Putting things in context - designing social media for education

Jon Dron, Terry Anderson, George Siemens

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPublished Conference contributionpeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The rich promise of social software in formal education can be offset by a clash between hierarchical organisational structures and the bottom-up, distributed nature that characterizes network development and growth. Learners often experience confusion when using social networking systems within formal education systems, negating many of the potential benefits of sharing, collaboration, communication and personal ownership associated with social networking systems. This often leaves learners and their teachers lost or at least disorientated in social space. Social networking systems are mainly based on explicit individual social connections, while students and staffin academia constantly shift between overlapping but delineated hierarchically organised community contexts like classes, committees, research groups, centres and schools as well as less formal person-to-person networks. Each context presents different needs for communication, shared resources and connectivity. Most existing educational social software systems blur these contexts into a single, confused and confusing sub-optimal space that is neither fully social and user controlled nor fully institutionally controlled. In this paper we describe a set of partial solutions that we are evolving for the Elgg system, providing multi-faceted profiles for both users and groups to allow control of content, presentation and audience for shared artefacts, catering for different social, organisational and personal/group contexts. A facet is represented as a page comprised of draggable widgets. Unlike the static views often associated with e-portfolios, these facets can be interactive, inviting comment, assessment and other responses in specific contexts. Facets can be moulded to fit the shifting contexts of academic activities and leisure lives, thus reducing the confusion of network, group, set and personal spaces that besets current social software use in education, without losing the personal control, sociability and ownership that makes it valuable in the first place.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 10th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2011
EditorsAsher Rospigliosi, Sue Greener
Number of pages20
ISBN (Electronic)9781908272225
Publication statusPublished - 2011
Event10th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2011 - Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Nov. 201111 Nov. 2011

Publication series

NameProceedings of the European Conference on Games-based Learning
ISSN (Print)2049-0992


Conference10th European Conference on e-Learning, ECEL 2011
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • Higher education
  • Social media
  • Technology-enhanced learning


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