Using Social Media to Support Active Learning Processes: The Networked Knowledge Activity Framework

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

This session presents the Networked Knowledge Activity Framework, an empirically-derived framework used to design social media learning activities that promote active learning processes. Lesson ideas and templates based on the framework will be shared. Practical and ethical concerns related to social media use in formal learning settings will be discussed. 

Sponsored By


Dr. Vanessa Dennen is a Professor of Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies in the Department of Educational Psychology & Learning Systems. She joined the faculty at FSU in 2003. Vanessa's research investigates the cognitive, motivational, and social elements of computer-mediated communication. Specifically, she concentrates on three major issues: (1) learner engagement in online discussion activities; (2) identity development, knowledge management, and knowledge brokering within online networks and communities of practice; and (3) ethical issues related to computer-mediated learning. Her research is situated in both formal and informal learning environments and focuses on communication technologies ranging from discussion forums to social media to mobile technologies. She has authored more than 50 journal articles and book chapters, which have appeared in publications such as Instructional Science; Distance Education; Computers in Human Behavior; Educational Research Technology & Development, The Handbook of Distance Education; and The Handbook of Research on Educational Communications and Technology among others. Additionally, in 2013 she co-edited (with Jennifer B. Myers) a book, Virtual Professional Development and Informal Learning in Online Environments. Vanessa currently serves as co-Editor in Chief of The Internet and Higher Education. Additionally, she is a an Associate Editor for Educational Researcher and has edited special issues for Distance Education and Technology, Instruction, Cognition & Learning. She is serving a 3-year term (2016-2019) on the board for the American Educational Research Association's Instructional Technology special interest group.

Extended Abstract

Using Social Media to Support Active Learning Processes: The Networked Knowledge Activity Framework

Purpose of Session

The purpose of this session is to introduce the Networked Knowledge Activity Framework, which can be used to help design social media learning activities that promote active learning processes. During this session, the presenter will:

  • Discuss the rationale for using social media to support active learning processes
  • Present the Networked Knowledge Activity Framework
  • Share learning activity examples and templates for each of the six networked knowledge activities
  • Discuss appropriate forms of assessment for each of these networked knowledge activities
  • Share practical and ethical concerns and solutions related to social media use in the formal learning context

Audience engagement will be welcome and solicited. Time will be allocated at the end for doing “brainstorm consultations,” in which the presenter will lead the audience through helping an individual in the room quickly develop an idea for a networked knowledge activity. Materials related to the presentation (e.g., lesson templates) will be made available online to attendees.

This session is suitable for audience members of all levels of education. Although the specific applications of networked knowledge activities may vary based on learner age and privacy concerns, the concepts are widely applicable.


Social media is a popular tool, used by both teenagers and adults as part of their everyday lives. In addition to communication and entertainment-oriented activities, individuals frequently engage in informal learning via their online social networks. A participatory culture has evolved in these online settings (Jenkins, 2006, 2009), and this participatory culture can be transferred into educational activities (Halverson & Shapiro, 2013). Many instructors are intrigued by and interested in the idea of leveraging the types of online interactions that people have with both other people (experts and peers) and information in their online social networks for formal learning purposes. However, finding meaningful ways to use social media tools to support online learning or to use educational technologies to mimic social media-like interactions can be a challenge. 

To engage students in active social media-based learning is to immerse students in networked knowledge activities (Author, in press), and likely requires looking beyond the use of popular social networking sites like Facebook to emulate elements of a learning management system. Breaking down this concept, knowledge is what teaching and learning is all about; we consider a course successful when a learner has gained new knowledge and skills. Activities require that the learner be a participant in the process and not just an audience member. This is where the "active" part comes in, ensuring that learners are not just the recipients of pre-selected and organized knowledge. Finally, the networked part of this concept suggests that learning is neither an individual nor a dyadic instructor-student activity.

The Networked Knowledge Activity Framework

The Networked Knowledge Activity Framework (Author, in press) was developed based on empirical observations of the authentic learning activities that people engage in within their online networks and communities of practice (e.g., Author, 2011; Author, 2012; Author, 2014). Briefly, the Networked Knowledge Activity framework demonstrates how the following knowledge activities form the core types of active learning when social media or similar online technologies are used:

  1. Collecting: The act of identifying and saving knowledge artefacts on a specific topic. 
  2. Curating: Evaluating collected artefacts and forming selective groups of them, with meaningful labels and annotations.
  3. Sharing: Making artefacts – whether original creations, mashups, or found items – available to specific people who might find them interesting.
  4. Brokering: Making network connections and enabling purposeful knowledge transactions from one group of individuals to another.
  5. Negotiating: Engaging in discursive exploration of knowledge artifacts with another person for the purpose of seeking a mutual understanding.
  6. Creating: Developing new or adapted artefacts, either individually or collaboratively, for consumption by an online audience.

Common to all of these activities is the active position of the learner. Whereas in a more teacher-centered approach the learner would be presented with content and asked to produce evidence of learning that meets predetermined specifications (e.g., answer objective-style questions or write an essay on an assigned topic), when these knowledge activities are used in an online classroom the instructor cedes at least some control to learners over both learning content and learning products. Learning activities anchored around this framework can be assessed for both process and product, and are consistent with open pedagogy(Hegarty, 2015). When this framework is adopted in an online course, the approach focuses on intersection of knowledge activities and learning activities, with an emphasis on combining the two to achieve the desired learning outcomes. 

Benefits of Networked Knowledge Activities

Networked knowledge activities are authentic. When used in the class setting, they typically replace disposable assignments with renewable ones that have a broader audience and purpose than just the instructor (Wiley, Webb, Weston, & Tonks, 2017). For many students, this is a motivating prospect. Additionally, these activities often lead to the development of personal learning environment and networks (Dabbagh & Kitsantas, 2012), helping learners connect formal learning experiences with informal and lifelong learning trajectories. Finally, when instructors use networked knowledge activities they have the opportunity to help student learn how to be responsible social media users and develop their online communication and information literacy skills, which are highly relevant in today’s workplace.

Networked Knowledge Lesson Templates

Several lesson templates have been developed to help instructors design, facilitate and assess networked knowledge activities. Lesson templates will be shared during the session, along with authentic examples of the activities, to help guide the audience through ways of using the Networked Knowledge Activities to promote learning in their own classes.  Along the way, a variety of lesser known social media and social media inspired tools will be shared, including Diigo, Flipgrid, and Voicethread.

Practical and Ethical Concerns

No foray into the world of social media-based learning would be complete without an exploration of practical and ethical concerns, including student privacy, comfort, and intellectual property concerns. The formal presentation component of this session will close with a brief discussion of these concerns and options for mitigation (e.g., use of pseudonyms, closed groups, creative commons licensing).


Author (in press). Blinded for review.

Author (2011). Blinded for review.

Author (2012). Blinded for review.

Author (2014). Blinded for review.

Dabbagh, N., & Kitsantas, A. (2012). Personal Learning Environments, social media, and self-regulated learning: A natural formula for connecting formal and informal learning. The Internet and higher education15(1), 3-8.

Halverson, R., & Shapiro, R. B. (2013). Technologies for education and technologies for learners. In D. Anagnostopoulos, S. A. Rutledge, & R. Jacobsen (Eds.), The infrastructure of accountability: Data use and the transformation of american education(pp. 163-180). Boston, MA: Harvard Education Press.

Hegarty, B. (2015). Attributes of open pedagogy: A model for using open educational resources. Educational Technology, 4, 3-13. 

Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, bloggers, and gamers: Exploring participatory culture. New York: New York University Press.

Jenkins, H., Purushotma, R., Weigel, M., Clinton, K., & Robison, A. J. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

Wiley, D., Webb, A., Weston, S., & Tonks, D. (2017). A preliminary exploration of the relationships between student-created OER, sustainability, and students' success. The International Review Of Research In Open And Distributed Learning, 18(4). doi: