Social Networking Tools in the Multimodal Classroom

Here is a brief overview of social networking tools I have used in my classes this past year.



flickr is an online photo-hosting site similar to Photobucket or Picasa. I prefer flickr because it offers a number of free features and the possibility of adding Creative Commons licenses to uploaded photos.


> Free accounts (upload limits: 2 videos and 100MB worth of photos each calendar month)

> Option to organize photos into sets. These sets can be viewed as a slideshow and slideshows can be embedded in outside blogs/websites (more info).

> Option to add notes to photos. These notes appear when you hover over the photo. Visit one of my former student’s slide shows to see how Heather used notes on her photos.

> Tagging (including geotagging)

> Free online photo editor, called picnik

>Creative Commons licensing (more info)

> Upload photos via browser, desktop or mobile apps


> Not open source/for profit (flickr is owned by yahoo)

>Interface takes a while to get used to

> Student projects are not hosted on a Tech server


> Set aside one class meeting during which students set up their flickr accounts and familiarize themselves with the interface

>Pass out list on which students write down their usernames (several of my students forgot their usernames)

> Require students to attach photos to their T-square assignment submission so they aren’t lost in case the student decides to delete his/her flickr account

Take a tour of flickr’s features here

Visit my Visual Essay assignment to see assignment guidelines and sample student projects.


Slideshare offers online hosting for “slide casts.” A slide cast is slide show combined with a podcast. For example, students can upload a Power Point or Keynote presentation and synch it with a recording of their voiceover or with music.

View a slidecast created by Jeff Bair, a student in my Media/Technology/Everyday Life class:

[slideshare id=2397776&doc=visualessay-091101150426-phpapp01]

Jeff created this slideshare for the audio-visual essay assignment. Download the assignment here.


> Free account

> Online synching of images and audio via built-in editor (much easier than trying to embed audio into Power Point)

> Possibility of embedding slide casts in external blogs/websites


> For profit

> Student projects are not hosted on a Tech server

> MP3 files need to be hosted on a different server (Slideshare will not host them)

Same as for flickr


prezi is an excellent alternative when you are tired of yet another Power Point presentation consisting of bullet-point lists.

Prezi is a “zooming presentation editor” that offers the possibility of creating dynamic, multimedia, and non-linear presentations.

Learn how prezi works by watching this tutorial:

[prezi width=’600′ height=’400′][/prezi]


> Free accounts. Anyone who has an .edu mailing address can register for an edu account that offers more features than a free account (more info)

> Possibility of embedding prezis in external blogs/websites

> Non-linear presentation possibilites: Since the entire presentation is mapped out onto one canvas, viewers can find their own paths. Or they can follow a path you create

> Seamless integration of images, video files, and Youtube videos

> Possibility to use existing prezis as templates


> Easy-to-learn interface, but conceptualizing presentations in a non-linear format takes a while to learn (I would give students at least two weeks to familiarize themselves with prezi)

> Possibility to use existing prezis as templates: clarify in assignment guidelines in how far students are allowed to use existing prezis as basis for their own presentations

Further Reading

For more digital pedagogy insights, feel free to browse my booksmarks on delicious. I also recommend The Chronicle‘s ProfHacker column for great links and advice on incorporating digital media tools into the classroom and into your own workflow.

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Melanie Kohnen

About Melanie Kohnen

Melanie E.S. Kohnen is a Marion L. Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the School of Literature, Communication and Culture. She received her Ph.D. from the Department of American Civilization at Brown University in 2010. Her research focuses on television, film, and new media studies with an emphasis on how intersecting discourses of race and sexuality shape media content, form, and reception.
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