This paper deploys notions of emergence, connections, and designs for learning to conceptualize high school students’ interactions when using online social media as a learning environment. It makes links to chaos and complexity theories and to fractal patterns as it reports on a part of the first author’s action research study, conducted while she was a teacher working in an Australian public high school and completing her PhD. The study investigates the use of a Ning online social network as a learning environment shared by seven classes, and it examines students’ reactions and online activity while using a range of social media and Web 2.0 tools.
The authors use Graham Nuthall’s (2007) “lens on learning” to explore the social processes and culture of this shared online classroom. The paper uses his extensive body of research and analyses of classroom learning processes to conceptualize and analyze data throughout the action research cycle. It discusses the pedagogical implications that arise from the use of social media and, in so doing, challenges traditional models of teaching and learning.