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Do social networking technologies have a place in formal learning environments?

Erica Rosenfeld Halverson (Assistant Professor in the School of Education at the University of Wisconsin‐Madison, Madison, Wisconsin, USA)

On the Horizon

ISSN: 1074-8121

Article publication date: 1 February 2011




This viewpoint essay seeks to discuss the promise and perils of integrating social networking technologies into formal learning environments.


The work is grounded in a new literacies perspective and brings insights from learning in participatory cultures to bear in the discussion of social networking sites in formal settings.


The paper describes three major design trade‐offs in the use of social networking sites: privacy versus redundancy when participating in an SNS; whether goals for participation are endogenous or exogenous learning goals; and conception of identity in SNSs as holistic versus identity in formal learning environments as uniquely constructed in the learning setting.

Practical implications

These design trade‐offs arise as a result of importing technologies for learners into environments that are better suited to technologies for learning. Therefore, the paper suggests that the goals for learning are more important than the use of any individual technology in the classroom.


K‐16 school leaders and administrators should begin to think like designers rather than policy makers when determining whether and how to meaningfully bring social networking technologies into learning environments.



Rosenfeld Halverson, E. (2011), "Do social networking technologies have a place in formal learning environments?", On the Horizon, Vol. 19 No. 1, pp. 62-67.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2011, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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