Learning with Social Media in an Algorithmic Age: Opportunities and Challenges for Education


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Recent disruptions and upheavals related to the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g., emergency remote teaching) and technology advancements (e.g., increasingly sophisticated large language models, or artificial intelligence [AI]) have triggered a re-imagining of “learning,” what “school” should look like and where it should occur, and the social context surrounding schooling and learning (Akgun & Greenhow, 2022; Greenhow & Chapman, 2020; Greenhow & Galvin, 2020; Greenhow et al., 2022).

Social media encapsulate the possibilities and perils of this present moment. Social media platforms, with their ability to deliver just-in-time learning (Greenhalgh & Koehler, 2017; Li & Greenhow, 2015) across geographic boundaries (Greenhow et al., 2023; Staudt Willet, 2023) and increase engagement through enhanced user profiling as well as AI-powered algorithms, have extended the scope, settings, and nature of how teachers and students learn and communicate beyond boundaries of place, space, time and roles (Chapman & Greenhow, 2021; Galvin & Greenhow, 2020; Greenhow et al., 2021, 2023; Marich et al., 2021). These changes may affect, in turn, mutual perceptions and beliefs (Mazer et al., 2009), thereby shifting student-teacher and teacher-administrator relationships, and may be followed by an even greater transformation in traditional pedagogical as well as social structures in schools and universities which have been typically characterized by hierarchical tendencies (Carpenter & Staudt Willet, 2021). However, the same algorithms and data uses / exploitations that potentially boost engagement for learning may also change the nature of the teaching profession, increasing expectations for teachers and learners to be constantly paying attention (Fox & Bird, 2017; Selwyn et al., 2017; Staudt Willet, 2023), promoting themselves (Carpenter et al., 2022; Staudt Willet, 2019), and vetting content (Archambault et al., 2022). 

Putting the present moment into this context, deepened understanding of human inquiry and learning phenomena is needed. Further investigation is required at all levels of education (e.g., primary through postsecondary education and professional learning) and as learners relate to design and uses of information and digital learning innovations. The evolving knowledge society and the emergence of information and communication technologies into our lives present complex challenges to educators and policymakers worldwide (Krutka et al., 2019). Education requires adjustments to these changes in learning and teaching, in the shattering of boundaries, as well as in providing new meaning to emerging educational paradigms facilitated by up-and-coming interfaces.

The guest editors invite articles addressing learning and teaching with social media—whether required, invited, or self-directed learning—in settings spanning primary and secondary schooling (K-12), university education, and professional learning, as well as informal spaces of learning such as libraries, museums, and after-school programs, and among learners and publics of all ages. We seek high-quality articles that address conceptual, critical, and empirical issues relevant to learning and teaching with social media in an age of enhanced user profiling and algorithms.
If the articles are conceptual or critical, we encourage authors to include cases or data from past or ongoing research that helps solidify or demonstrate how ideas and concepts can be operationalized in ongoing and future work. If the articles are empirical, we encourage authors to present their theoretical framework, methods, a description of their data, and how their analyses support their findings. We also encourage design-based implementation studies that elicit instructional and learning theory contributions, as well as those that elicit theory-informed pragmatic guidelines and empirically supported best practices on the design of social media spaces, especially with attention to the roles of varying context factors.
Submissions from a broad range of disciplines, including information science, the learning sciences, educational technology, and science and technology studies, among others, are welcome.

List of topic areas

Sample topics may include (just to name a few):

  • Explorations of the nature of social media use (e.g., purposes, practices, benefits, harms) engaged by a full diversity of youth, adults, elders, and specialized populations; in varied contexts including leisure time activities; professional learning with social media, learning with social media in libraries, learning with social media in and/or out of school, learning at home, etc.
  • Designs and uses of social media that contribute to human inquiry, formal and informal learning, searching, information-seeking, information uses, knowledge building and sharing, and instruction;
  • Impacts on the nature of teaching and learning, including possibilities, perils, and tradeoffs, in light of social media and ed-tech platforms’ ability to cross boundaries given organizations’ uses/exploitations of user data and algorithms to increase engagement;
  • Tensions between self-directed or informal learning on social media and how data-driven algorithms may direct or manipulate users’ experiences or behaviors. 


Guest Editors

Christine Greenhow,
Professor of Educational Psychology and Educational Technology, Michigan State University

K. Bret Staudt Willet,
Assistant Professor of Instructional Systems and Learning Technologies, Florida State University

Jeffrey P. Carpenter,
Professor of Education, Elon University


Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available by clicking the button below:

Submit your paper here!

Author guidelines must be strictly followed.  

Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 

Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Important Dates:

First, we invite submissions of a 250-300 word abstract by September 15, 2023. Email abstracts to Dr. Christine Greenhow ([email protected]) by the deadline. From that set, we will invite up to 15 authors to submit a full article, with a deadline of December 15, 2023.
All submissions must include the author(s) name, job title, institutional affiliation, email address (that is checked regularly) and a structured abstract. 

Abstracts should be clearly and concisely written and include the following:
●    An introduction of one or two sentences stating the purpose of the research (or conceptual article) and educational context; e.g. undergraduate; high school; pre-school, all levels etc.
●    For empirical reports, a brief summary of the research design/methodology/approach.
●    A summary of the anticipated outcomes/preliminary findings and an indication of their strength and significance
●    Concise conclusions and implications in two or three sentences. What new insights does this research provide? What is its unique and significant contribution to the field? How is it relevant for a diverse international audience?

Please send the editors any questions. Those invited to submit a full paper must follow the author guidelines.

Guest Editor Biographies

Dr. Christine Greenhow (she/her/hers) is a Professor in Educational Psychology and Educational Technology at Michigan State University in the United States. She studies online education, learning and teaching with social media, the design of technology-mediated learning environments, ethical challenges of artificial intelligence in education, and changes in scholarship practices with new media. Dr. Greenhow earned her doctorate at Harvard University and completed postdoctoral work at the Yale Information Society Project and the University of Minnesota. She is the recipient of several awards including the Outstanding Post-doctoral Scholar Award from the University of Minnesota, the Early Career Award from the American Educational Research Association’s learning and teaching division, and the 2018 Teacher-Scholar Award from Michigan State University. She has guest edited numerous special issues for top educational research journals such as Educational Psychologist, British Journal of Educational Technology, Computers in Human Behavior, Teachers College Record, American Journal of Education and more. (More information at: http://www.cgreenhow.org).

Dr. K. Bret Staudt Willet (he/him/his) is an Assistant Professor of Instructional Systems & Learning Technologies at Florida State University. His research investigates self-directed learning, a subset of informal and networked learning; he is fascinated by how people figure things out on their own. Dr. Staudt Willet is interested in how self-directed learners navigate the affordances and constraints of social connections through the internet and exploration through games. He frequently investigates self-directed learning with the tools of educational data science, including learning analytics, social network analysis, discourse analysis, natural language processing, and educational data mining. (More information at: https://bretsw.com/). 

Dr. Jeffrey P. Carpenter (he/him/his) is a Professor of Education and Director of the Elon Teaching Fellows program in the Dr. Jo Watts Williams School of Education at Elon University in the United States. He was a high school English and ESOL teacher for 10 years in Japan, Honduras, and the United States before moving into teacher education. His research primarily focuses on educators’ self-directed professional learning via social media platforms and in other learning spaces. To date, Dr. Carpenter has published more than 60 articles in peer-reviewed journals, and has collaborated with researchers from Spain, Germany, New Zealand, China, Australia, England, and Norway. (More information at: https://www.elon.edu/u/directory/profile/?user=jcarpenter13)



Akgun, S., & Greenhow, C. (2022). Artificial intelligence in education: Addressing ethical challenges in K-12 settings. AI and Ethics, 2, 431-440. https://doi.org/10.1007/s43681-021-00096-7
Archambault, L., Shelton, C., & Harris, L. M. (2021). Teachers beware and vet with care: Online educational marketplaces. Phi Delta Kappan, 102(8), 40-44.
Carpenter, J. P., Shelton, C. C., & Schroeder, S. E. (2022). The education influencer: A new player in the educator professional landscape. Journal of Research on Technology in Education. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2022.2030267
Carpenter, J. P., & Staudt Willet, K. B. (2021). The teachers’ lounge and the debate hall: Anonymous self-directed learning in two teaching-related subreddits. Teaching and Teacher Education, 104, 103371. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tate.2021.103371
Chapman, A. & Greenhow, C. (2021). Applying a critical lens to teachers’ use of social media for civic education. Contemporary Issues in Technology and Teacher Education, 21(2).
Fox, A. & Bird, T. (2017). The challenge to professionals of using social media: teachers in England negotiating personal-professional identities. Education and Information Technologies, 22(2), 647–675. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10639-015-9442-0
Galvin, S. & Greenhow, C. (2020). Writing on social media: A review of research in the high school classroom. TechTrends, 64 (57-69). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-019-00428-9
Greenhalgh, S. P., & Koehler, M. J. (2017). 28 days later: Twitter hashtags as “just in time” teacher professional development. TechTrends, 61, 273–281. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11528-016-0142-4
Greenhow, C., & Burton, L. (2011). Help from my “Friends:” Social capital in the social network sites of low-income high school students. Journal of Educational Computing Research, 45(2), 223-245.
Greenhow, C., & Chapman, A. (2020). Social distancing meet social media: Digital tools for connecting students, teachers, and citizens in an emergency. Information and Learning Sciences, 121(5/6), 341-352. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0134
Greenhow, C., & Galvin, S. (2020). Teaching with social media: Evidence-based strategies for making remote higher education less remote. Information and Learning Sciences, 121(7/8), 513-524. https://doi.org/10.1108/ILS-04-2020-0138
Greenhow, C., Galvin, S., & Staudt Willet, K.B. (2021). Inquiring tweets want to know: #Edchat supports for #remoteteaching during COVID-19. British Journal of Educational Technology, 52(4), 1434-1454. https://doi.org/10.1111/bjet.13097
Greenhow, C., Graham, C. R., & Koehler, M. J. (2022). Foundations of online learning: Challenges and opportunities. Educational Psychologist, 57(4), 131-147. https://doi.org/10.1080/00461520.2022.2090364
Greenhow, C., Lewin, C., & Staudt Willet, K. B. (2021). Response to Covid-19 across two countries: Critical examination of digital pedagogy adoption. Technology, Pedagogy and Education, 30(1), 7-25. https://doi.org/10.1080/1475939X.2020.1866654
Greenhow, C., Lewin, C. & Staudt Willet, K.B. (2023). Teachers without borders: Professional learning spanning social media, place and time. Learning, Media & Technology. https://doi.org/10.1080/17439884.2023.2209326
Krutka, D., Manca, S., Galvin, S., Greenhow, C., Koehler, M. & Askari, E. (2019). Teaching “against” social media: Confronting problems of profit in the curriculum. Teachers College Record, 121(14), 1-42.
Li, J. & Greenhow, C. (2015). Scholars and social media: Tweeting in the conference backchannel for professional learning. Education Media International, 52(1), 1-14.
Marich, H., Brandon, D., Greenhow, C., & Hartman, D. (2021). Eight tweeters tweeting: The writing processes of second graders’ composing with social media. Elementary School Journal, 122(1), 26-56. https://doi.org/10.1086/715481
Mazer, J.P. , Murphy, R.E. & Simonds, C.J. (2009). The effects of teacher self-disclosure via Facebook on teacher credibility. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 175–183.
Selwyn, N., Nemorin, S., & Johnson, N. (2017). High-tech, hard work: An investigation of teachers’ work in the digital age. Learning, Media and Technology, 42(4), 390-405.
Staudt Willet, K. B. (2019). Revisiting how and why educators use Twitter: Tweet types and purposes in #Edchat. Journal of Research on Technology in Education, 51(3), 273-289. https://doi.org/10.1080/15391523.2019.1611507
Staudt Willet, K. B. (2023). Early career teachers’ expansion of professional learning networks with social media. Professional Development in Education. https://doi.org/10.1080/19415257.2023.2178481


Key Dates



Submission Due

Dec. 15, 2023

First Reviews Completed

Jan. 25, 2024

First Revisions Due (as needed)

March 15, 2024

Second Reviews Completed (as needed)

April 15, 2024

Second Revisions Due (as needed)

May 8, 2024

Publication of Issue

Sept/Oct., 2024