FH2: Social Media Connect:Disconnect

What we saw at the hack – a report of the day 


Social media platforms and practices and the ways in which they can support, transform or enhance what and how we teach and learn are becoming alternately controversial, polarising and frequently misunderstood and misused or banal, taken for granted and dismissed as trivial.  The results of these debates can sometimes end in spurious and ill-informed bans of social media engagement, the creation of poorly created safe or unsafe spaces and the delivery of at best reactive and at worst reactionary programmes of skills development around identity, social media use and the dangers of revealing that little bit too much about yourself.

Part rooted in digital literacy, part in disciplines and embedded in the way we engage in teaching and learning in the modern age, debates around social media and how we use it has become another way to veil conversations about people and how complicated relationship building can be.  Social media use has become the lightning rod for debates around authenticity, reliability, exchange, professionalism, realness and the decline and fall of western civilisation*.    * one of those may be hyperbole

What is clear is that social media, when its context is expanded past the simplistic assertions that it is all just Twitter and Facebook, represents and facilitates a complex array of practices, acts, processes and communications.  Sometimes lost in the shouted insults of fake news and stranger danger is the capacity of social media to engage in emancipatory and educational processes such as making, sharing, learning, identity formation and expression, community building, digital citizenship and creativity.  

So, we came up with Future Happens 2 – Social Media Connect:Disconnect.  The aim of this hack event is to bring people together to work out how we can collectively change the discourse around social media in higher education and to empower our institutions, our teachers and our students to actively reshape teaching and learning through and with social media. What are the principles for how education should use social media?  What are the challenges, barriers, myths and strongly held beliefs about social media and education and how do smash them, change them, embrace them or ignore them? How do we embrace what social media can and does do in for our learners, for us, for our institutions and for society as a whole to make our education better?  

Welcome to the changehack

A changehack is a way of engaging with staff, students and the community. A changehack is about making change happen, coming up with the innovative and workable solutions and ideas.  Building on the practices of a hack which seek to collectively solve and ‘nut out’ technology problems, a changehack uses similar principles of time-limited engagements, specific rules of participation and a casual but slightly pressured environment of crowdsourcing.  A changehack can bring together people into a learning community to collectively solve educational and organisational problems.

Being there and taking part

What we want from Future Happens 2 is a form of radical pragmatism. You are in the room, because you are the institution, you are the senior management, you are the experts, you are the teachers and you are the students.  At the end of the hack we want to have something that we all can use in our own institutions, classes, courses and lives.  What does this look like? We don’t know yet! That’s what the hack is for! What we want to do is move away from the reactive and develop proactive and modern educational ideas and solutions for people teaching people how and why to use social media and for learners teaching us how social media will shape their lives and careers.

We have chosen 4 scenarios in which stories, ideas, principles and radical innovations can emerge.  What is important to remember is that you have the capacity to make change happen.  You are committed to doing good teaching and learning.  You don’t use social media in education because it is fun to do or because it is “cool”, you do it because it makes for good, challenging and transformative education.  Each scenario will challenge you in different ways to think about social media and how you use it.  What should emerge is a series of stories that lead to the development of a toolkit if you will that can be shared with the entire sector.

We would like to invite you to join us at Future Happens 2. You are invited to this event to become part of the solution.  This is not a talk-fest.  This is not a place to moan.  This is a space for us collectively to shape the debate in our institutions.  This is a chance to hack the solution to our shared problem. And to break bread, pizza slices (and beer) with people who have a shared intention to be a part of the conversation.


The face-to-face event took place on the 5th May 2017