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Communication and collaboration in learning

"Facebook is an extension of our classroom; therefore the same rules as in class are relevant here."

Tracey Thomas
Northcote College Art Department

Social media was used effectively to communicate with my students

I have used Facebook as a communication and collaboration tool with my senior art classes and my e-learning students as their E-dean.

I have also used Pinterest as a research tool with students and also colleagues in my department at school (for unit writing/ resource making).

Ethical issues

Some ethical issues I considered included ensuring personal and professional barriers were in place and that the two remain separate.

I also took into account appropriate use of language, making sure conversations were on-task and respect was maintained in the class group. I applied the same rules that are used in a classroom to the Facebook group.

The appropriateness of images was a consideration when using Pinterest.

I also identified issues around cyber safety – especially using social media such as Twitter or Pinterest where anyone can follow you, and digital citizenship.

Dealing with ethical issues

Personal / Professional boundaries:

I set up a class group that is separate from my own personal Facebook page. However to do this, I befriended one student from the class (as the idea is that you are friends with people in the group) and then gave them admin rights so that they can go and invite all the other students. Following that I un-friended the first student from my personal friend list to protect my own privacy. I have a few rules set in place when creating a class group:

  • I only befriend a student that is trustworthy and has a mature approach to school. This student also needs to be friends with most other students in the class (which generally happens as they all befriend each other). If not, then they need to create this relationship
    even if just for a short time.
  • I only set up a group if there is a real need.
  • I only set up a group with a class I have a solid, authentic and positive relationship with and I know really well. This works well with my senior students as I have taught them for a number of years.
  • I also discuss with the students and other teachers how to use the privacy settings on Facebook so that they are not on the default settings (which generally allow anyone to go and view your photos and wall). Being Facebook savvy and going through the preferences is highly recommended.

Appropriate behaviour on Facebook

We discuss this as a class first, including how offensive language and off-task topics are not allowed. Facebook is an extension of our classroom; therefore the same rules as in class are relevant here. It is easy to monitor Facebook groups as any new updates or posts are instantly shown in your notifications list. If something inappropriate is put up you can delete it (as the group administrator). Trust, positive relationships and respect are key factors in having a group so acting appropriately is important.

Pinning appropriate content to Pinterest

It is easy to monitor Pinterest with students if you follow their school related boards only. Anything that they ‘pin’ to these boards comes up in your own newsfeed. As a rule I respect that students have their own interests outside of school and I do not follow their personal boards (i.e. ‘One Direction’ or ‘V8 cars’!). The trick is to not click ‘Follow All’ and only follow certain boards. They can follow your boards and you need to instruct them to do the same (just follow the school related ones). As a teacher, you need to be aware of not creating boards which may cross over the personal/
professional divide, especially as students are able to look at all your boards regardless of whether or not they follow you.

The benefits of social media

These platforms create options for engagement and collaborative learning. Students can post their work for teacher and peer critique, students can work together on research/ group tasks, students can seek help and advice on their work as it happens, and discussions and opinions can be shared easily.

I use Facebook to communicate to both my art students and e-learning students to set up meetings, remind students about deadlines, post links to information that they may need such as NZQA exemplars, and reiterate tasks or lesson content.

Facebook and Pinterest are great for resource sharing. My students and I post links to art websites, You Tube videos and articles of interest. As senior art students are continually researching artist models for their boards and design briefs, this is extremely helpful. Also, students gain a better insight into what their peers are doing and if they stumble across appropriate content they share it with the group, helping each other.

These platforms contribute to a student-centred voice. Pinterest encourages students to have a feeling of ownership of the group as well as their personal identity and interests.

Relationships between teacher and students are strengthened by positive communication and consistent interaction. This shows teacher interest in the students’ learning and world in a holistic sense, making students feel included and valued.

Pinterest allows for organisation of research. It provides an accessible way for students to gather visual research all in one place that is accessible anywhere, anytime. That research is displayed in a clear, clean way. Because each image links back to the original source (a viable webpage) it is excellent for bibliographies. The discussion of digital citizenship comes up and we talk about copyright, paying homage to authors/ artists, not irresponsibly taking images without giving credit or seeking permission.

Pinterest provides real-world contexts. Students are able to follow world-renowned graphic designers, illustrators, artists, professionals and see first-hand how these people gather their own resources and research.

A summary of what works well for me and my learners


  • Information sharing, class discussions, students posting their work up as it progresses for class and teacher opinion, resource sharing (links to websites, images, pdfs and documents) Creating class events such as end of year exhibitions, holiday/ weekend workshops, shared lunches etc.
  • Creating polls to seek opinions
  • Individually messaging students to get an immediate response
  • Encouraging student voice


  • I post excellent artist model exemplars for students
  • Students learn how to search the net more widely finding creative blogs, authentic websites and excellent content beyond their usual hits. They can then also post these into Facebook to share with their classmates/ teacher.
  • Students gain a more engaged interest at looking at artists/ designers/ creative content and do research on their own accord, for fun, rather than just because they have to
  • An good way to understand your students better by seeing what they are interested in

Social media type

  • Learners

    Teachers have a professional obligation to develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based on the best interests of those learners.

  • Parents/Guardians and Family/Whānau

    Social media provides a great opportunity to collaborate and communicate with parents and whānau.

  • Society

    Teachers who model good social media use will grow learners who apply positive, respectful values in their interactions on social media platforms.

  • The Profession

    As a member of the profession you should seek and respond to opportunities to share knowledge and discuss concerns.