Designing for learning: Online social networks as a classroom environment


  • Gail Casey Deakin University AARE ICTEV ISTE
  • Terry Evans Deakin University, Australia



distance education, open learning, e-learning, online learning, pedagogy


This paper deploys notions of emergence, connections, and designs for learning to conceptualize high school students’ interactions when using online social media as a learning environment. It makes links to chaos and complexity theories and to fractal patterns as it reports on a part of the first author’s action research study, conducted while she was a teacher working in an Australian public high school and completing her PhD. The study investigates the use of a Ning online social network as a learning environment shared by seven classes, and it examines students’ reactions and online activity while using a range of social media and Web 2.0 tools.

The authors use Graham Nuthall’s (2007) “lens on learning” to explore the social processes and culture of this shared online classroom. The paper uses his extensive body of research and analyses of classroom learning processes to conceptualize and analyze data throughout the action research cycle. It discusses the pedagogical implications that arise from the use of social media and, in so doing, challenges traditional models of teaching and learning.

Author Biography

Gail Casey, Deakin University AARE ICTEV ISTE

Gail is a classroom teacher. She has been an eLearning leader in 3 Australian schools and in 2005 was the Principal Senior Trainer for the K-12 Intel Teach to the Future program with DEECD presenting the Australian Intel model both in Penang, Malaysia and Boston, USA. Her passion for working globally took her to South Korea in 2007 where she taught ESL for 12 months. While teaching in South Korea she began her development as a teacher researcher through Deakin University. In 2009 she was a K-12 ICT trainer and mentor in a private school before commencing her PhD as a scholarship holder with Deakin University. Gail is at present continuing her classroom action research as a teacher/researcher investigating the implications for teachers, students and learning when implementing social media and web 2 tools into the classroom. In June 2010 Gail received an Australian Postgraduate Award. In May 2011 she received a Highly Commended Award from the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE).



How to Cite

Casey, G., & Evans, T. (2011). Designing for learning: Online social networks as a classroom environment. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 12(7), 1–26.