Social media and education: Reconceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal
Counseling, Educational Psychology and Special Education
College of Education
Michigan State University
620 Farm Lane, Room 513F
East Lansing, MI 48824
United States of America
+01 (651) 226-4015
Education and Social Research Institute,
Manchester Metropolitan University
Crewe Green Road, Crewe,
Cheshire, CW1 5DU, UK
+44(0)161 247 5191
The iTEC project was supported by the European Commission under Grant Agreement No:
257566. The Hot Dish project was supported by a grant from the John S. and James L.
Social media and education: Reconceptualizing the boundaries of formal and informal
Abstract. It is argued that social media has the potential to bridge formal and informal
learning through participatory digital cultures. Exemplars of sophisticated use by young
people support this claim, although the majority of young people adopt the role of consumers
rather than full participants. Scholars have suggested the potential of social media for
integrating formal and informal learning, yet this work is commonly under-theorised. We
propose a model theorising social media as a space for learning with varying attributes of
formality and informality. Through two contrasting case studies we apply our model together
with social constructivism and connectivism as theoretical lenses through which to tease out
the complexities of learning in various settings. We conclude that our model could reveal
new understandings of social media in education, and outline future research directions.
Keywords: Social media, informal learning, formal learning, digital cultures, teaching
Word count: 7541 (excluding table and references)
Technological advancements and pedagogies that emphasize learners as co-producers of
knowledge (Selwyn 2011) have contributed to people’s adoption of the term social media to
indicate websites and online applications that enable users to create and participate in various
communities through functions such as communicating, sharing, collaborating, publishing,
managing, and interacting (Mao 2014; “Social media,” n.d. ). Typical social media features
promote individual users through profile pages (eg., displaying likes, comments,
recommendations). Social media features include interconnections with other users through
links and news feeds, and sharing of user-generated content (eg., photos, ratings, tags). Pages
can be dynamically updated and content embedded (eg., embedding a video). Examples of
social media include social network sites (eg., Facebook); wikis (eg., wikispaces); media-
sharing services (eg., YouTube); blogging tools (eg., Blogger); micro-blogging services (eg.,
Twitter); social bookmarking (eg., Delicious); bibliographic management tools (eg., Zotero);
and presentation-sharing tools (eg., Slideshare) (Gruzd, Staves and Wilk 2012).
It has been argued that educators would benefit from “a stronger focus on students’
everyday use of and learning with Web 2.0 technologies in and outside of classrooms”
(Greenhow, Robelia and Hughes 2009, 255). Others argue that only a small proportion of
young people are actually using social media in sophisticated ways that educators might
value (Eynon and Malmberg 2011; Ito et al. 2008). Complicating this tension, there is a lack
of current models that theorise social media as a space for informal learning. There is also
considerable debate about the benefits and challenges of appropriating technologies (e.g.,
social media) in everyday use for learning and little exploration of the connections between
formal, non-formal, and informal learning such technologies might facilitate.
In this paper, we draw on relevant theory, prior literature and our own research in Europe and
the United States to suggest a model that theorizes social media as a space for learning with
varying attributes of formality and informality. Using ideas derived from social
constructivism and connectivism as promising initial lenses through which to conceptualize
social media and learning, this paper problematises ‘learning’ and ‘teaching’ across multiple
contexts, illustrating the complex relationships between formal, non-formal, and informal
learning. It considers research projects from two regions focusing on young people’s uses of
social media tools to support these varied forms of learning. Because our studies involve
participants of varying ages including teenagers and college-age youth we refer to ‘education’
broadly as spanning school and higher education contexts. We revisit the debate about social
media, or ‘social software’ in education to suggest how this model illuminates current
tensions and suggests new opportunities for research and innovation.
Research on social media in education
The educational benefits of appropriating social media into learning contexts are contested.
Research on social media in education suggests that integrating social media in learning and
teaching environments may yield new forms of inquiry, communication, collaboration,
identity work, or have positive cognitive, social, and emotional impacts (Gao, Luo and Zhang
2012; Greenhow, Burton and Robelia 2011; Greenhow and Robelia 2009a, 2009b; Pimmer,
Linxen and Grohbiel 2012; Ranieri, Manca and Fini 2012). For instance, research on learning
and social network sites (eg., Facebook) in particular has suggested their affordances for
interaction, collaboration, information and resource sharing (Maxman and Usluel 2010);
encouraging participation and critical thinking (Mason and Rennie 2007; Ajjan and
Hartshorne 2008); increased peer support and communication about course content and
assessment (DiVall and Kirwin 2012); inter-cultural language learning (Mills 2011); and their
positive effects on the expression of identities and digital literacies, particularly for
marginalised groups (Manca and Ranieri 2013).
On the other hand, researchers have warned against leveraging social media for learning.
Kirschner and Karpinski (2010) found that time spent on Facebook negatively affected
college grades. Similarly, Junco and Cotton (2013) examined how students multitask with
Facebook and found that using Facebook while doing schoolwork was negatively associated
with their overall grade point average. Students’ use of social media in extracurricular
activities was found to be distractive to learning, especially among weaker students
(Andersson et al. 2014). Finally, students were less willing to appropriate social media as a
formal learning tool, preferring it for course-related communication (Prescott, Wilson and
Beckett 2013) or using it largely for socializing and non-academic purposes (Selwyn 2009).
Despite a growing body of work concerned with social media and ‘informal learning’, “there
has been little serious attention to the form or nature of that learning” (Merchant 2012, p16)
or the interrelationship with formal learning (Cox, 2013). Many studies consider
appropriation of social media within ‘formal’ and/or ‘informal’ learning, but in most cases
these terms are under-theorized or treated as binary conditions, which oversimplify the
complexities of the actual learning contexts today’s youth inhabit. Some researchers suggest
that appropriating social media can facilitate ‘seamless’ integration across learning situations
integrating formal and informal learning (Dabbagh and Kitsantas 2012). Others highlight the
challenges of appropriation (Crook 2012). Adopting a more ‘principled approach’ to
understanding these tensions and interrelationships is especially important in light of recent
technological developments, policy initiatives, changing teacher and faculty demographics,
and the realities of young people’s access to social media. As described in more detail below,
these converging trends suggest it may be more useful and realistic to theorize social media
as a space for learning with varying attributes of formality and informality.
Theorising social media as a space for learning
Social constructivism and connectivism are promising initial lenses through which to
conceptualize social media and learning with varying attributes of formality and informality.
Social constructivism draws on the idea that learning is situated in the context of
circumstances, activity or culture. What is known resides not only in the individual, a
position advanced by cognitive constructivists, but also in the collaboration and interaction
among many (Vygotsky 1978; Windshitl 2002). Conceptually, social media practices seem
well aligned with social constructivist views of learning as participation in a social context
and values of knowledge as decentralized, accessible, and co-constructed among a broad base
of users (Dede 2008); “knowledge” may become “collective agreement” that “combines facts
with other dimensions of human experience” (ie., opinions, values) (Dede 2008, 80). Validity
of knowledge in social media environments can be negotiated through peer review in an
engaged community, and expertise involves understanding disputes and offering syntheses
accepted by the community (Dede 2008).
Similarly, connectivist ideas (Siemens 2005), which view learning as the process of creating
connections and articulating a network with nodes and relationships, also seems well-aligned
with social media practices. Connectivism can best be viewed as a developing perspective
(Kop and Hill 2008) that overlaps with other more established perspectives like social
constructivism; it is under-researched but provides “fertile testing ground for ideas, which, in
turn, may lead to empirical research” that can then refine, validate or disprove the framework
over time (Kop and Hill 2008, n.p.). Connectivism draws strength in using Internet activity
as a powerful and intuitive analogy for conceiving of distributed learning through networks;
if learning transpires via connections to nodes on the network, then perhaps the maximization
of learning can be understood by studying the properties of effective networks (Kop and Hill
2008). From the connectivist perspective, being knowledgeable can be seen as the ability to
nurture, maintain, and traverse network connections; to access and use specialized
information sources just-in-time; and as the “capacity to know more” rather than the
individual’s ability to construct meaning from prior knowledge, or “what is currently known”
(Siemens 2005, 4). Connectivism allows for non-linearity, unintentioned “chaos” and
unanticipated network effects in the learning process as learning occurs within “nebulous
environments of shifting core elements – not entirely under the control of the individual”
Underlying these ideas are assumptions that boundaries between learning in and out of
‘formal’ education can be porous and slippery (Barron 2004, 2006). Definitions of formal
and informal (and non-formal) learning are contested and the interrelationships are complex
(Colley et al. 2003; Sefton-Green 2004; Selwyn 2007). Some models attempt to draw clear
boundaries between each term (EC 2001; Livingstone 2001; Eshach 2007) whilst others
suggest that informal and formal learning are on a continuum (Lai et al. 2013; Sefton-Green
2004). Sefton-Green (2004, 6), for instance, suggests that distinctions can be ‘more clearly
made around the intentions and structure of the learning experience.’ From a different
perspective, Colley and colleagues suggest that it is impossible and unhelpful to separate
informal, non-formal and formal learning (2003) at all. Rather they argue that ‘It is more
sensible to see attributes of formality and informality as present in all learning situations’
(2003: Executive Summary, emphasis as in original). Further, they suggest that the balance
between these attributes varies and can influence the impact of learning. They describe an
approach to considering the attribute balances which focuses on purpose
(intentional/unintentional), process (structure, pedagogy, support, assessment, etc.), location
(including norms and structures such as timetables in educational institutions), and content
(high stakes knowledge to leisure interests). Although this work stems from the lifelong
learning field, the authors relate the approach to school contexts, with one of four cases
exemplifying their ideas in different contexts concerning a formal education institution for
16-18 year olds (Colley et al. 2003).
In recent debates, many authors have not attempted to problematize the terms formal and
informal in relation to learning with social media. Informal learning is described as that
which is not directed by school or externally mandated but is learner controlled (eg.,
Ferguson et al. 2014; Luckin et al. 2009; Tan 2013;), exploratory, self-directed and
spontaneous (Dabbagh and Kitsantas 2012; Mardis 2013; Yang et al. 2013). Many use the
terms to indicate context with formal representing the confines of the classroom and informal
covering everything else from after-school clubs to the home (Ranieri and Brunei 2013;
Reynolds and Chiu 2013). In some cases boundaries are acknowledged as not being clear-cut
(Schuck and Aubusson 2010) and in others informal learning is conceived as closely
entwined with formal learning (Ebner et al. 2010; Mardis 2013). Some authors avoid any
explicit definition without any clear rationale for doing so (Chen and Bryer 2012).
Notions of informal learning are often compared with non-formal, not-school learning where
one has certain objectives in mind (self-directed learning) and actively seeks information
from sources that may include peers, mentors, or media (Sefton-Green 2004; 2013). Both
terms typically contrast with definitions of formal learning situations in which some agent: a
teacher, an educational software program or a learning management system, is directing the
student’s learning. The agent guides the student through a formalized set of objectives
typically generated by an outside authority, such as curriculum standards developed by
professional organizations or mandated by the government.
In reality we draw on social constructivist and connectivist ideas and the work of Colley and
her colleagues (2003) to argue that students may practice learning with formal, informal, and
non-formal attributes across a wide range of contexts and exercise considerable authority
over how they learn, when they learn and with whom. In Table 1 we outline our model for
theorizing social media as a space for learning with varying attributes of formality and
[Insert Table 1 here]
Our model summarises the attributes proposed by Colley and her colleagues (2003),
recognising the issues arising in reducing complex concepts to a series of labels. For
example, such attributes can be contested, interpreted differently and may not be of equal
importance in different learning contexts (Colley et al. 2003). Moreover, “[S]ome of the
‘polar opposites’ might actually co-exist” (Colley et al. 2003, 9). We have developed the
attributes further by considering what learning attributes may be specific to social media
contexts. Our model is intended to offer a starting point for discussion rather than be a pre-
defined solution to the issue of understanding the complexity of learning. In our work it has
enabled us to tease out and problematize the impact that social media has in educational
Blurring boundaries: Digital cultures outside and digital practices within educational
We argue it is becoming increasingly important to conceive of learning with varying
attributes of formality and informality as pedagogical practices drawing on aspects of formal
and informal learning become more commonplace (Weigel et al. 2009). Second, it is argued
that “[d]idactic methods like self-directed learning, explorative or research-based learning
offer particular potential for informal learning because of the low influence of teachers and
the fact that learning is not primarily aligned to teaching’ (Ebner et al. 2010, 93). Similarly, it
has been suggested that learners are increasingly bringing informal practices (including
digital tools such as social media) into formal educational contexts (Trinder et al. 2008). To
illustrate these blurring boundaries we consider two converging trends: 1) the growth of
digital cultures outside educational institutions, and 2) the lack of digital practices in
With the growth of social media use (Brenner and Smith 2013; Madden et al. 2012; Ofcom
2014), people (young and old) can engage in participatory digital cultures (Jenkins et al.
2009), potentially benefitting from collaborative learning, the development of new skills and
greater agency. Research suggests that young people are engaging in a variety of digital
practices with social media. For example, Ito and colleagues (2013, 6) present case studies of
‘connected learning,’ defined as ‘learning that is socially-embedded, interest-driven, and
oriented toward educational, economic or political opportunity.’ These case studies include
young people engaged in an online fiction writing community, creating and developing an
online comic, and engaging in an online civil action community. Of course, not all young
people participate to the same degree. Participation can be characterized as hanging out
(maintaining social connections), messing around (playing with technology) and geeking out
(intense, autonomous engagement) (Ito et al. 2008). However, participatory digital cultures
illustrate how the lines between self-directed, intentional learning and spontaneous, incidental
and experiential learning are blurring, certainly in ‘informal’ contexts
On the other hand, there is still significantly less use of digital technologies in ‘formal
contexts’ and the kinds of use do not always take account of the richness of some (but not all)
learners’ experiences outside institutions (Clark et al 2009; Erstad and Sefton-Green 2013;
Warschauer and Matuchniak 2010). Appropriation of technologies by educators is often used
to replicate traditional approaches and is thus at odds with the creative practices in
participatory digital cultures (Green and Hannon 2007; Warschauer and Matuchniak 2010).
Clark and her colleagues (2009) suggest that the intersection between digital cultures and
institutional ICT practices is a space dominated by ‘digital dissonance’ with both educators
and learners unable to recognise the potential benefits of social media for formal education.
As several researchers have pointed out, stemming this disconnect between institutional
digital practices and what some learners experience out of school may become especially
important to addressing educational inequities; for example, for children in rural or low-
income areas inside school spaces may be their only opportunities to access technology-rich
informal learning opportunities (Mardis 2013; Eynon 2009).
These examples suggest that technology has the potential to disrupt the boundaries between
sites where learning takes place. It can empower learners through greater agency,
opportunities to participate in networked communities and access to a wide range of
resources to support knowledge building and collaboration. There seems little doubt that
engagement with digital cultures offers potential for self-directed or spontaneous learning
opportunities of varying degrees. Within educational policy circles and the research
community, there has been much interest recently in adopting informal learning practices in
Next, to illustrate the theoretical model (Table 1), we present two research projects focusing
on young people’s uses of social media for learning with varying attributes of formality and
informality. We revisit the debate about social media in education to suggest how our
proposed model illuminates current tensions and suggests new opportunities for research and
Interrogating social media as space for learning: applying our theoretical model to
In the first study (Lewin and McNicol 2014), which focused on mechanisms to transform and
scale-up the use of technology in compulsory education, teachers in primary and secondary
schools from 20 different countries were provided with resources and processes to stimulate
technology-enabled pedagogical innovation. The resources developed were underpinned by a
commitment to promote ‘21st century skills.’ Whilst acknowledged as a contested concept —
some argue that 21st century skills cannot be taught in isolation and that core content needs to
be the primary educational focus (Mathews 2009; Silva 2009) — competences commonly
referred to in various 21st century skills frameworks (e.g., ISTE 2007; P21 2009; Binkley et
al. 2012) include collaboration, communication, creativity, critical thinking and problem
solving (Voogt & Pareja Roblin 2012) Thus, for example, social media tools such as
Facebook, blogs and wikis were recommended to teachers to support learning activities such
as collaboration and communication. The evaluation took place over 5 cycles of activity
(2011-2014) and involved teacher surveys and case studies of resulting projects. Teachers
were asked about their uses of social media, including the benefits and challenges they
experienced. As part of the case studies, group interviews with students were undertaken and
they were asked how the use of technology in school differed from their uses of technology at
The second study (Greenhow 2011; Robelia, Greenhow, and Burton 2011), conducted with
young people, aged 16-25, in the U.S., explored the nature of young people’s use of a
Facebook application called Hot Dish in their everyday lives. The application was designed
in 2009 to accomodate young people’s knowledge-sharing about environmental science
issues and provide opportunities to participate in civic actions related to global warming and
climate change. Of the 1,100 registered members, 322 users opted into the study and
voluntarily used the application. Participants were observed regularly over two months. Data
were collected in the form of online surveys; online focus groups (n=16) and semi-structured
interviews (n=12) with a purposeful sample of high/medium/low users; online comment
strings in response to articles (related to environmental science); and from online statistics:
automated data-tracking provided ongoing statistics of Hot Dish usage, per user and per
feature. This paper revisits the survey, comment string, and site usage statistics data.
Next, we present each project in more detail and then draw on our model for theorizing social
media as a space for learning with varying attributes of formality and informality in order to
characterize and highlight the themes evident from each project. We also summarize the
benefits and challenges of appropriating social media as evidenced in each study.
The European study: Embedding social media in formal education
The Innovative Technologies for an Engaging Classroom (iTEC) project took place from
September 2010 to August 2014. It focused on education in school contexts, primarily
targeting learners aged between 7 and 14. In the first four of five cycles, teachers from 20
European countries were provided with resources to support pedagogical innovation with
technology. For each cycle, a package of learning activities (concrete descriptions of learning
sequences for teaching and learning) was developed through desk-based research and
participatory design processes with teachers. The package of learning activities was
exemplified through learning stories, narrative overviews of learning developed from more
abstract educational scenarios. The resources describing the learning activities included
recommendations for embedding technologies to support the pedagogical approaches. In all
four cycles, social media (Facebook, Twitter, blogs, wikis, etc.) were suggested in three out
of five learning activities and thus were central to the pedagogical changes recommended to
teachers. This is not surprising given that the development of 21st century skills underpinned
the aims of the classroom redesign process (Lewin and McNicol 2014), with an emphasis on
collaboration, communication and creativity, as well as digital literacy; social media, with its
affordances mentioned earlier, seems well-positioned to support such skills in the classroom.
Therefore, through the project teachers were encouraged to adopt social learning approaches
supported by a range of social media tools. For example:
•The Peer Feedback learning activity (cycle 1) incorporated blogs and wikis.
•The Learning Oriented Browsing learning activity (cycle 2), involved searching the
internet to gather links on a topic and incorporated social bookmarking tools.
•The Reflection learning activity (cycles 2-4), required students to reflect on progress
at regular points during the project and incorporated collaborative tools such as
Voicethread as well as tools (apps) developed as part of the project.
•The Show learning activity (cycle 4) involved publishing and presenting designs to an
audience, incorporating the use of video sharing sites such as YouTube.
The resources were not presented as lesson plans or scripts but as sources of inspiration for
teachers. As a result, teachers developed projects that were tailored to their individual needs
and their school context. Teachers and students used a wide range of digital tools from media
recording to games-making and 3D design/printing. In cycle 2, social networking sites were
specifically promoted resulting in half of the participating teachers (n=261) and their students
embedding their use in the projects they undertook. In some cases, teachers opted for
education-specific tools such as Edmodo (described as ‘a social learning network’) due to
security concerns and the school’s site blocking practices with regards to sites such as
Facebook. As an education-specific tool used at the direction of the teacher, many formal
learning attributes were present.
For instance, social media was used by students for a number of purposes (primarily for
teacher-initiated, intentional learning):
•Managing group work (finding partners, forming groups, sharing tasks)
•Communication with peers and teachers (group discussion, asking questions,
•Sharing information, resources and links
•Documenting and communicating progress (sometimes to audiences beyond the
•Sharing project outcomes such as presentations
•Assessment and evaluation (peer, teacher)
In cycle 3, blogs were specifically promoted with 56% of teachers (n=334) reporting that
students had used them to support their projects. Technology-enabled reflection through
blogs developed students’ metacognition and self-evaluation, supported peer learning and
enabled students to refine their ideas. The most significant benefit perceived by teachers was
that blogging facilitated the sharing of ideas and resources between students. Teachers
perceived that this technology changed how teachers and students interacted with each other,
increasing teacher-student communication and enabling peer tutoring and peer feedback.
Teachers also noted that they were able to monitor students’ progress more easily. There
were, of course, challenges for teachers including the time investment required, changing
student attitudes, developing students’ digital literacy skills and infrastructure/resource
An unexpected outcome of the blogs is that students from other classes and schools
left comments and suggestions for the class’ students. All of the posts were
encouraging and constructive and students appreciated this feedback. (Case study
report, France, Cycle 2)
In Italy, in cycle 4, a teacher of Science at a secondary school decided to run a project over
six weeks. The topic was volcanoes and teams of students were asked to design and produce
prototype learning objects in game formats to convey knowledge to other students. The
students decided what to focus on and how to present the learning (some aspects of the
process were student-led). Initial proposals were discussed and refined within and between
groups through the use of blogs and a closed Facebook site. In this school, access to
Facebook was normally prohibited. The groups produced prototypes such as: a crossword
puzzle (on volcanoes) produced with the software ‘Hot Potatoes’, a quiz for interactive
whiteboard responders, a physical interactive model (made with traditional materials) and a
videogame (made with Unity 3D software). Through a participatory design workshop
approach, the teams presented their prototypes to other learners, the head teacher and a
geology expert. This was organised in the style of ‘Italia’s got talent’ with a ‘jury’ trying out
the prototypes and providing feedback to the teams. The teacher noted that a risk of using
Facebook in the classroom was that students would use it for non-school related activities.
However, she commented that the way to address this challenge was to ‘give clear tasks,
clear deadlines’ (arguably relying on formal rather than social media attributes).
Revisiting the data through a new lens
We now consider this study of embedding social media in the classroom in the light of
varying attributes of formality introduced in Table 1. In relation to purpose, the projects were
to facilitate intentional learning and determined externally (by the teacher). However, with
greater autonomy, students helped to shape the learning activities; thus aspects were self-
determined and also socially determined as they predominantly worked in groups. In relation
to process, to varying degrees, teachers gave greater autonomy and control to their students.
The projects were self- and peer-directed and negotiated by students, who were given choices
and flexibility. Moreover, unintended network affects shaped both the process and content of
learning in ways not determined by the teacher, as in the case of the blogging activity where
positioning students’ work in a semi-public space resulted unexpectedly in other students,
outside the class, leaving comments on students’ work. Through the greater use of technology
students represented their learning in a more multimodal way. Arguably the teachers in many
cases relinquished much of their authority, adopting a more supportive and guiding role.
However, the process remained teacher-initiated.
Considering the location and context, activity was open-ended although still within a loose
structure and guided by the package of learning activities selected by a teacher. With a
greater use of technology, more of the activity took place online both in school and outside
school with work continuing on students’ own time. Given the purpose of schooling, the
activities were driven by formal attributes with learning objectives and a need to meet the
demands of the curriculum. In relation to content, again given the context there was, of
course, an underpinning aim of knowledge acquisition. However, there were perhaps subtle
shifts towards user-generated knowledge (through enquiry processes) and social construction
and distribution of knowledge. The use of social media, like Facebook, provided students
with opportunities to engage in network support, and for their Friends’ network to interact
with and contribute content in ways both unplanned and unseen by the teacher. The status of
knowledge in educational settings may always be acknowledged and validated but what
counts as knowledge may be more contestable perhaps when social media is incorporated.
This example highlights the complexities of teasing out formal and informal attributes of
learning and the limitations of reducing formal and informal learning to binary opposites.
Examples from this project would be categorised as formal learning (all teacher initiated)
when clearly the use of social media combined with pedagogical shifts introduces a wider
variety of learning attributes; the boundaries between formal, informal and social media
learning are becoming increasingly blurred such that some attributes are difficult to discern
Moreover, in this case, the benefits of appropriating social media were substantial. It
supported the development of 21st century skills including collaboration, creativity and
communication. Social media effectively enabled students to become more autonomous and
develop metacognition. Furthermore, if facilitated new approaches to supporting assessment
and reflection. Students were able to share their learning and knowledge construction with
each other and with teachers and students from other schools (in some cases in other
countries). However, the challenges remain similar to those identified in the first example.
School policies blocking access to social media and concerns about privacy issues are
inhibiting appropriation of these tools to support teacher-initiated learning. This drives some
to adopt social media developed specifically for compulsory education; and with this comes a
greater emphasis on formal learning attributes as teachers feel the need to exert greater
control and put more rigid structures in place.
The US study: Examining the digital culture of an environmental science-oriented
This study —exploring young people’s voluntary use of a Facebook (FB) application (ie.,
Hot Dish) for knowledge-sharing about environmental science issues and engagement in
related civic actions — provides another window into a youth-initiated digital culture.
The Hot Dish project took place from September 2008 to May 2009. It focused on learning
online outside of school, primarily targeting learners aged between 16 and 25. The analysis
presents examples of formal and informal learning attributes at play in students’ everyday
Design of the Hot Dish Facebook application
As a free FB application that young people voluntarily allowed to interact with their FB
account, Hot Dish was both ‘expert’-driven and user-generated; an environmental partner
(which published a print-based magazine) continually updated Hot Dish with information
related to the topic of interest (conceptual pieces, scientific reports, policy articles, how-
to/lifestyle guides related to environmental science and climate change issues). However, also
Hot Dish offered multiple channels for users’ contributions about environmental issues.
Membership was initiated by inviting the magazine’s subscribers to join and subsequently
driven by existing members inviting friends.
Features of Hot Dish included the ability to post original story entries (in text, video and
images), or circulate articles from online sources. Members could read an article’s summary
or read the full article; curate and rank posted articles: voting them up, commenting on them
and sharing them within or outside the social network. Individuals created a self-profile in
Hot Dish similar to their Facebook profile (the parent site); members portrayed their
background, interests, and ideas through online photos, bio, and a data-reporting feature
which showcased the artifacts and activities they contributed within Hot Dish. The Action
Team area of the app facilitated members’ participation in civic action challenges designed to
address environmental issues within their communities through online or offline activities
(for example, signing online petitions or lobbying local businesses). Completion of
challenges was tracked through a points system with a range of prizes for high scorers from
ringtones to organic t-shirts to a trip for two to the arctic; the system highlighted challenge
leaders. Challenge completion required uploading documentation (text, video, images) for
subsequent evaluation by the site moderator (a member of the research team) (Greenhow
Site usage statistics revealed that Hot Dish was successful in attracting a base of users who
actively participated in reading, posting and commenting on articles. Valid survey responses
from the 322 users who opted into the study were collected from 111 Hot Dish members for a
response rate of 32%. Sixteen users participated in two online focus groups of eight
members. Drawing on these data revealed that participation in Hot Dish spurred many
participants to express their opinions, engage in debate, learn more about climate change and
do more to limit its impact.
Participating in civic actions
For instance, the online survey revealed that Hot Dish users reported an increase in their pro-
environmental behaviors during their involvement with the Facebook application. Hot Dish
offered 56 different challenges to help users become involved in enacting pro-environmental
changes in the community; Hot Dish users completed 1523 of these problem-solving
challenges, about 25% of which were from the category of challenges known as activism in
the local community. Local activism challenges included attending a town meeting, writing a
letter to the editor of a local paper, writing a local lawmaker, attending events to network
with environmentally-minded others, starting an environmental group or recycling program,
volunteering for an environmental group, and taking part in Earth Day, a worldwide
awareness raising event.
Social aspects of Hot Dish motivated young people to participate and contribute more to this
site than to other Web sites they frequented. The majority of survey respondents reported
being more motivated to use Hot Dish to interact with like‐minded people (72%) and to
express their opinions (62%) than they reported for other Web sites. Focus group participants
reported feeling “safer” making comments on Hot Dish rather than on other sites because it
felt more receptive—e.g., a community of “kindred spirits,” with shared concerns for the
environment and interest in reducing global warming.
Survey responses regarding how users connected with others within Hot Dish indicated that
the majority connected by: (1) reading articles posted by other members (77%), (2) reading
comments on posted entries (69%), and (3) completing civic action challenges with others
(53%). In fact, young people reported in focus groups that seeing, in their news feed, how
others were making a difference in their community, through the Hot Dish civic action
challenges, catalysed their latent interest in also making a difference and then, the site’s list
of action challenges and incentives helped turn that interest into action.
Moreover, focus group data revealed that users’ Facebooking habit equalled their Hot Dish
habit. Not surprisingly, survey results indicated that Hot Dish users were frequent users of
Facebook (98%). Moreover, many of the focus group participants said that locating the
application within FB made it easy to check up on environmental issues on a regular basis
because they were in the habit of checking FB anyway. Focus group participants in the high
user group were especially likely to mention how participation in the Hot Dish community
became part of their daily Facebooking routines, as JL commented, “Now it [Hot Dish] is just
part of my ‘Facebooking.’ I probably look at Hot Dish 90% of the time I log into Facebook.”
Another participant mirrored JL’s sentiment, “I just got into the habit of checking in
whenever I was using Facebook.” NB commented that the FB application was helpful in
making it easy to check, “The design of the website within Facebook kept me interested and
looking for more.”
Participating in issue-oriented debate
Across the study period, young people on Hot Dish read 2103 articles, 89% of the total
possible; they contributed 2153 comments. Of these, 220 articles included three or more
comment strings. To investigate whether and how young people actually engaged in
Nsubstantive debate about the focal topic —a goal for users when designing the app—these
comment strings were coded for evidence of argumentation about environmental issues
(Greenhow, Menzer, and Gibbins in press); extending an argumentation coding system
originally designed for ‘formal’ computer-supported collaborative learning environments
(Sadler et al. 2006; Weinberger and Fischer 2006), comments strings were coded for four
argumentation dimensions: participation, epistemic, argument, and social co-construction
skills. Results indicated that these three skill subsets were also evident in the Hot Dish
environment at relatively high rates.
Revisiting the data through a new lens
Considering this study of the Hot Dish digital culture in light of the varying attributes of
formality and informality introduced in Table 1, we see that this case demonstrates the use of
social media for varied purposes; young people were intentional in seeking to interact with
like-minded people and contribute, as well as consider, others’ ideas about a shared interest:
environmental issues. However, their learning was also unintentional and socially
determined; seeing others in the Hot Dish network perform civic actions sparked people’s
intention and awareness of how they, too, could contribute, and in turn, they engaged. In
addition, when young people posted comments or documentation of completed civic actions,
they were both ‘speaking’ to their intended audience of other known Hot Dish users (all Hot
Dish’ers can see each others’ profiles) as well as to an unintended audience of subsequent
users invited into the site.
In terms of process, learning was self-initiated and self-directed as young people chose which
articles to debate and which actions to perform, if any. The process of learning was also peer-
influenced as the analysis of argumentation clearly showed how individual’s comments, such
as a consensus-building comment or counterargument shaped the dialogue that was
constructed; however, the collaboration of educational technologists, software designers and
magazine editors, perhaps loosely akin to ‘teachers’, also initiated and guided the learning
process with features designed to encourage debate and incentivize particular kinds of
performances over others (eg., particular activities such as commenting, sharing, completing
a civic action held higher point values than others such as liking a comment). Expertise in
Hot Dish was both pre-authorized and negotiated. The educational technologists evaluated
documented completions of civic actions and awarded points, and the magazine editors
determined, in part, what articles the community read. On the other hand, expertise was
negotiated through participation. For instance, certain users becoming known within the
community through their superior point totals, which earned them ever increasing titles (eg.,
individual recognition such as the Climate Czar badge) and recognition from peers for the
quality of their online contributions (eg., social recognition through ‘likes’ on their comments
or articles they contributed being ‘voted up’ as most popular or most read). In this project,
we see that the location for learning was in some ways open-ended and not time dependent
but in other ways, fixed in time. For example, participants could engage from any location
and time in which they checked into their Facebook account. On the other hand, the points
competition was somewhat fixed in time, with prizes awarded at the end of the two-month
period. In relation to content, pursuing personal interests relates to everyday practice rather
than high status knowledge. However, the design of this Facebook app was informed by a
growing consensus within the science education community that fostering learners’ debate
about controversial socio-scientific issues (eg., climate change) can facilitate their
development of contemporary scientific literacies (Greenhow, Menzer, and Gibbins in press;
Robelia et al. 2011; Sadler et al. 2006). Thus, in Hot Dish, young people’s interests and the
designers intentions help link everyday practices with social media to high status knowledge
and learning opportunities valued in education.
This example also demonstrates the benefits and challenges of appropriating social media for
learning. Piggy-backing on young people’s existing, regular Facebooking activities (their
digital cultural practices), Hot Dish provided an outlet to move beyond social networking
mainly for socializing to debating socio-scientific issues of common interest, collaboratively
pursuing civic actions, and networking related to their school- or career interests. It facilitated
easy access to expertise (the publishing company, the research team) but also supported
knowledge creation through community interaction. The community of like-minded people
offered a ‘safe’ environment to test out ideas and receive feedback on actions. The support
structures in place, such as gamification (ie., point awards, badging) stimulated young
people’s engagement in the community. Hot Dish supported learning and environmental
activism without the restrictions associated with formal learning attributes. Challenges to
appropriating this or similar social media relate to the structures required to ensure success
including development, technical support, and assessment. For example, assessing whether or
not, and how well, young people had documented their completed civic actions required the
team to constantly monitor the site and provide feedback in a timely manner so that users
would see their point awards. A greater emphasis on informal learning attributes comes at a
cost; sustaining this and similar projects will be an ongoing challenge where both time and
money are limited in education. Furthermore, given the approach to recruitment, relatively
few young people were geeking out (Ito et al. 2010) in the community.
The two studies offer a different perspective on young people’s social media use. The
European study focuses entirely on the embedding of social media in school classrooms. The
activities were primarily initiated and driven by classroom teachers rather than emerging
from young people’s interest-driven social media use for self-defined purposes. Therefore, it
might be judged by others to be an example of ‘formal’ learning. In contrast, the US study
illustrates a community initiated and over seen by ‘experts’ but whose content, purpose and
actions were driven largely by contributions from the network members. Given that the
community existed independently of formal educational institutions, it could be described as
‘informal’ learning. However, through the analytical lens of our theoretical model we have
teased out the complexities of these two examples of learning by considering the informal
and formal learning attributes at play.
In both cases, social media offered opportunities for young people to harness the power of the
network and seek relevant expertise. In the European study, social media use generated
opportunities for unexpected network effects through interactions with peers outside the
school walls, shaping young people’s knowledge construction in unexpected ways. In the US
study, co-construction of knowledge was encouraged through publication of ‘articles,’ which
sparked constructive debate about socio-scientific issues and subsequent community
interaction. Moreover, both cases demonstrated some elements of self-determination (in
terms of learning purpose) and self-direction (in terms of learning process). In the European
study, this introduced more informal learning attributes than had been present in the formal
educational context of the classroom previously. However, in this example the initiation and
direction of learning activities by the teacher constrained some of the freedoms associated
with information learning attributes. Indeed, as illustrated above, one teacher adopted more
formal structures (clear tasks, tight deadlines) in order to counter some informal practices that
were not perceived to hold a legitimate place in formal education.
There are clearly challenges which need to be overcome when educational institutions such
as schools try to harness the potential benefits of digital cultural tools. Our data raises issues
around control and surveillance. In UK schools for example, moral panics about e-safety
issues have and will continue to constrain access to popular social networking sites and
publicly accessible tools such as blogs and wikis. As a result, in many cases education-
specific social media tools are appropriated rather than those in common use. Such tools are
necessarily and recognisably different, offering a different balance of formal and informal
learning attributes, and often restricting the degree of control that learners have over aspects
such as direction, audience and assessment. This can constrain the opportunities for
harnessing the potential benefits of social media such as learning through connecting (see for
example, Ito et al. 2013; Siemens 2005). Nevertheless, staff from schools in the European
study reported here perceived that adapting tools from digital cultures for formal education
can be beneficial. The integration of social media in institutional practices necessitates
reconsidering support structures and legitimising practices that may have previously been
dismissed. For instance, further exploration of the use of social recognition or community
evaluation as valid forms of assessment in formal contexts would be beneficial. This could
facilitate unintended network effects, shifting some of the burden for feedback and
assessment from the teacher (or editor/other central authority) to other relevant and
realistic/authentic audiences for the work, such as peers or topic-oriented community. The
model presented in this paper could be used to help educators and senior managers
understand the new possibilities for learning offered though social media.
Moreover, the model introduced in this paper helps to illuminate some of the aforementioned
tensions between educational policy imperatives and reported outcomes, although contested,
of young people’s everyday social media practices. For instance, a decline in young people’s
print-based literacy (NEA 2007) and civic engagement (Putnam 1995) and increase in out-of-
school online reading, writing and activities (NEA 2007) have prompted educators’ questions
about what it means to meaningfully participate in the digital age? The findings of the USA
study suggest that educators and educational researchers might do well to suspend a rush to
judgment that young people’s leisure-time, social media practices are necessarily a waste of
time or downright harmful to their becoming informed, literate and engaged citizens. On the
contrary, they argue for greater understanding of how young people’s participatory media
practices in third spaces between formal schooling and home might be designed to facilitate
the kinds of social-academic resources that support students toward becoming educated and
fully contributing societal members. These include providing students opportunities to:
meaningfully connect with peers; receive prompt feedback on content-related questions or
performances; use peers as mentors; derive enjoyment from belonging to something larger
than themselves; encounter diverse perspectives; and apply formal schooling (e.g.,
technological literacies, writing strategies) to tackling meaningful socio-scientific issues in
Social media has unique and powerful features, readily facilitating connections to others (Ito
et al. 2013; Siemens 2005) through sharing and community evaluation, leading to
participatory engagement in effective, multimodal learning communities. Further research
and design work is essential to harness the potential benefits of social media for learning in
both formal and informal contexts. We need more research-and-design projects, like the US
study, in which learning technology designs are grounded in the competencies that educators
value (e.g., socio-scientific argumentation, civic engagement and modern scientific literacy)
but open-ended and user-driven to enable participatory cultures to emerge. Such research
should focus not only on the experiences of participants but also on the structural models
underpinning such learning communities to investigate how to achieve sustainability. There is
also a need for more research on adolescent learning with social media, since research to-date
has focused primarily on college students in higher education settings. Finally, we need more
research that examines learning in digital cultures which is perhaps more ethnographic in
nature and certainly foreground the learning, irrespective of purpose, process, location or
content. For example, rather than studying Facebook activity in the classroom, research
should focus on its use across all contexts in which it is used and focus on the learning
opportunities that arise.
Some young people, although in the minority, are engaging fully, initiating self-directed
learning activities utilising the full potential of participatory and collaborative technologies.
Harnessing the learning attributes of social media could enrich young people’s experiences of
learning in institutional contexts. However, it is necessary to fully explore the complexities of
the learning landscapes in order to understand how to challenge and disrupt institutional
policies and practices, whilst being mindful of the need to avoid the reproduction of
technology-based power structures (Greenhow and Gleason 2014; Selwyn 2010). We suggest
that in relation to social media, consideration of varying attributes of formality (Colley et al.
2003) is one means of achieving this.
Table 1. A model of learning attributes, adapted from the work of Colley et al. 2003
Category Formal Attributes Informal Attributes Social media attributes
Purpose Learning as primary
Learning as unintended
outcome (or not recognised)
(eg. Curriculum standard)
Community of interest
Audience for student
work is closed, known
Audience for student work
may be closed/known or
open/unknown or variation
Audience for user-
generated content may be
Teacher-initiated Incidental, experiential,
Peer- or other-influenced
Teacher-led (didactic) Self-directed (negotiated)
Peer- or other-influenced
Teacher support Peer/friend support Network support
Feedback Community evaluation
Teachers as Authority
Students can provide
based, some multimedia
Varies Multimodal (eg. Images,
videos, tags, ratings,
Home, community, museum,
after-school club (eg. out of
(subject to internet
Time-restricted Open-ended Open-ended
Learning objective No learning objective Varies
Certification No certification Individual recognition
Curriculum No curriculum Varies
Content Knowledge acquisition Everyday practice User-generated,
High status knowledge Status of knowledge
Social construction and
Knowledge as collective
Specified outcomes rigid Specified outcomes flexible
Ajjan, H., and R. Hartshorne. 2008. "Investigating faculty decisions to adopt Web 2.0 technologies:
Theory and empirical tests." The Internet and Higher Education 11 (2): 71-80.
Andersson, A., M. Hatakka, A. Grönlund, and M. Wiklund. 2014. “Reclaiming the students – coping
with social media in 1:1 schools.” Learning, Media and Technology 39 (1): 37-52.
Barron, B. 2004. “Learning Ecologies for Technological Fluency: Gender and Experience
Differences.” Journal of Educational Computing Research 3 (1): 1-36.
Barron, B. 2006. “Interest and self-sustained learning as catalysts of development: A learning
ecologies perspective.” Human Development 49: 193-224.
Binkley, M., Erstad, O., Herman, J., Raizen, S., Ripley, M., Miller-Ricci, M., & Rumble, M. 2012.
“Defining Twenty First Learning Skills.” In Assessment and Teaching of 21st Century Skills,
edited by P. Griffin, B. McGaw, and E. Care, 17-66. Dordrecht: Springer.
Brenner, J., and A. Smith. 2013. 72% of Online Adults are Social Networking Site Users. Washington,
DC: Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Chen, B. and T. Bryer. 2012. “Investigating instructional strategies for using social media in formal
and informal learning”. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed
Learning, 13 (1): 87-104, Available at:
<http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/view/1027/2073>. Date accessed: 13 Feb.
Clark, W., K. Logan, R. Luckin, A. Mee, and M. Oliver. 2009. “Beyond Web 2.0: mapping the
technology landscapes of young learners.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 25 (1): 56-
Colley, H., P. Hodkinson, and J. Malcolm. 2003. Informality and Formality in Learning: a report for
the Learning and Skills Research Centre. London: LSRC.
Cox, M. 2013. “Formal to informal learning with IT: research challenges and issues for e-learning.”
Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 29 (1): 85-105.
Crook, C. 2012. “The ‘digital native’ in context: tensions associated with importing Web 2.0 practices
into the school setting.” Oxford Review of Education 38 (1): 63-80 .
Dabbagh, N., and A. Kitsantas. 2012. “Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-
regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning.” Internet
and Higher Education 15(1): 3-8.
Dede, C. 2008. A seismic shift in epistemology. EDUCAUSE Review 43 (3): 80–81. Retrieved March
4, 2009, from http://net.educause.edu/ir/library/pdf/ERM0837.pdf
DiVall, M. V. and J. L. Kirwin. 2012. “Using Facebook to facilitate course-related discussion between
students and faculty members.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 76 (2): 1–5
Ebner, E., C. Lienhardt, M. Rohs, and I. Meyer. 2010. “Microblogs in Higher Education – A chance
to facilitate informal and process-oriented learning?” Computers & Education 55 (1): 92–100.
Eshach, H. 2007. “Bridging In-school and Out-of-school Learning: Formal, Non-Formal, and
Informal Education.” Journal of Science Education and Technology 16 (2): 171-190.
European Commission (EC). 2001. Communication: making a European area of lifelong learning a
reality. Retrieved January 13, 2014, from: http://eur-
Eynon, R. 2009. "Mapping the digital divide in Britain: implications for learning and education."
Learning, Media and Technology 34 (4): 277-290. doi: 10.1080/17439880903345874
Eynon, R. and L. Malmberg. 2011. “A typology of young people's Internet use: implications for
education.” Computers and Education 56 (3): 585-595.Ferguson, R., D. Faulkner, D.
Whitelock and K. Sheehy. 2014. “Pre-teens’ informal learning with ICT and Web 2.0”.
Technology, Pedagogy and Education. DOI: 10.1080/1475939X.2013.870596
Gao, F., T. Luo, and K. Zhang. 2012. “Tweeting for learning: A critical analysis of research on
microblogging in education published in 2008-2011.” British Journal of Educational
Technology 43(5): 783-801 .
Green, H., and C. Hannon. 2007. Their Space: Education for a digital generation. London: Demos.
Greenhow, C. 2011. “Online social networks and learning.” On the Horizon, 15(1): 4-12.
Greenhow, C. 2010. “The role of youth as cultural producers in a niche social network site.” New
Directions in Youth Development: Theory, Research & Practice, 128: 55-64.
Greenhow, C., M. Menzer and T. Gibbins. in press. “Re-thinking scientific literacy: Arguing science
issues in a niche Facebook application.” Computers & Human Behavior.
Greenhow, C. and B. Gleason. 2014. “Social scholarship: Reconsidering scholarly practices in the age
of social media.” British Journal of Educational Technology, 45 (3): 392-402.
Greenhow, C., L. Burton and B. Robelia. 2011. “Help from my “Friends:” Social capital in the social
network sites of low-income high school students.” Journal of Educational Computing
Research, 45 (2): 223-245.
Greenhow, C., E. Robelia, and J. Hughes. 2009. “Web 2.0 and classroom research: What path should
we take now?” Educational Researcher, 38(4): 246-259.
Greenhow, C. and E. Robelia. 2009a. “Old communication, new literacies: Social network sites as
social learning resources.” Journal of Computer-mediated Communication, 14: 1130-1161.
Greenhow, C. and E. Robelia. 2009b. “Informal learning and identity formation in online social
networks.” Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2): 119-140.
Gruzd, A., K. Staves, and A. Wilk. 2012. “Connected scholars: Examining the role of social media in
research practices of faculty using the UTAUT model.” Computers in Human Behavior 28:
International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE). 2007. ISTE Standards for Students:
Advancing digital age learning. Retrieved May 7, 2015, from:
Ito, M., H. Horst, M. Bittanti, d. boyd, B. Herr-Stephenson, P.G. Lange, et al. 2008. Living and
learning with new media: Summary of findings from the Digital Youth Project. The John D.
and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Reports on Digital Media and Learning. Retrieved
January 30, 2009, from http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/report
Ito, M., S. Baumer, M. Bittanti, d. boyd, R. Cody, B. Herr-Stephenson, and H. Horst et al. 2010.
Hanging Out, Messing around, and Geeking Out: Kids, Living and Learning with New
Media. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Ito, M., K. Gutierrez, S. Livingstone, B. Penuel, J. Rhodes, K. Salen, J. Schor, J. Sefton-Green, and S.
Watkins. 2013. Connected Learning: An Agenda for Research and Design. Irvine, CA:
Digital Media and Learning Research Hub.
Jenkins, H. with R. Purushotma, M. Weigel, K. Clinton, and A.J. Robison. 2009. Confronting the
challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA:
Junco, R., and S. R. Cotton. 2013. “No A 4 U: The relationship between multitasking and academic
performance.” Computers & Education 59: 505–514.
Kirschner, A. P., and A. C. Karpinski. 2010. Facebook and Academic Performance. Computers in
Human Behavior 26: 1237-1245.
Kop, R. and A. Hill. 2008. “Connectivism: Learning theory of the future or vestige of the past?” The
International Review of Research on Open and Distributed Learning, 9 (3): n.p. Retrieved
online at: http://www.irrodl.org/index.php/irrodl/article/viewArticle/523/1103%2522
Lai, K.W., F. Khaddage and G. Knezek. 2013. “Blending student technology experiences informal
and informal learning.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning 29: 414–425
Lewin, C. and McNicol, S. 2014. Creating the Future Classroom: Evidence from the iTEC project.
Full report. Manchester, UK: Manchester Metropolitan University. FP7 Grant Agreement No:
Livingstone, D.W. 2001. Adults’ informal learning: definitions, findings, gaps and future research:
NALL Working Paper No 21. Toronto: University of Toronto.
Luckin, R., W. Clark, R. Graber, K. Logan, A. Mee, and M. Oliver. 2009. “Do Web 2.0 tools really
open the door to learning? Practices, perceptions and profiles of 11-16 ‐year‐old students.”
Learning, Media and Technology 34 (2): 87-104. doi: 10.1080/17439880902921949
Madden, M., S. Cortesi, U. Gasser, A. Lenhart, and M. Duggan. 2012. Parents, Teens, and Online
Privacy. Pew Internet and American Life Project.
Manca, S., and M. Ranieri. 2013. “Is it a tool suitable for learning? A critical review of the literature
on Facebook as a technology-enhanced learning environment.” Journal of Computer-assisted
Learning 29(6): 487-504. doi: 10.1080/17439880902923606
Mao, J. (2014). “Social media for learning: A mixed methods study of high school students’
technology affordances and perspectives.” Computers in Human Behavior, 33: 213-223.
Mardis, M. A. 2013. "What it has or what it does not have? Signposts from US data for rural
children's digital access to informal learning." Learning, Media and Technology 38 (4): 387-
406. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2013.783595
Mason, R. and F. Rennie. 2007. "Using Web 2.0 for learning in the community." The Internet and
Higher Education 10 (3): 196-203.
Mathews, J. 2009, January 5. The Latest Doomed Pedagogical Fad: 21st-Century Skills. Washington
Post. Retrieved May 7, 2015, from: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-
Mazman, S.G., and Y.K. Usluel. 2010. “Modeling Educational Uses of Facebook.” Computers in
Education 55(2): 444-453.
Merchant, G. 2012. “Mobile practices in everyday life: Popular digital technologies and schooling
revisited.” British Journal of Educational Technology 43 (5): 770-782. doi:10.1111/j.1467-
Mills, N. 2011. “Situated learning through social networking communities: The Development of
joint enterprise, mutual engagement, and a shared repertoire.” CALICO Journal, 28 (2):
National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). 2007. To read or not to read: A question of national
consequence (Research report #47). Washington, DC: NEA.
Ofcom. 2014. Adults’ Media Use and Attitudes Report. London: Ofcom. Retrieved May 7, 2015,
Partnership for 21st century skills (P21). 2009. Framework for 21st century learning. Retrieved May
7, 2015, from: http://www.p21.org/storage/documents/1.__p21_framework_2-pager.pdf
Pimmer, C., L. Sebastian, and U. Gröhbiel. 2012. "Facebook as a learning tool? A case study on the
appropriation of social network sites from mobile phones in developing countries." British
Journal of Educational Technology 43 (5): 726-738.
Prescott, J., S. Wilson and G. Becket. 2013. “Facebook use in the
learning environment: do students want this?” Learning, Media and Technology 38 (3): 345-
Putnam, R.D. 1995. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of the American community.
New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
Ranieri, M., S. Manca and A. Fini. 2012. “Why (and how) do teachers engage in social networks? An
exploratory study of professional use of Facebook and its implications for lifelong learning.”
British Journal of Educational Technology 43 (5): 754-769.
Ranieri, M. and I. Bruni. 2013. “Mobile storytelling and informal education in a suburban area: a
qualitative study on the potential of digital narratives for young second-generation
immigrants.” Learning, Media and Technology 38 (2) 217-235. doi:
Reynolds, R., and M. M. Chiu. 2013. "Formal and informal context factors as contributors to student
engagement in a guided discovery-based program of game design learning." Learning, Media
and Technology 38 (4): 429-462. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2013.779585
Robelia, B., C. Greenhow, and L. Burton. 2011. “Adopting environmentally responsible behaviors:
How learning within a social networking application motivated students to act for the
environment.” Environmental Education Research, 17 (4): 553-575.
Sadler, T., S. Barab, and B. Scott. 2006. “What do students gain by engaging in socioscientific
inquiry.” Research in Science Education, 37: 371–391.
Schuck, S. and P. Aubusson. 2010. "Educational scenarios for digital futures." Learning, Media and
Technology 35 (3): 293-305. doi: 10.1080/17439884.2010.509351
Sefton-Green, J. 2004. Report 7: Literature review in informal learning with technology outside
school. Bristol, England: Futurelab. ISBN: 0-9544695-7-7. Retrieved January 3, 2014, from:
Sefton-Green, J. 2013. Learning at not-school: A review of study, theory, and advocacy for education
in non-formal settings. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
Selwyn, N. 2007. “Web 2.0 applications as alternative environments for informal learning - a critical
review.” Paper presented at OECD-KERIS Expert Meeting, Chegu, South Korea, Oct. 16-17.
Selwyn, N. 2009. Faceworking: Exploring students’ education-related use of Facebook. Learning
Media and Technology , 34 (2): 157–174.
Selwyn, N. 2010. “Looking beyond learning: notes towards the critical study of educational
technology.” Journal of Computer Assisted Learning, 26: 65-73.
Selwyn, N. 2011. Social media in higher education. In Gladman, A., (Ed.), The Europa world of
learning (pp. 1-9). London, UK: Routledge.
Siemens, G. 2005. “Connectivism: A learning theory for the digital age.” International Journal of
Instructional Technology and Distance Learning 2 (10): 3-10.
Silva, E. 2009, May. “Measuring Skills for 21st-Century Learning”. Phi Delta Kappan, 90 (9): 630-
Social media [Def.1]. n.d. Oxford Dictionaries Online. In Oxford Dictionary. Retrieved March 17,
2015 from http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/social-media
Tan, E. 2013. "Informal learning on YouTube: exploring digital literacy in independent online
learning." Learning, Media and Technology 38 (4): 463-477.
Trinder, K., J. Guiller, A. Margaryam, A. Littlejohn, and D. Nicol. 2008. Learning from digital
natives: bridging formal and informal learning. York, UK: Higher Education Academy.
Voogt, J. and N. Pareja Roblin. 2012. “A comparative analysis of international frameworks for 21st
century competences: Implications for national curriculum policies”. Journal of Curriculum
Studies, 44 (3): 299-321.
Vygotsky, L. S. 1978. Mind in society: The development of higher psychological processes.
Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
Warschauer, M. and T. Matuchiank. 2010. “New Technology and digital worlds: Analyzing evidence
in equity, use and outcomes.” Review of Research in Education 34 (1): 179-225
Weigel, M., C. James and H. Gardner. 2009. “Learning: Peering Backward and Looking Forward in
the Digital Era.” International Journal of Learning and Media 1 (1): 1-18
Weinberger, A. and F. Fischer. 2006. “A framework to analyze argumentative knowledge
construction in computer-supported collaborative learning.” Computers & Education, 46: 71-95.
Windschitl, M. 2002. Framing constructivism in practice as the negotiation of dilemmas: An analysis
of the conceptual, pedagogical, cultural, and political challenges facing teachers. Review of
Educational Research, 72 (2), 131-175.
Yang Y., C. Crook and C. O'Malley. 2013. “Can a social networking site support afterschool group
learning of Mandarin?” Learning, Media and Technology 39 (3): 267-282 doi: