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Facebook as an Instructional Technology Tool

by Kelly Walsh on August 11, 2010

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Can the wildly popular social network be used constructively in the classroom? This student’s story says it can.

Yesterday, student Kristen Nicole Cardon submitted a comment in response to my post 5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies in which she explained how she used Facebook in a course she took. I really appreciated her well stated discussion of how Facebook was used in the course and how the approach succeeded (slightly edited in the following excerpt).

“In my British Literary History course last winter semester, my professor created a class facebook group which we all joined.  We’d finish our reading for class and then get online and write a paragraph about what we’d read, focusing our comments on the specific course aims that my professor had created for the class.  We would then go to class where my professor would note the ways in which we’d covered the material well and he’d teach anything we missed as well as anything else he wanted us to know.

This way of conducting class was effective because:

1. We were socially motivated to complete the reading and  contribute to the online discussion.

2. We didn’t spend class time going over that which we already understood.

3. We were able to benefit from insights from peers who generally don’t participate in class discussion.

4. We all learned to focus the vast amount of reading required for such a course to the specific course aims of our professor.

5. Through contributions from our classmates, we understood how each distinct text related to the others and to the class focus, and so on.

We shouldn’t discount facebook when it has proven to be a worthwhile classroom tool.  I should also note that a class facebook group doesn’t require the professor or students to “friend” each other to participate.”

So Facebook was basically used to facilitate a discussion group, which can certainly be done with an LMS like Blackboard or Moodle or with various other tools, but the nice thing about Facebook is that many students are already familiar and comfortable with it – it’s a “known entity” to them. Another positive thing, which addressed a concern of mine in this environment, was that there was a ‘wall’ between this academic use and the personal uses students have for the tool – by being in the group you didn’t have to friend anyone or expose your personal information.

There are so many ways in which today’s Internet based tools can play a creative, constructive role in the educational process … even those tools that we shy away from because they seem more like ‘pop culture’ throw-aways than academic tools. Thanks, Kristen, for sharing your story.

Kristen blogs at technologyinexile.blogspot.com, stop by and visit to learn more about her experiences with Facebook in an educational setting, and more.

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies
10 Internet Technologies that Educators Should Be Informed About
100 Ways to Teach With Twitter
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About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer, and an adjunct faculty member, at The College of Westchester in White Plains, NY and is the founder and author of EmergingEdTech.com. As an education technology advocate, he frequently delivers presentations on a variety of related topics at schools and conferences across the U.S. Walsh is also an author, and online educator, periodically running Flipped Class Workshops online. His latest eBook, the Flipped Class Workshop in a Book was published in September, 2013 and is available here. In his spare time Walsh also writes, records, and performs original (and cover) songs (look for "K. Walsh" on iTunes or Amazon.com or check out his original song videos on here on YouTube ).

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{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

winfield westlake(butch) May 29, 2013 at 12:56 pm

Amazing article . I will be using FB/TW. in 2 of my classes this summer. We will be simulating international businesses within various cultural settings. 90% of my students for the summer sem(s) are from the DR. We ,through an heuristic exercise, will be exploring
various cultures for marketing in and building ethnocentristic free business relations posting on our own facebook and twitter pages for our sims.

Butch

Juanita September 22, 2012 at 12:49 am

I do not feel that it is appropriate for me to use Facebook to post my profile regarding my education on Facebook. I rather use moodle or blackboard instead for educational purpose only. I use Facebook to see and talk to friends.

Anne June 19, 2012 at 8:30 pm

There are people who are not on facebook and don’t want to be on facebook. As a relatively late joiner, myself, I completely understand that. I am not willing to force people to join facebook for my class. We have Blackboard (God help us), so I would use that if I wanted to have discussions or blogs.

Kimberly Nunn June 8, 2012 at 11:23 am

After reading this information I started thinking about all of the private information that I have shared on my Moodle profile. It makes me feel uncomfortable. Even though I have had some bad experiences with Facebook; I would feel safer using it as an educational tool than I do with Moodle and some of the other programs. I agree with the writer gave seven good examples of why we should be using Facebook as an educational tool and I agree with them all.

K. Walsh December 7, 2010 at 10:59 am

Thanks Parker –

Edmodo is certainly worth knowing about and considering. I blogged about it in this post early last year: http://www.emergingedtech.com/2009/05/collaboration-brainstorming-tools-part-3/. Glad to hear it’s gaining more functionality and admirers! Thanks for commenting about it.

Parker Johnson December 6, 2010 at 10:12 am

I use Edmodo with some of my kids/colleagues for collaboration and communication. I find it to be a little more “closed” and a school type network than that of Facebook or Twitter. Both those environments are to tough to manage everything where as Edmodo has many more administrator rights. They have done some studies as well that you can view on their “Help” page. I recommend checking it out for all of you!

David Mach August 22, 2010 at 4:03 pm

As a nontenured teacher, I am growing more and more concerned about helping educators protect themselves, their students, and their careers by CAREFULLY monitoring what they post online. This is especially true after reading an article by the CEO of Google voicing his fear for the FaceBook generation http://tinyurl.com/2djvmzh. Yikes!

I believe your readers might benefit from reading “Ten Commandments for Teachers on the Web” http://tinyurl.com/23why4b

K. Walsh August 12, 2010 at 7:36 pm

Hi Gideon!

Thanks so much for contributing to this dialogue! Your use of Facebook is a great example of how thoughtful integration of (even highly popular and social) Internet apps can help educators deliver engaging instructional processes that enhance learning. Your points in your comment are excellent – I also envision the potential for increasing student uses of these types of tools as a core part of course delivery and participation.

When a student blogs, it requires multiple skills that go beyond pencil-to-paper; when a student develops and delivers a “report” using Slideshare, or a self-produced video, or a scrolling multimedia Vuvox presentation, they’ve gone so far beyond the “X-page-double-spaced” reports of our youth.

I hope you’ll stay in touch and share your experiences with Instructure (http://www.instructure.com).

K. Walsh August 12, 2010 at 6:55 pm

Thank you Kristen for your informative, well written comments, and these great, insightful follow up comments! This has already been a topic that has generated a high level of interest – I’m looking forward to the continued dialogue that flows from it.

Gideon Burton August 12, 2010 at 6:32 pm

I was delighted to see this subject discussed and that my student Kristen contributed to your blog. I’ve been using facebook in all my college courses since I first discussed it on my Academic Evolution podcast (http://www.academicevolution.com/2009/01/podcast-002.html). I’ve learned a lot since then, due to good students like Kristen helping figure out what does or does not work using this popular social networking service. Here’s a link to the discussion area of a recent facebook course page: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=112449432128312&v=app_2373072738&ref=ts

Facebook is easy for students to work into their routine since they are all usually on there already, but its discussion topics don’t thread conversations as well as dedicated forum tools. Still, I would never return to a walled LMS like Blackboard again. Now that several generations of my students have discussed the same topics on facebook pages, they can read, refer to, and build upon earlier students’ insights.

The drawback to a course-centered tool is that students aren’t really invested in it once the course is over. That’s why I’m moving to having students use individual blogs as ways to document their reading, research, and interaction. They won’t all continue these, but it trains them nevertheless in online literacy and in developing a sense of constructing their own learning.

For the coming semester I plan to employ Instructure (http://www.instructure.com), an attractive, flexible, and open course management system (in tandem with student blogs).

I’m sure different systems accommodate different subjects, schooling levels, etc.

Kristen Nicole August 12, 2010 at 1:13 pm

I’d like to add a few more advantages that may (or may not) be unique to facebook: Our class facebook group facilitated easy communication among class members. Several times I was able to give notes to classmates who missed class through facebook messaging, and I organized a group review for our final with a wall post. The facebook group was also a perfect place to share pictures, videos, and links relevant to our reading.

I might add a negative aspect of the facebook group as well–one of my classmates told me that she wasted a lot more time browsing facebook when she was regularly logging in for class than when she used it solely for social networking.

Thanks for posting my comment!

Mark Barnes August 12, 2010 at 8:39 am

Thanks for this thoughtful post. I couldn’t agree more. I only wish I could convince my administration to unblock Facebook on our district servers.

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