This is part of a series of reviews of websites, platforms, and social media sites. Some are useful for teachers in a SMART classroom (with a teacher-station computer, internet connection, and projector). Others lend themselves more to a lab where each student has her own computer. Hopefully these can help us communicate with our students, present information effectively, and encourage collaboration, feedback, and active participation. See our previous review of WordPress.
You might be most familiar with Facebook as the distraction that keeps pulling your students’ attention away from their work in computer labs or even on their phones. You also might also know Facebook as the distraction that keeps pulling you away from your own work as you’re supposed to be grading papers or lesson planning. It has a pretty bad reputation as being a procrastinator’s swirling vortex of material, with people going so far as to create apps that block it from computers for specified lengths of time so that they aren’t tempted to “like” their friend’s latest dinner pic when they’re supposed to be writing a term paper.
Setting aside that bad reputation for a moment, though, there are some creative ways to harness the usability and ubiquity of Facebook to be a classroom tool rather than a classroom menace.
1. “Friending” Your Students– Perhaps the most straightforward way to use Facebook as a classroom tool is to use it in place of (or in addition to) email as a means to communicate with students. Individual students can “friend” you, and then you will be able to contact them through Facebook’s standard means of communication. You could write on their walls or send them private messages.
Of course, “friending” a student can be a tricky situation. Some students are not going to feel comfortable sharing their personal accounts with teachers and vice versa. Likewise, it can put a teacher in a tough position when a student shares information the teacher would rather not know. (I’ve heard of teachers seeing pictures of a student partying at two in the morning the same day they asked for an extension on a paper for being “sick.”)
This article takes a look at some of the complications of these positions, but you can lower these risks by sorting students onto a “list” where you can choose which information you share with them. This Edublogger link has a great step-by-step guide on how to safely “friend” students and protect your privacy.
“Friending” a student can be a great way to keep in touch with them because most Facebook users check the site more often than they do their email. You’re probably not going to get all of your students, though, so this would be a technique that gives you an alternative means for some students rather than a broad sweeping plan for the whole class.
2. Creating a Classroom Page– This method eliminates a lot of the problems with “friending” a student. When you create a classroom page, your students are not able to see any of your personal information, and you can only see what they share on that specific page or their public profiles.
It also has the added benefit of allowing you to make announcements to the whole group in one easy place, and groups can be made private so that they are not visible to the general public. You can use your page to post links to readings and relevant news stories. You can also post assignment files and set up discussion threads in which students are encouraged to participate.
To create a page, login to your Facebook account and then go to the create a page link. You could either create one page for every class that you teach or you could create a single page as your educational hub and have students from all of your classes able to interact in one place. The benefit of multiple pages is that it makes assignments and discussion threads easier for students to follow, but a single page would be easier for a teacher to manage.
Students can then also tag content with the Page name so that their material will show up on the site. They could use this for pictures of projects or resources they’ve found.
3. Teach Students to Use Facebook as a Resource– This method is the most hands-off as it doesn’t require you to create any accounts or interact directly with students online.
A lot of students are familiar with Facebook as a social tool but not as a professional one. There are many sites and groups on Facebook that students can “Like” to help them start seeing the ways Facebook could be more than just a way to connect with friends.
Teachers could create assignments that require students to read articles like “12 Things Students Should Never Do on Social Media” or “9 Ways Students Can Use Social Media to Boost Their Careers” to spark a conversation or writing assignment about professionalization and social media. You could even have students clean up their existing Facebook profiles and write about the experience.
Another way to professionalize the social media experience is to start following people who aren’t just personal friends. Some pages you might suggest to them are Grammar Girl, the college’s Facebook feed (here’s the one for STLCC Forest Park), and news sites like The New York Times or the St. Louis Post Dispatch.
Facebook can also be used as a study tool. There are a series of apps that are used for test study. For instance, here’s the app for NCLEX study and here’s one for CNA. There’s also a flashcard app for ACT study.
You might also suggest that they find someone they admire in their career fields and follow them on Facebook.
Overall, Facebook can be a valuable classroom tool that lets you turn a distraction into an asset.
How have you used Facebook in the classroom? What concerns do you have about privacy and access? What would you like to try?
100 Ways to Use Facebook in Your Classroom
“Opening Facebook: How to Use Facebook in the College Classroom” by Caroline Lego Munoz and Terri L. Towner
Facebook in the Classroom. Seriously.