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This dossier offers concrete avenues for developing the critical spirit of young people (and those not so young!) In using social media in education. Other articles on this subject can be found in our professional periodical.

A joint École branchée and Carrefour education dossier

Social media today occupy a preponderant place in everyone's daily life. For example, according to the infographic " 115 surprising facts about social media », 92 % of teens say they go to social networks every day and 71 % of them use several social networks. In addition, 58 % of adults are said to have a Facebook profile.

Students and teachers are no exception, and it is sometimes difficult to do without. In this regard, still according to the infographic mentioned previously, 18 % of people would be unable to go several hours without going on Facebook!

Social interaction platforms present several dangers, including disinformation, but also several advantages when used properly. This is why it is important to educate young people for this purpose.

However, these interactive tools are slowly establishing themselves in the education sector. For several reasons, learning about or through social media is not institutionalized and is often done by teachers on a self-taught basis.

This dossier aims to approach the subject from several angles. First, the important concepts will be defined. Different ideas for activities that integrate social media into learning will then be presented. We will also see their usefulness for the in-service training of teachers, particularly through virtual learning communities and communities of practice, to finally review the positive impacts of these media on the lives of students.


Social networks, social media or Web 2.0: all the same?


The terms social networks, social media or Web 2.0 are often used to refer to interactive platforms or tools of the Web. It is nevertheless important to clearly define these concepts, which do not constitute a homogeneous whole and are distinguished in several respects.

Web 2.0

The term Web 2.0 more generally refers to platforms that allow various social network applications to be used by users to create, distribute, share or manipulate open access content.

Social media

Heterogeneous, lsocial media bring together a wide variety of online platforms or mobile applications. They are defined as a group of tools based on the foundations of Web 2.0, allowing communication and collaboration through the creation and exchange of content produced by the users of these networks.

Social Networking Sites (SNS) are among the best known and most popular social media outlets, but they are far from the only ones since there are nearly a dozen such networks.

Broadly speaking, here are the broad categories of social media:

1. Social networking

These sites facilitate social interactions and information sharing among members of interest groups or among friends. Within a delimited system, users build a public or semi-public profile, create a network of contacts with other users and browse it in order to exchange views. This type of network also increases peripheral awareness, that is to say that a user can display temporary references on his daily life via his interface. Facebook (family and friends), LinkedIn (professional contacts and guidance) and twitter (micro-blog between contacts) are among the most used platforms.

2. Editing and sharing of media and content

These sites allow users to produce, edit, develop or share their own content. WordPress, Twitter, Youtube, Snapchat and Pinterest are editing tools, while Google Drive, DropBox, WeTransfer or Sendspace promote media sharing.

3. Media manipulation and mashups

With these sites, users can edit, share or modify digital material such as videos, audio material or photos. Youtube, Flickr and Instagram are great for editing and sharing videos and photos. The sites FotoFlexer, Picnik, Splashup (Pictures), Toondoo (comics) and Voice Thread (audio) are also interesting in the field of editing as well as mashup (use and modification of video, audio or photo files already edited by others).

4. Instant messaging and conversation spaces

These platforms offer the possibility of chatting with other users in real time or offline. Messenger and Skype are among the instant messengers that even allow video chat. Spaces like Edmodo or Google Classroom, designed for education, or closed Facebook groups allow general interactions with all users, or in a more personalized way via instant messaging. Group videoconferencing can also take place on the interfaces Adobe Connect, Zoom, BlueJeans, Skype, Facebook Live, Google Hangouts or Periscope. Among the advantages, let us note that some of these platforms allow the conversations to be recorded in order to listen to them later if necessary. See this example Periscope recording in which Mr. Claude Frenette, educational advisor, talks about feedback with ICT.

5. Online games and virtual worlds

These games promote interactions between users through the participation of players in the virtual arena or instant messaging. Users create an avatar and embody it in a world entirely created by them. Different social aspects of "real life" are found there (territory, political system, language, currency, etc.). The game Second life fact especially made of this category.

6. Social bookmarks

These applications allow you to annotate text or images available on the web and then share them with other users. Pinterest, Pearltrees, Diigo and Del.icio.us are such tools.

7. Wikis and collaborative editing tools

These technologies offer users the opportunity to collaborate in the design, editing and development of digital content. Open to all, the online encyclopedia Wikipedia (also available as a mobile application) is a good example of Wiki. For collaboration, let's also think of Google docs and Office 365, very common in schools. Finally, collaborative dictionaries such Bab.la and Vocabulary.com are also part of this type of platforms.

8. Syndication

Through the use of Tweetdeck, of Netvibes and even RSS feeds (Really Simple Syndication), users can receive a notification when there are changes to their favorite sites.

With these distinctions established and concepts better defined, it will now be easier to look at the contribution of Web 2.0 and social media to education.

Critical Social Media Education


Social networking platforms are experiencing rapid growth. Very popular with young people, they particularly promote the editing and sharing of content. However, in this context of easy and rapid transmission, information (true or false) can go viral quickly (spread to a large audience very quickly), whether we like it or not. This is subsequently difficult to remove from networks, even if reporting options exist. Moreover, a good number of users are not aware of all the policies for using these sites, or are not aware of the consequences of their actions on these sites. This is why it is so important to undertake a process of critical education in social media with young people.

Containing both technical and ethical issues, this education would promote the ability to use such tools. It would also allow reflection on issues related to the protection of the privacy of users or people who sometimes find themselves there in spite of themselves (defamatory or degrading remarks without their knowledge, for example).

Developing healthy skills in using social networking sites allows young people to better manage the information found there and thus better use it in their personal and academic lives. Training, support and educational interventions are also necessary for this purpose so that the scope of virtual actions is well measured.

To this end, the body Habilomedia offers parents and teachers a host of educational resources to target various issues relating to digital literacy. One can in particular browse the list of educational games, which are aimed directly at young people by allowing them to exercise their critical sense in a fun way.

See also educational activity sheets of the CFORP TacTIC team on identity and digital citizenship. They are available for classes from the 2nd cycle of elementary school, and even for parents.

Finally, here are some other ideas for educational activities for young people to think about and use social media.

In computer science

As part of a computer course, one goal might be to promote proficiency in social media. To achieve this, the teacher could first present the motivations and functions of a platform of his choice. He would then invite the students to:

  • Discover concretely the workings of this social network (functions, utility, parameters, etc.)
  • Know the site usage policies.

It would also be relevant to show them:

  • How to ensure the protection of personal data found in their virtual environment?

Learning to edit, broadcast and share would also be interesting:

  • How to edit information?
  • How to do it safely?
  • What information can be edited or shared on these networking sites?
  • Who to share (or not!) Information with? Why?

At the end of this activity, the students will know the different parameters of a social networking site in addition to being able to master them adequately.

In ethics and religious culture

Another learning activity can take place within the framework of the Ethics and Religious Culture (ECR) course. One of the objectives could be to make young people think about the issues related to the protection of privacy.

In teams of two, three or four, the students could critically examine their knowledge of the rules for using a social networking site of their choice, as well as their own attitude towards social networks.

Questions may first relate to their own use of these sites:

  • Why do you use social networking sites?
  • What are you posting or not posting on these sites?
  • How can you protect your personal information?
  • Have you ever shared information without someone else's knowledge? How did you feel?
  • In your opinion, can we share everything on social networking sites? Why?
  • Do you prefer to look at other people's profiles or show off your own? Why?

The reflection could also concern the consequences (ethical and legal) of certain actions:

  • How do you think a person feels when you post or share defamatory or degrading information about them on a social network?
  • In your opinion, what are the legal remedies of a person when they make defamatory or degrading comments about them, or when they share information without their knowledge?
  • And what can be the legal consequences on the user who distributes or shares degrading information or which does not belong to him?
  • Who do you think the information disseminated and shared belongs to?
  • How do you think we can stop cyberbullying on social networking sites?

This educational activity is the subject of teamwork here, but could very well be carried out as part of an individual reflection. Each student could address these questions to a family member and a feedback followed by a group discussion would take place in class. It could even be the subject of a joint project between the two subjects mentioned above.

Ideas for using social media in the classroom


Integrating social media into the academic experience is not straightforward for all teachers, quite the contrary. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Very simply, the teacher could start by establishing and defining key concepts that students will then apply in learning activities on or using social media. Teachers who are already familiar with some social media can use it to present their content. For example, they can broadcast video or audio clips that they have produced themselves, or share links giving their students access to their course content.

By connecting to a learning environment, young people can consult the subject at a distance at any time and walk at their own pace. For example, environments like ChallengeU and Edmodo are interesting for carrying out virtual activities. Depending on the course or the level, the teacher prepares material (written, audio or video) in order to present content. By logging in, students have access to planned individual or group learning activities. Promoting communication, these platforms also allow instant feedback from peers or the teacher, thus allowing their approach to be reframed as needed in reaching their learning objective. Moreover, the teacher can use these environments to assess the degree of acquisition of knowledge or skills of each. Through subject-specific learning activities, they promote the skills to edit, distribute and remix digital content.

Their approach more individual and personalized promotes a very open framework of exchanges. Indeed, students access a world of knowledge and informal knowledge at all times. They virtually collaborate with other young people (from their group, another group, or the rest of the world), notice ways they were previously unfamiliar with things, question others, get quick feedback and more. Not very directive, these environments can even give rise to sometimes unexpected and informal collaborative projects outside institutional places of learning.

Obviously, for an optimal use, these platforms require a certain preliminary work of the teacher, in particular at the level of the preparation of the material.

However, they are not the only ones that can be used in the classroom! For example, more and more teachers, even in primary school, are using the microblogging platform Twittter for a wide variety of educational projects with their students. We find a good selection in the École branchée. The Twitter contest are also gaining popularity in schools.

Now here are some quick and easy learning activities that can be done using other types of social media. The subjects and activities chosen are quite random, but the activities could be adapted according to the level of education or the field of learning.


In order to apply one of the writing procedures within the framework of the French course, the teacher begins with a masterful presentation on the structure of the narrative diagram (or any form of text). He or she then invites his or her students to apply these concepts on a publishing platform of their choice, in order to:

  • write a fictional story;
  • respect the notions of the narrative diagram.

Once this step has been completed, each student will have to:

  • select another student's story;
  • improve one of the twists and turns.

The modifications made, the pupils will have to:

  • provide feedback to the author;
  • discuss narrative processes via instant messaging or in a forum.

In addition to applying the concepts learned in class, this practice offers students the opportunity to produce digital content, remix it and even reflect and discuss writing processes electronically.

Second language

Collaborative editing tools like Bab.la, Vocabulary.com or Wiktionary, which offer all users the opportunity to develop, remix and enhance content, offer a relevant approach to develop second language vocabulary.

Here, the teacher could submit a word bank to their students and ask them to:

  • translate the bank's words into the second language;
  • write the definition on the editing platform of your choice.

Students will then have to search the web to develop an accurate definition of each word. They will also work with other stakeholders to make it happen.

Once this step has been completed, the students will:

  • visit the editing tool to ensure the veracity of definitions developed by others;
  • If necessary, work as a team to remix the content;
  • Provide feedback to others regarding changes made.

This practice again allows students to edit digital content and remix it within a large and open structure, while acquiring new vocabulary.

Virtual environments like Hellolingo, Palabea or Babbel are also very useful in learning languages with a computer (ALAO). Designed specifically for online learning, they offer educational material in several languages and are structured into varied learning paths. They also embrace social media features, including quick user status updates, the ability to network with friends, and like posts. Students can add, edit, and improve content on these sites. These also allow forging links with other social networking sites and have a mobile version.

A networking site like Facebook is not specifically used for language learning, but a teacher can develop collaborative projects there. This usually involves creating a private interaction group that the teacher sets up himself (who can collaborate, how, etc.). It has the advantage of being free.


As part of the geography course, the teacher can develop learning activities using virtual games so that his students master the different characteristics of a territory, for example.

After presenting these characteristics (population, language, ethnic groups, urban environment, rural environment, etc.), the pupils undertake a section on the Second Life interface. The objective will be to retrace the characteristic elements of a territory. Even if they are imaginary, all these elements are found in the game and are representative of the real regions of the world. Through play, the pupils then assimilate the content to be mastered.

In short, the personal learning environments, social media and learning activities mentioned here represent a minimal contribution of Web 2.0 to education, because a multitude of activities are possible depending on the subject or the level. In reality, it is a matter of teachers having a good grasp of these platforms beforehand and slightly adapting their approach to integrate them into their teaching. This way of doing things gives students the chance to apply knowledge and skills at their own pace, while opening up to a multitude of other knowledge available on the Web. Obviously, teachers should not hesitate to try these tools or even ask for support from their peers, pedagogical advisers or digital content experts at their school to promote their integration.

Social media for teachers


We often hear that students are better at social media than their teachers! If this is your case, then here are some interesting avenues that can contribute to your continuing education in addition to equipping you to integrate social media into your pedagogy.

Social networking sites, instant messaging or chat rooms can be very useful for the training and professional development of teachers, in connection with educational technologies, but also in many other respects.

Virtual learning communities

Virtual learning communities serve the same purpose as face-to-face learning communities. This type of group aims to train teachers through webinars offered in synchronous mode. For a limited time and offered in a formal and organized framework, the presentations or training sessions are followed live by the users thanks to web platforms such as Adobe Connect, Via, Zoom or BlueJeans. These paid interfaces are also often preferred to others free (such as Skype) because they better support a large number of users.

This kind of remote presentation allows the acquisition of various knowledge. Virtual discussions with other users allow for networking that would have been more difficult due to the distance, travel and costs that follow. Indeed, thanks to instant messaging (integrated into the platforms) and direct exchanges using the headset, communication between participants is very easy.

Our REFAD (Francophone Distance Learning Network of Canada) offers information on these different online training possibilities. Various education events are also starting to webcast some of their activities. This will be the case in particular for the Rendez-vous des écoles francophones en network (REFER), which will be held this year on March 16 and 17. We can also go back and review some conferences of the Clair 2017 gathering.

Virtual communities of practice

Online communities of practice are also useful for training education stakeholders. These make it possible to meet in asynchronous mode in order to exchange freely and spontaneously through instant messaging, mailing lists or closed groups created on social networking sites. Grouped by common affiliations (subject taught, professional values or others), the various speakers discuss many topics according to their goals or their current intentions. Communities of practice are generally less structured than learning communities, but this does not affect the ease of dissemination, sharing or exchange of relevant information.

Platforms like ChallengeU and Edmodo are very useful for these communities of practice. In particular, they allow the creation and sharing of learning activities with teachers from all over the world and promote access to different ways of doing things or to different expertise. Private groups on Facebook are also a simple and user-friendly tool for this type of community. Indeed, stakeholders can meet on a voluntary basis and discuss their practices. They edit or share information and consult with the group when there is activity. Notifications also stimulate the participation of users who only have to follow the progress of the content according to their interests.

A good example of a community of practice on Facebook is the group ICT in education. There is also a active community on Twitter, in particular via the # tageduprof.

Ways to break professional isolation

These virtual communities bring a lot to the teacher who operates them. While staying at work, everyone can break isolation and stay informed about the latest educational trends, interesting learning activities and more. Allowing the sharing of information of various types, these communities also stimulate mutual aid thanks to the punctual responses of other users and even make it possible to take a critical look at one's own situation. They therefore promote the creation of dynamic knowledge and the transformation of knowledge.

See the video of the excellent conference The School of Tomorrow, by Nancy Brousseau, director of the FÉEP.

Social media: positive impacts on students


As you can imagine, social media has many impacts on students, both academically and personally. Here are four that are generally very positive.

Break the psychological barrier

Social media decreases the psychological barriers that may exist between individuals who communicate face to face or in real time. Used in a school context, they allow very rich exchanges in which, formally or informally, students and professionals discuss various subjects (academic or other), thus promoting collaboration and increasing learning.

Obtain feedback from peers and teachers

Also, the ease with which one can generally comment on social media posts allows for quick feedback from peers and teachers. In addition, when used in a learning situation, these media encourage young people to think about and maintain critical judgment about what they say, which they sometimes have to reformulate, refine and refine before publishing them. .

Acquire technological skills

By using social media, students also develop technological know-how and skills that will be useful to them throughout their lives, such as downloading, editing and posting content.

Develop social capital

Some even argue that mastering social media would have a positive impact on the development of everyone's social capital. By social capital, we think of all the resources (real and virtual) that an individual or a group has. Robert D. Putnam, Professor of Public Administration at the JFK School of Government at Harvard University, abstract the whole as follows: "social networks have a value". Nowadays, social networking sites are the main vectors of communication for many people!


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  1. Very interesting article that suggests ways for trainers to use social media intelligently

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