It has become clear to professors that students are now, more than ever, dependent on social media. However, student reliance on social media is undeniable. While older professors who are “digital immigrants” view this change as a new phenomena, the concepts underlying it come directly from social network analyzing.

New tools are now available for professors to collect, analyze, visualize and generate insights and assignments from the many forms of social media. My goal is to offer a variety of effective activities for students in an introductory writing course that incorporates multimodal dimensions.

Facebook Friendship

Facebook has become the premiere site for social networking with a whopping “684,478 pieces of content are shared every minute” (skinny). The site is not only a favorite source of social connectedness, but it is even credited for helping to spread democracy. While Facebook may seem as a fairly recent phenomenon (does anyone even use MySpace anymore?), Facebook it is grounded on a social networking or “ties”.

In Net Smart: How to Thrive Online, Rheingold states “ties can represent kinship, friendship, or acquaintanceship, and can also stand for economic transactions, sexual relationships or prestige hierarchies” (203).  When compared to any kind of networking, students can learn about the different “ties” that they have with one another by recognizing that the more Facebook friends they have, the less they are able to know specific information about each person. The same problem applies to professional networking.  An activity that students can do in order to learn about their “ties” is to create a visual of how the students are connected.


Facebook Activity


Ball of string or yarn


  1. In the classic variation of this activity, students introduce their name and one characteristic about themselves before the ball to another person in the circle.
  2. Have the students stand in a circle with one student holding the ball. The student holding the ball then states their name and one characteristic about themselves.
  3. Holding firmly to the end of the string, the student then tosses the ball of string to someone in the circle who has stated that they agree, feel the same way, or like the same thing as the student who is holding the ball.
  4. This continues for a while until a large web like figure has appeared in the middle of the students. Students may receive the ball more than one.


  1. If there is a student that has had the ball passed to them multiple times, what does this mean in a social networking world? Is the student able to receive access to information because of the fact that they have ties with so many other people?
  2. In what ways does this string represent various relationships in the group?
  • Our relationships are intertwined and connected.
    • If a single person pulls the string it affects everyone in the group to varying degrees, depending on how closely they are connected.
    • If one person’s string is cut – the relationship is broken, it affects all.
    • What advantages and disadvantages do students have to having so many, or little ties to one another?

Bringing Facebook To The Course

By student’s using this kind of activity in the classroom, students can benefit from the idea that they can connect to one another in various ways. In This social media platform matters because it connects students to peers, ideas, information, pictures, and more. This specific activity would be very beneficial to students just because of the fact that the ”digital divide” that is going on in schools may prevent student’s from being able to enjoy all social media.

 Linked In Brings A Close To Social Distance 

Linked In, similar to Facebook, takes communication to a more professional outlook.  According to Fowler in Connected “the best way to search your network is to look beyond your direct connections but not so far away that you no longer have anything in common with your contacts”(66). The main objective of this statement is that through strong and weak ties, may people be able to see the benefits of social media. For example: Granovetter, a famous sociologist explains, “the strength of a tie is a (probably linear) combination of the amount of time of the optional intensity, the intimacy (mutual confiding), and the reciprocal services which characterize the tie” (Net Smart 206).  Similar to strong and weak ties are the amount of degrees that each person is said to have between one another.  It is said that 6 other people, or 6 degrees separate everyone in the world. By applying the concept of social distance, students are encouraged to think about their students to become aware of their connections as well as their strong and weak ties.


Realizing Ties Activity


Paper or a Computer


  1.    Provide students with a list of names. It may include a political figure, a professor, a student in the classroom and a celebrity.
  2.  Ask each student to write down the number of ties it would take for him or her to reach each person on the list.


  1. Who is in your network, however remotely?
  2. Who is out of your network?
  3. Confirm your ties to the above list using your LinkedIn contacts. Did you find additional links that you weren’t aware of that connect you to the names on the above list?

Bringing Linked In To The Course

Once students finish this activity, they will realize how little social distance separates them from some of the individuals on the list.  Student’s may also think of how to maximize their “social capital” just by being mindful of how they approach new information, know how to be an online participator and collaborator, and knowing how to persuade others to collaborate with them as well.

What Is Stopping You?

According to Pearson, the leading education company, most faculty are concerned with the time it requires to use social media. “The two most pressing concerns about faculty use of social media are privacy and integrity: almost 80% report that “lack of integrity of student submissions” is an “important”, while almost 50% say privacy concerns are in the “very important” barrier.”

Screen shot 2013-06-08 at 10.43.34 AM

In spite of those concerns, however, faculty believe that social media sites offer value in teaching. Overwhelming amounts of faculty still use social media in their everyday lives. In a study taken in 2012, it was shown that faculty are even using social media for personal use. If this concept is easy for personal use, then why not introduce it in a classroom?

Screen shot 2013-06-08 at 10.41.46 AM


Which social media constantly causing change in our society, these two different activities can engage students in a new and fun while incorporating a text. I believe that with social media, professors can constantly be aware of new ideas and even come up with even more interesting activities. Professors need to adapt just like students are.


Work Cited

Christakis, Nicholas A., and James H. Fowler. Connected: The Surprising Power of Our Social Networks and How They Shape Our Lives  New York: Little Brown and Company, 2009. Print.

Morgan, Mike. “Social Media Survey 2012.” Pearson. Always Learning, n.d. Web. 07 June 2013.

Pring, Cara. “216 Social Media and Internet Statistics (September 2012).” The Social Skinny. N.p.. Web. 2 Jun 2013. <;.

Rheingold, Howard. Net Smart: How to Thrive Online. Cambridge, MA: MIT, 2012.   Print.


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