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Two education professors invest efforts in social media research

Marlynn Griffin, Cordelia Zinskie
Marlynn Griffin, Ph.D. (left), and Cordelia Zinskie, Ed.D, publish first book on social media influences on education.

Professors Marlynn Griffin, Ph.D., and Cordelia Zinskie, Ed.D., have served in the College of Education at Georgia Southern University for over 28 years. This year, the pair published their first edited book, Social Media: Influences on Education.

“We were invited to contribute a volume to a book series and since we are currently conducting research on a variety of topics centered on social media and education — more topics than we can delve into — this seemed like a great opportunity to invite others to work with us to explore these topics in more depth,” said Griffin.

Griffin, a professor of educational psychology, serves as the pre-professional block coordinator for students entering the undergraduate teacher preparation programs at the University. Zinskie is a professor of educational research and serves as the educational research coordinator and program director of the M.Ed. in Evaluation, Assessment, Research, and Learning. The pair found a common interest in researching social media in relation to teacher candidates.

In 2020, Griffin and Zinskie co-authored “Fun and Friendly or Wild and Offensive? Preservice Teachers’ Use of and Image Conveyed by Social Media.” The article was well received by the academic community as a resource on the potential impact of social media postings on future employment of teachers.

“To my knowledge, we are really the only people who are currently focusing on the e-professionalism aspect as it relates to teacher education,” said Zinskie. “In fact, many of the e-professionalism articles that have been published are from the health and medical fields in relation to their work with patients and confidentiality.”

When a colleague asked if Griffin would like to contribute to a book series, the pair decided to continue their efforts in social media. Serving as co-editors of the book, Griffin and Zinskie received 55 proposals that they culled into 10 chapters focusing on four themes: influences on youth and college students; use for professional development; higher education learning; and social justice and activism.

“It’s exciting to have work from brand new faculty, as well as established and international scholars,” said Griffin. “We have fellow colleagues from Georgia Southern who were included as well.”

The College’s Terry Diamanduros, Ph.D., Elizabeth Downs, Ph.D., and Bryan Griffin, Ph.D., are included in the publication. Emily Krauss, graduate student in the College’s Ed.S. School Psychology program, also contributed to the publication as the graduate assistant for Griffin and Zinskie.

“Social media evolves so quickly that you worry about being out of date by the time you publish, but I think these topics will remain relevant,” said Zinskie. “Furthermore, while some research tends to focus solely on the negative aspects of social media, there are also a lot of positive uses of social media in education. Our book covers a full spectrum of uses.”

Continued research on social media

Efforts to examine impacts of social media on teacher candidates still continue as Griffin and Zinskie, with the help of Krauss, have collected over 300 media artifacts addressing teachers who have been disciplined or terminated from their positions due to social media incidents. With the increase of online learning platforms, they recently decided to gather additional articles describing inappropriate behaviors that may have occurred during distance learning.

“I started getting into social media research almost 10 years ago,” said Griffin. “We started to have issues with students out in their field placements in the schools — photos, comments, what others post, etc. Students are always surprised that employers and others are looking them up on social media. They will tell me that they have their privacy settings on, but that doesn’t mean what you do will not get back to us through screenshots, sharing or others telling us about what they have seen on your social accounts.”

According to, about 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring.

“Some recommend that teacher candidates have professional accounts and personal accounts,” explained Zinskie. “We feel that is bad advice because nothing is really hidden. Even with privacy settings, it is out there somewhere and someone is going to see it.”

“People are scrutinizing what teachers do,” added Griffin. “There are higher stakes now on social media. When I was starting my career as a teacher, I would have had to purchase a billboard to put out the type of information that is now readily available with a simple click on social media accounts. It goes beyond common sense and really requires an active conscientiousness of what your digital footprint will say about you.”


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