs and video-on-demand (VOD) would be an example of Red Queens. This is because both still exist. You can go to Walmart, BestBuy, and Future Shop to purchase DVDs, whether it’s a movie or one of your favourite TV shows or you can purchase a VOD service such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu. Neither of these technologies have driven the other to extinction (i.e., Increasing Returns) yet but that may come in due time. I can see DVDs becoming obsolete due to their limitations in image quality and the popularity of being able to download movies and TV shows from the comfort of your living/family room.

I still purchase DVDs but they are not movies; they are the seasons of my favourite TV shows, which are not available on Netflix. As Netflix continues to add to their menu, I can see myself not buying as many DVDs as I used to; it will be nice to have all my favourite movies and shows on my Cloud or saved on my televison where I can access them at any time I wish.

In terms of McLuhan’s tetrad:

a) Video on Demand reversed DVDs

b) DVDs will be made obsolete by VOD

c) VOD rekindles “Home Movie Nights”

d) Blu-Ray will make DVDs obsolete

e) DVD rekindles the VHS, which was used to watch movies

Second Life: A Disruptive Technology?

Dr. Christensen, a Harvard professor, first coined the term “disruptive innovation” in his book “The Innovator’s Dilemma: When New Technologies Cause Great Firms to Fail”. Dr. Thornburg (2009) defines a disruptive technology as one which works more efficiently and has additional benefits than the previous technology, thus rendering it obsolete. One example provided by Dr. Thornburg was the transistor replacing the vacuum tube (Thornburg, 2009). The transistor functions as a solid-state electronic switch and replaced the vacuum tube. The transistor is smaller and consumes considerably less power; therefore, a computer system built with transistors is smaller, faster, and more proficient than its counterpart made with vacuum tubes. The transistor disrupted the need for vacuum tubes.

Another example is the virtual world Second Life. Second Life is an online social networking environment where users create an avatar and can interact with other avatars (users) or with other objects and/or places. It is not just about communicating with each other; Second Life also users to create these objects and places such as a organizations building stores where individuals can shop or setting up a meeting in order to discuss goals and objectives of the company. Second Life is a disruptive technology because it replaces how people interact with each other. By creating a virtual representation of themselves, users collaborate, communicate, build, and do business with each other without actually meeting face to face.

In education, teachers can set up an online classroom so students can listen to lectures, participate in a book talk, or immerse themselves in a particular setting such as the War of 1812. However, like any online environment, I feel it is important to balance it with face to face interaction. The implication of relying on a solely virtual setting can have social consequences. This is why I felt a sense of unease when Rosedale (2008) stated that individuals prefer their avatars over real life. Second Life is a valuable tool for learning and interacting with each other but should not be thought of as a replacement.

By allowing users to interact, collaborate, and share with each other, it does seem like it might be competing with other social networking sites like Facebook but at this time I do not see it displacing any other technologies. However, I do feel that in the field of education, Second Life had the potential to disrupt elementary education but since their Teen Grid came to an end, Second Life wasn’t very successful in this endeavour. MineCraft has now come into the picture to displace Second Life in use in the classroom. Having said that, I believe that Second Life will be around for the next ten years as it has the potential to replace text to text communication via graphic and text communication. Additionally, Second Life is still in its infancy and Linden Labs, who owns Second Life will continue to refine and update their product. In due time, something else will come along to disrupt this online environment; perhaps an environment that employs the use of gloves or 3D glasses.


Laureate Education, Inc. (2009). Emerging and future technology: Disruptive technologies. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Rosedale, P. (2008). Philip Rosedale on Second Life [Video]. Retrieved from

Rhymes of History

Someone once said, “The future will be like the past, only with cooler toys.” This quotes aligns nicely with the Rhymes of History; one of the six forces, which determine the emergence of technology. Dr. Thornburg, (2009a) defines rhymes of history as a new technology which rekindles something from the past (Thornburg, 2009a). In other words, a new technology is the emergence of the impact felt by a previous technology from the past.

This however, is not the only force determining the evolution of new technologies. There is evolutionary technologies in which the new technology is a growth or progression of a previous one. Disruptive technologies is the sudden appearance of a technology out of nowhere, which creates a brand new way of thinking about a technology task. The force of science fiction occurs when a new technology emerges from science based science-fiction. Increasing Returns between two competing technologies where one stays and other disappears for a variety of reasons. The sixth force termed Red Queen is when two technologies move to front of the line because of fierce competition.

In terms of rhymes of history, a good example is the Smart Board. Smart Boards are interactive white boards with a touch screen allowing presenters to have more control over their presentations as well as more interaction with the audience. Smart boards are widely used during conferences, workshops, meetings and even classrooms (Whatley, 2012). When I think of the Smart Board, I think of blackboards. While blackboard were used to write notes, teach lessons, and display information, the Smart Board takes it to another level by allowing for touch screen capabilities. Teachers can also use a digital pen when delivering content and information. Students can also interact with the Smart Board since it is connected to a computer, which then allows access to the Internet. This type of learning allow for more effective teaching, learning, and collaboration. Students can become more actively engaged in the learning process instead of sitting at their desks watching the teacher writing notes and drawing diagrams on the blackboard. As technology advances, it will be interesting to see how the Smart Board evolves.


Laureate Education, Inc. (2009a). Emerging and future technology: Six forces that drive emerging technologies. Baltimore, MD: Author.

Emerging Technology Tetrad: SMART BOARDS


Smart Boards were introduced in 1991 and are developed by SMART Technologies. These boards are designed as an interactive whiteboard with a touch screen allowing presenters to have more control over their presentations as well as more interaction with the audience. Smart boards are widely used during conferences, workshops, meetings and even classrooms (Whatley, 2012).

In the classroom, teachers can engage their students by designing and delivering interactive lessons with the use of their finger or a digital pen. The teacher can touch the Smart Board by clicking on buttons, highlighting text and dropping and dragging items for teaching and learning purposes.Although the teacher has full control over the applications, students can also interact directly with the Smart Board if the teacher so chooses. Since the Smart board and the projector are connected to a computer, navigating and accessing the Internet is not an issue. Therefore, creating and delivering engaging and meaningful learning is possible through the use of a Smart board since all students can view what is happening at the same time.


The introduction of the Smart Board in classrooms has allowed other technologies to be replaced. This includes technology such as the overhead projector, which has been used to enlarge learning materials such as a worksheet, a textbook, or a class note on a screen for all students to see. The overhead projector required the use of transparencies which were placed on the base of the projector. The mirror, located at the end of the long arm attached to the base, catches and reflects the light towards the screen. The Smart Board negates the use of transparencies and it includes a projector that is built on the top requiring less room than the overhead projector. Smart boards have also replaced the need for chalkboards and dry-erase white boards as notes and explanations of concepts and skills can be completed and taught using the Smart board.


 The use of Smart Boards allows the computer to be used in meaningful ways to foster deeper learning. Students can learn together as information and knowledge via the Internet can be projected onto the screen. This makes learning accessible to all and can allow for rich discussions to happen with the entire class as each and every student can view and/or interact with the information on the screen.


Moving forward, it is likely that the Smart board will be replaced by each student having their own iPad, which can then allow students to interact with the screen from their desk. It can also allow for small groups of students to work together using the Smart board to meet their own learning needs as well as promoting self-paced and self-directed learning as students can download apps based on those needs. 


Whatley, J (2012). How do smartboards work? EHow. Retrieved from