Part 8: Fall 2018 Labs

148 Using Social Media – 12.13.2018

Can we harness social media for learning, or is it best to keep school and personal media separate? At the December 13, 2018 Active Teaching Lab, participants discussed if and how social media can be used to achieve academic outcomes. Attendees shared experiments with using social media in the classroom, what happened, and how it shaped students’ learning.


  • Use Instagram as a discussion-starter. Images can quickly elicit strong reactions and opinions, or teach students to analyze various facets of a post, such as angle, inclusion/exclusion of content, hashtags chosen and their impact, or color/lighting/filter.
  • Humanize a topic or field with Instagram. The “To Selfie or Not to Selfie” research project is examining whether Instagram posts can improve the public’s perception of scientists’ warmth and, by extension, increase trust.   
  • Provide a list of recommended Instagram accounts of key organizations and figures in the field for students to follow, gain inspiration and ideas, and identify topics for assignments. Get started with this list of recommendations.
  • Let Facebook group formation happen from the students, not the instructor. Instructor-implemented social media assignments and communication can seem artificial and forced; organic, student-led communication is typically more motivating for students.  
  • Draw on the popularity of Pinterest among students to enhance participation and engagement. Try a class Pinterest account with predetermined boards based on course concepts. Students can pin relevant material—articles, images, statistics, quotes—as they encounter it throughout the semester. This process encourages students to make real-world connections to class material and revisit past content.
  • Try Google apps to fulfill the in-class social role of social media. For instance, most students are already comfortable with Google apps and will readily use a blank Doc set up for communication among a group. The Q&A function in Google Slides is also a fantastic tool for non disruptive, real-time questions during a presentation.

For more information on social media for learning, visit the session’s activity sheet.


The Active Teaching Lab is a Faculty Engagement program with sessions held on Thursdays from 1:00-2:00pm (room 302) and Fridays from 8:30-9:45am (room 120) in the Middleton Building (1305 Linden Dr.) during fall 2018. Check out upcoming Labs or read the recaps from past Labs. We build interdisciplinary conversations that are more emergent than a presenter and more dynamic than a panel — a conversation with colleagues sharing challenges, solutions, and experiments on topics selected by a variety of stakeholders.

Sign up for regular Lab announcements by sending an email to


Active Teaching Lab eJournal Copyright © 2016 by DoIT Academic Technology and the UW-Madison Teaching Academy; Jennifer Hornbaker; John Martin; Julie Johnson; Karin Spader; Margaret Merrill; Margaret Murphy; and Jeffrey Thomas. All Rights Reserved.

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