Using Facebook as a teaching tool

It seems like everyone has a Facebook page; kids, cats, my grandpa, I even know a stuffed animal with a Facebook page.  When it comes to Facebook and the field of education, I hear mostly negatives.  In fact, I am extremely cautious of who I friend when it comes to co-workers and parents of students.  I have heard how Twitter can be used as a teaching tool.  Somehow, it was difficult for me to see how that could be the case with Facebook.  How would it work?  How would you protect your privacy and the privacy of the students?

First of all, you can change the privacy settings and create separate classroom Facebook pages for the class.  Professor Gideon Burton in his British Literary class created a class page for students to add a paragraph after each reading on the subject.  The material the students added to the page would be discussed in the next class.  Creating a class page is a good way to reach students.  Students are already on Facebook.  They can even access it by phone.  They may even be able to communicate their opinions better.  Writing a response on a Facebook page may “feel” less intimidating and less like homework than writing an essay.

Unfortunately, using Facebook can be difficult in schools.  Many schools have this page blocked.  Still, there are many possibilities for education using Facebook.  I know as an educator in the Minneapolis public schools, teachers can unblock a page for class use.  Students with internet access can also access the class page from home.

Students can participate in polls, and follow news feeds. It can be a way to encourage and praise students.  Teachers can post encouraging quotes.  It can be a way to communicate classroom information.  It can be a way for teachers to share websites and articles that interest them.  Reaching students this way, especially those who spend most of their time on social media sites, is meeting them where they are at.  Social media, like Facebook, is our students’ natural way of learning and communicating.

One way Facebook is very helpful for teachers of younger students, is as a way to communicate with parents.  Most parents have Facebook pages.  Teachers can create a class page and feature lessons being taught, news and upcoming events in the class.  Parents can communicate using the class page through a private message or post.  It is more efficient than a separate blog and email.  Many parents check their Facebook page, just like their kids, at night.

Facebook and other social media are not going anywhere.  Students will continue to check and recheck these sites.  They will spend a large part of their day on these sites.  If students are already going to be on social media sites, doesn’t it make sense to educate them at them at these sites too?  It seems like a perfect opportunity to me.

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