The most popular site on the Internet can be leveraged in the classroom in engaging and useful ways.
Post collaboratively written with guest author Heather Green.
Facebook has become such a ubiquitous part of our lives that it has evolved to be much more than a way to find out what happened to that guy you had Bio with back in high school or to share pictures of your baby. Many people use Facebook to communicate and network with both friends and professional colleagues, and to learn about products, services, organizations and events.
Facebook is also a handy tool for teachers. Since so many students in High School and college are now Facebook natives, it makes sense to use the social network to connect with students and offer them a new way to learn and access learning content. If you are a teacher with a personal Facebook account, it is advised that you create a professional Facebook account (you'll need a separate email address in order to do this), to keep your teaching related uses of tool entirely separate from your personal account. Students should consider doing the same (they could use their school email for the new account and associate their personal account with a personal email address).
Here are a few ideas for incorporating Facebook into lesson plans and course work:
Create Fictitious Profiles or Fan Pages
Who among us did not have to do a biography report on a famous author or historical figure? Think about how much more fun that project would have been if you could have created a Facebook fan page or profile for that person instead.
Teachers of all subjects can use this idea to help their students learn more about significant figures in the field. Students can create complete pages for their figures, including biographical information, “Likes”, photos, and even status updates to show they have a thorough understanding of the material. Check out the post, “Facebook Summit 2011, an Excellent Academic Use of the Popular Internet App” for a great example of this approach.
Conduct Surveys or Opinion Polls
Classes that study social studies, media, film, religion, politics, and more can make good use of the social connections on Facebook to conduct surveys and opinion polls for research. Want to study family traditions? Conduct a poll amongst friends. Want to discuss cultural beliefs? Host a survey on the network. The Facebook Questions feature allows you to do this.
Of course, some surveys or polls may be limited based on how many people students are able to reach through the network. However, the exercise will offer some insights, and it can also teach students about concepts such as the scientific method and statistics (based on instructions for conducting proper surveys).
Create a Group specific to your course/class
A Facebook group is a great way to leverage the power and popularity of this application to distribute learning content and create a central place for communication for a course or class. Check out this YouTube videos to learn more about how to do this: “Setting Up a Facebook Group for Your Class”. You might also want to check out “The Basics of a Facebook Page for Educators”.
Tap into information about specific topics
Chances are there are some groups and pages out there that are focused on issues relevant to your course. Type the name of your academic subject in Facebook's search window and you'll automatically get a list of related content. For example, type “Algebra” and you'll get Wikipedia's definition, but you'll also get a handful of pages with related focuses such as books, ‘Interest', Groups, and more. Get creative and the possibilities are unlimited. Teaching Social Sciences? Try a search for “2012 presidential election”.
Teach students to differentiate real news from hype and hysteria
In many ways, Facebook is like a giant game of telephone. People sometimes hear about news, events, and products on Facebook first. Of course, rumors have a way of going viral before misinformation is corrected, and there is a challenge here to be able to differentiate legitimate information from assumptions, gossip, hype, etc. There is opportunity here to leverage this in a critical thinking context. For example, students can search other sources to validate information they come across in Facebook. The way news spreads on Facebook also offers a unique opportunity for study by students of journalism or mass media.
Facebook offers many opportunities for use in the classroom. However, its applications may not always be obvious, and some creative thinking is required. Try a few of these strategies or adapt them for the unique needs of your classroom.
Have you used Facebook to teach in the classroom? Share your thoughts for lessons and applications in the comments!
Heather Green is a mom, freelance writer, pet lover and the resident blogger for OnlineNursingDegrees.org, a free informational website offering tips and advice about physical therapy aide programs and healthcare administration degrees.