We start with the hypothesis that it is possible to classify the types of "interaction models" supported by different social media and online tools, and that this classification could be helpful in categorising and selecting tools to support particular pedagogical objectives.

We held semi-structured interviews with teaching staff across a range of disciplines in the University. These were intended to elicit both the extent of social media/tool usage, and also to explore how much this was explicitly motivated by a desire to foster specific learning interactions.

The interviews demonstrated a wide range of tool usage and we were able to show that these applications correspond to various combinations of basic interaction models. However, we found little evidence that activities were being explicitly engineered to achieve these interactions. This leads us to suspect that these aims are being held tacitly, and we offer the “language” of the interactional models as a means of exploring the pedagogical rationale for the innovations that we are seeing.

The rich dataset derived from the interviews also included a wealth of information on more general issues around the use of social media in teaching and learning. Some of the more significant ones include data protection, accessibility, privacy, and inclusivity.

In particular, almost all of the participants cited "time" as the over-arching issue preventing them from exploring, developing and implementing any new innovation. The social media tools provide a plethora of opportunity to create complex connections and interactions in support of teaching and learning. However, identifying suitable tools, learning their capabilities, and applying them to achieve some desired pedagogical outcome requires more time and effort than is normally available. This problem is compounded by the speed of change. Thinking in terms of the supported interaction models may be helpful in evaluating new tools and appropriate applications for them.

Talks, Posters & Papers


Jessie Paterson (Vets)
Hamish Macleod (Education)
Kirsty Hughes (Vets)
Cathy Shields (Vets)
Paul Anderson (Informatics)

A University of Edinburgh PTAS project