Facebook In The Classroom. Seriously.

by Kelly Walsh on March 27, 2011

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Do Popular Social Networking Applications Have A Place In The Classroom? A Growing Number Of Educators Say ‘Yes’.

The post, “100 Ways To Teach With Twitter”, is one of the most consistently viewed article on this site. Similarly, “Facebook As An Instructional Technology Tool”, resulted in the 2nd most trafficked day here in 2010. While Facebook and Twitter are both hugely popular Internet tools, I still find myself a little surprised by the popularity of these posts, considering the academic perspective of this site. Many teachers, even those at online universities, are hesitant to use such popular tools, given their inherent risk of exposing students to inappropriate content.

Of course these are two very different types of tools, but they both have their place in the social networking sphere. Facebook’s place is at the top of the heap (as of this writing it is the second most popular site on the Internet, right behind Google), while Twitter defined the genre of ‘microblogging’ (but much of its use is also in a social networking context).

It appears that Twitter is more widely used in the classroom, based on the volume of articles about this topic that I have come across. One obvious reason for this difference is that Facebook is limited to ages 13 and over, while Twitter has no age restrictions. Facebook is also more likely to be restricted on school networks. Perhaps if teachers were more aware of how a Facebook page and profiles can be configured to provide an appropriate level of privacy for course work, they (and school administrators) might be more open to considering it’s use (more on that below). Of course, there are also other educational scenarios that lend themselves more readily to a tool like Facebook, such as online universities and online courses.

Here are a few of the examples of Facebook playing a productive role in the classroom that I have come across. I will be doing a presentation at Campus Technology 2011 in Boston this July about the use of popular social networking applications in the classroom and I will discuss examples like these, and others that I learn about in the coming months.

  • Professor Gideon Burton’s work with Facebook: I first learned about Professor Burton from student Kristen Nicole. She commented, “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.” I collaborated with Kristen to write this popular post about this experience, and Professor Burton later weighed in and commented. Click here to visit a Facebook discussion group for one of Professor Burton’s Early British Lit classes.
  • University of South Florida teacher uses Facebook in class: I recently came across this article about USF graduate student Alessandro Cesarano, who teaches a Beginning Spanish class, and uses Facebook for homework assignments and class discussions in lieu of Blackboard. Cesarano says, “I like the Facebook page better than Blackboard because students have more access to authentic cultural material, and I don’t have to waste class time teaching them how to use a new program because many of them already use Facebook.”
  • Texas Kindergarten Teacher communicating with Parents via Facebook: Kindergarten teacher Matt Gomez wrote a couple posts on his blog, mattgomez.posterous.com, about his use of Facebook as a tool to communicate with parents. In this post, he explained that he had, “been toying with the idea of the page for several months. The main reason is Facebook has 500 million+ users. This is a tool that most parents know how to use and use on a consistent basis. Why struggle to make parents visit your website or blog when you can meet them in a place they already visit online?” In this post, he provides some observations about how it worked out.
  • Classroom 2.0 Discussion Forum: This discussion thread has a number of comments from educators who have used Facebook in the educational setting, such as these comments from …
    • Jason Graham: “I’ve been using FaceBook with grade 1 …….yes grade 1. Most of the parents are on FB so its a convenient way to communicate with them, and they can send private messages as well. Most of the parents are busy on the go people who use their Blackberries and FB, Twitter etc to communicate. Its convenient for all. Plus it provides a digital record.”
    • Anne De Manser: “I use facebook with my students in several ways. I find it is a great way to provide positive role modelling in an online environment by making positive comments on their facebook walls and by providing them a window into the way my ‘public ‘ face looks online. It’s just another way of communicating and building relationships with our school community.”

Setting Up a Facebook Group for Your Class
If you wish to learn more about how best to configure things in Facebook for use in a course based application, here are a few resources that provide guidance.

First, there is this document (link no longer working – KW 2/20/12) from Elon University, which offers details on how to set up profiles and course content, following this basic approach:

  1. Create a teacher profile separate from your personal profile
  2. Ask  students to create a limited profile with controlled settings, and to friend your new teacher profile
  3. Create Lists & Groups for your classes
  4. The document then goes on to discuss how to use various Facebook tools as part of the instructional process

You may also want to watch these YouTube videos from “JayDsfsu“, which illustrate “The Basics of a Facebook Page for Educators“, “Privacy on Facebook for Educators“, “Setting Up a Facebook Group for Your Class“, and more.

Other ideas for using Facebook in the classroom
For those interested in giving Facebook a shot as part of their instructional process, here’s a few more sources of ideas about thing you might want to try:

ARE YOU USING FACEBOOK IN THE CLASSROOM? Please be sure to let us know about it! In the next few weeks we’ll continue this dialogue about Facebook, Twitter, and other social networking apps in the classroom, including some that are designed specifically for education. I’d love to hear, and share, your success story with these types of tools, so please don’t hesitate to reach out, either in a comment below, or through the contact page. Thanks!

Related Posts (if the above topic is of interest, you might want to check these out):
Facebook as an Instructional Technology Tool
5 Reasons Why Educators Need To Embrace Internet Technologies
100 Ways to Teach With Twitter

About 

Kelly Walsh is Chief Information Officer and a 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 Classroom 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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{ 28 comments… read them below or add one }

KTaylor April 30, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Hi Fellow Educators!
Believe it or not, I’m doing my doctoral dissertation on the Perceptions of Facebook by Community College Faculty. If you teach in the community college, and would like to be a part of my simple “survey monkey” questionnaire, please send an email to me at FacebookForTeachers@yahoo.com. Much appreciated!

Jack Hankin May 9, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Recently, the free website planetdiary.com (published by Pearson Ed) went live on both Facebook and Twitter. The weekly site includes reports on breaking science and environmental news & mysteries of interest to students in middle, high school, & college. The Facebook & Twitter launches are an attempt to “test the waters” of educationally sound social media despite the oft-cited barriers. They’re found at http://www.facebook.com/PlanetDiary and http://www.twitter.com/PlanetDiary.

K. Walsh April 2, 2012 at 10:39 am

Alexandria – Although Facebook is commonly viewed as a personal tool, as with many other technologies, it can be applied in a different context, and that is the spirit of this article. Once can create a Facebook account that is for use solely in this academic context and that you do not connect to anything or anyone else. This is fully within the control of the user.

Alexandria April 1, 2012 at 12:20 am

It has absolutely no place in an educational context. Believe it or not, there are still many teenagers and young adults who choose NOT to have a Facebook account for many reasons. Creating angst and exclusion for these people is not a wise thing to be doing. I for one, absolutely despise Facebook. I have used it, for a few years infact and made the decision to close it. Best thing I have done. Living in the real world and getting far away from Facebook is the best thing you can do. If there was ever a course that tried to integrate Facebook it would not be a wise move – think of everyone, just because some are on FB does not mean others who are not should be pressured into it and have to hear about the bloody thing in their daily lives.

Premi Mathew February 25, 2012 at 12:55 pm

I use FB as a learning tool for undergraduate students. I create a group for the course and make the classes for interactive,interesting and current. I found it bonds the students ,increases retention etc

Romesh Jain January 20, 2012 at 4:54 pm

I have not used Facebook so far and I do not think it would be very useful in teaching programming languages. Perhaps, its Classroom 2.0 Discussion Forum may be useful. If there are tools available to use in teaching Object-oriented Programming, I would be very much interested.

K. Walsh January 19, 2012 at 12:26 pm

Not sure off hand, but maybe some of these help resources might help you to find some clues as to what is causing this:
http://www.facebook.com/help/videos. Hope this helps!

Joanna Perry-Folino January 19, 2012 at 10:47 am

I just created a Facebook page for one of my classes for this semester. I wanted to record a greeting and tried using their video camera but it would not save the video. Any ideas why?

Richard Manigault January 19, 2012 at 2:06 am

I use Facebook to teach handbag design and construction online. I post assignments , students submit photos and videos of work and I grade it. I’m just learning how to rotate students in and out of the groups and graduate them. They are learning quicker and better then using the traditional website. I’m teaching over 60 students at a time.

alserty December 7, 2011 at 2:13 am

انا مدرس حاسب آلى فى مصر وباحث ماجستير وأحاول استخدام الفيس بوك فى تنمية مهارات البرمجة الشيئية للطلاب المرحلة الثانوية واريد المساعدة باحدث تطبيقات الفيس بوك التعليمية

[Translation via Google Translate: "I am a computer teacher and researcher in Egypt and I'm trying to use Facebook in the development of object-oriented programming skills for high school students and I want to help with the latest educational applications Facebook"]

Pam Honarvar November 13, 2011 at 2:04 pm

My high school uses facebook for clubs and some teachers use it in their classes for communicating with students. I do not currently use facebook in class but I am seriously considering it for our FBLA club and my classes to post assignments and due dates. I realize all students will not have access at home but so many do I think it will be a useful addition for my students.

Norma Bailey November 1, 2011 at 1:41 pm

At this point I have not used Facebook or Twitter in my classes. Facebook is blocked in our system, but students do get around it with proxies. My present experiences have been students getting on other students’ sites & changing information. I do think using Facebook would work better in college or online class settings where users are considered adults.

Tammy James Hunter October 28, 2011 at 10:15 pm

I currently use Facebook as a means of communication for my FBLA students. The Facebook page allows us to post meeting dates and times, in addition to other news and announcements.

Haynes October 25, 2011 at 10:04 am

At this time, I don’t think we need facebook in the k-12 classroom because students are vulnerable to alot online. Parents would need to be notified and some would not agree to it, hence alternate assignments.

Brian Nelson September 16, 2011 at 8:58 am

Although I agree that FB has potential as a collaborative tool for students in/out of the classroom and as communicative tool for parents using FB, I think we need to be very careful in endorsing a commercial social site for children of younger age. As educators start to use FB it is too often viewed as the “cutting edge tech” or a simpler solution. Middle school children (13-14) in particular may not be savvy enough with privacy controls, more subject to cyber-bulling and ill equipped to police there time.

Raphael August 30, 2011 at 6:32 am

I think everyone can agree that ideal studying conditions for a student would not include multitasking with Facebook chat. However, StudyBoost.com enables students to make, (what would usually be,) unproductive time slices into little bits of learning. Perhaps by integrating studying with Facebook, a student may then develop a habit that integrates learning into life?

Laura Ringer July 27, 2011 at 6:51 pm
Carla Valentim July 5, 2011 at 6:20 pm

At this time I find myself to do my master thesis on ICT in Education Sciences. The theme I’m developing is based on the use of digital educational resources in teaching physics and chemistry using facebook. The Facebook platform works as housing, communications and interaction. When you get a final analysis of my data I communicate. There is however a preliminary analysis on the interest and commitment and dedication of the the students during this study.

Premi Mathew June 26, 2011 at 10:06 am

I made a facebook group for the class and found that it

1. Interactive. It makes the course more interactive with the students getting more involved in the subject by posting links to interesting articles and videos on to the group page. It also gives the faculty a more concrete evidence of student participation. Not everyone is smart to participate in the class; this gives them a chance to impress the faculty.
2 More current. Students usually spend more time online than adults and tend to see the latest viral marketing campaigns online long before it makes its way to journals and magazines. They could post the link to the same on the group page and the whole class could benefit
3 More interesting. One video on ambush marketing for example could be more interesting than a one hour lecture on the topic. At the end of the semester the group page was a good source of such videos
4. Quicker responses. Students who have sudden queries about tests, assignments etc could quickly clear the same by posting it on the group page. Anyone could answer the query
5. Works as chalkboard. The faculty could use the group page to announce tests and assignments. Since many students have Facebook on their mobile urgent announcements could reach them faster than the chalkboard.
6. Builds bonds. It binds the students and the faculty and creates a community feeling. Although it may not be a good idea to accept friend requests.
7. Motivation. Announcements like -And the class topper is X. or the best presenter was Y could go a long way to motivate the class and create interest in the course.
8. Virtual textbook. At the end of the course all the links posted by the faculty and the students could be a valuable source of reference
9. Knowledge. The most important advantage is that the average student might be more aware of articles beyond the text book since the page will have a collection of interesting articles.
10 .Application of concepts. For some courses like consumer behavior which require application of concepts, students might find it more interesting to post the advertisement along with the concept on the page as soon as they see it instead of bring it to class and spending time loading it on the computer along with the viruses. It creates a competitive environment online where everyone tries to outdo the other.

amy619 June 23, 2011 at 1:21 pm

I must rethink my views on utilizing these tools in the classroom. I have always blown them off as only social sites, but after reading these posts and investigating the various ways to integrate FB and twitter into the curriculum, I have to admit I am amazed. What innovative ideas! My school district is currently debating whether to allow students access to FB during school hours without violating the technology code of ethics. The implementations discussed in this article and posts are definitely worth considering. The possibilities are extremely exciting!

Maureen Sheehan Paparellla June 12, 2011 at 12:58 am

The Monmouth University Information Technology Minor and Certificate Program Facebook site is a service provided to the public to assist students and faculty in learning current information regarding social, ethical, legal, and economic issues related to technology and the Internet. Students are encouraged to read a recent article from a popular media outlet and comment on the topic presented in the article. This acts as one type of formative assessment of students’ understanding of these issues, which are listed as one of the technology literacy university-wide learning objectives for technology literacy courses offered at the university and required of all students. In addition, the site assists students in maintaining a current level of understanding of these issues, as the information appears on their news feeds during the time they are using Facebook for as a social medium. Articles are posted to this site several times during the week by volunteer faculty and students who belong to the Monmouth University chapter of Upsilon Pi Epsilon, the only international honor society for the computing and information disciplines.

Al Wasco June 6, 2011 at 8:29 am

I’ve used FB in several of my community college classes and have been amazed at the amount of interested and activity this generated. It’s been especially useful for a class that meets only once a week, to keep the discusssion and work continuing during the time we’re NOT together. I’ll definitely be doing more of this:
http://www.awdsgn.com/dailyjournal/apr11/html/dailypg_040511.htm

Sheila Dymond May 31, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Wow! Fascinating to read all about the technology I have dismissed as frivolous. I must rethink my views of FB! Never mind all the amazing technology available for my kids! I am really excited to begin teaching in our new IPREP technology magnet next year with all the info close at hand in a community that is so open and willing to share experiences with a stranger!

Richard Cossette April 10, 2011 at 5:22 pm

Hello, I teach an integrated ELA/Social Studies course to our Advanced grade nine group. For two consecutive years the course has culminated in a “Facebook Summit”, whereby students must select a historical figure/leader and create a simulated Facebook persona for the duration of the summit. Over the course of the summit, our goal is to tackle the global issues our species currently faces. The basic notion is to simulate a UN or G8 convention, but with the greatest thinkers and leaders of all-time collaborating.

To this point, this has been by far the most rewarding experience I’ve had as a teacher and my students assure me that the same applies to them.

To check it out, just look up “AristotleBedford” on Facebook!

Mark Parsons April 1, 2011 at 6:42 am

I created a ‘page’ on Facebook as my professional identity. With a page, students don’t see the real me on Facebook. I use it only to post homework assignments and links. Students who like the page see my posts in their news feed. So long as I don’t ‘like’ the page myself, my personal Facebook is kept completely separate from the teacher me. Started with Twitter first, but migrated to FB as more students use it daily. And now, my FB posts go directly to my Twitter. My Twitter is embedded on my school webpage so I make one post to FB and it goes to Twitter and my school web page too!

K. Walsh March 28, 2011 at 7:27 am

Thanks Jennifer – I’ll be stopping by missralston.posterous.com and reading more about your use of Facebook! And thanks to “Df” for pointing out the grammatical error (I struggle with that one!).

Df March 27, 2011 at 9:06 pm

End of second paragraph, you mean its, not it’s; apostrophe error

Jennifer Ralston March 27, 2011 at 6:30 pm

I’ve been using facebook for a few months in my Kinder class. Got great inspiration from Matt Gomez. It has done more for my class, my parents, and me as an educator than I ever could have imagined. Read about it at missralston.posterous.com.

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