As we continue our study of social media and how it’s being used to educate, we turn our focus to Facebook. Facebook was founded by a student at Harvard University and then spread to all Ivy League Universities, then of course to the whole world, with more than 100 millions users worldwide.
It was first used as a tool to help students, faculty, and staff to get to know other people on campus. Now it’s used to do the same on the Internet campus. Users create a profile and publish it to other friends, add them, and send creative messages to one another.
Teaching and Learning on Facebook
Even as a purely social activity, Facebook has the potential to teach students about appropriate citizenship in the online world. Similar to other social media applications, Facebook highlights the importance of creating content over simply consuming it. By encouraging the student to build creative profiles, Facebook allows them to express themselves, communicate, and highlight their talents and experience.
Facebook has become popular with millions of college students, drawing them into an online world where they spend hours browsing profiles, meeting new people, and exploring relationships. This creates an opportunity for educators to better understand the compelling elements of social networking and incorporate those elements into teaching and learning.
Facebook at School
Dr. Jen Golbeck from Maryland’s iSchool uses Facebook in her classes to help students to get to know one another better. She first creates a group for all of her students to join. She has discovered that faculty gets a chance to learn the names of students quickly and can get better insight on their major and general interests. She feels that this form of communication has helped students to feel more comfortable engaging in discussion with professors.
Over at Bucknell University, Alf Siewers, assistant professor of English, also uses Facebook in the classroom. He uses Facebook for his course pages instead of Blackboard. He found that his students felt more engaged and the content to be more intuitive.
He creates a Facebook group for each course and uses the News feature to post assignments. He also uses the discussion boards, which allow students to post reading responses and comment on each other’s thoughts. As the groups are set up to be private, only those who enrolled in the class can see what is posted.
As with any online social networking site, Facebook has its problems. Some educational professionals look at Facebook as a tool of isolationism. Can students really integrate into a real-life social structure, especially when entering college, if the majority of their past interactions have been online, with very little personal interaction? Then again, this is the same argument posited as online gaming becomes more realistic, when Second Life came out, and when every new generation of video game console is released.
The other negative aspect is also ubiquitous concerning social networking. Many kids — as well as adults — don’t pay that much attention to the information they post online. Depending on the information, this can lead to classroom or workplace embarrassment, climb the ladder to loss of a job or scholarship, and even lead to identity theft and victimization of minors. To avoid these pitfalls, adults must be responsible for their kids and use common sense themselves when posting.
I’m sure many of you use Facebook to help educate either at school or in the workplace. How do you use Facebook? Are there successes or failures you’d like to share? We’d love to hear from you.
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