Teaching with Technology: The Pros and Cons of Using Facebook in the Classroom- 2012 Workshop

Presenter: Aaron Milstead

Over the past several semesters I have poled my classrooms and found that an overwhelming majority of my students spend a large portion of their free time on Facebook (I would assume that this is also true of high school students, but would be interested in clarifying this point with the teachers in attendance). I began to research this dynamic because I was noting a trend: students no longer seemed to be as interested in other forms of popular culture such as books, television, movies, or video games and I was puzzled by how they were utilizing their free time and was motivated to find ways to relate to them. The only time I had personally seen social media come into play in the student/teacher relationship was through Rate My Professor.

The irony is that I am certainly in the minority in that I do not have an active Facebook account and had come to the conclusion that while it has its uses it was primarily a waste of my time.

However, whether I realized it or not, I was certainly still tied in to the Facebook culture; during the Fall semester at about the midway point one of my students revealed that he had created a Mr. Milstead 131/132 classroom Facebook page and several students from all five of my classes were actively corresponding about assignments and classroom discussions. This news was very gratifying as I am a big supporter of the peer process, but I politely declined an offer to join the page.

Last semester I chose Social Media as the over arcing theme of my 131 Rhetoric and Composition class and I redesigned my core papers to reflect this. My goals were to learn more about the student’s interests and to hopefully come to a better understanding of how I could use this to my advantage. I came to understand that several Professors at SFA are currently using Facebook pages in their classrooms and my students unanimously found it to have a positive impact and were at a loss to name one negative with it (other than a member of the Softball team who stated that the coaches require that they friend them and then closely monitor all activities including use of language, appropriateness of pictures, and use of alcohol [whether they be of legal drinking age or not]).

The positives of Facebook use seemed to be overwhelming; however, I decided to conduct a more thorough research and pull together a list of Pros and Cons.

 

PROS

  • Students are familiar and comfortable with Facebook. The student who created the Mr. Milstead 131/132 Facebook page stated, “It’s easier to post stuff on Facebook; I’m not afraid of saying something stupid.” Some students who are afraid to engage in class may be more willing to post on a Facebook page. There is a sense of anonymity within this community that can be liberating (especially to shy students). Most classes are dominated by a few vocal students and with Facebook overall participation may increase.
  • Some students process information slower and are capable of meaningful commentary given the time.
  • Facebook can foster collaboration and discussion, create meaningful dialogue and the exchange of ideas.
  • It is possible that Facebook could enhance communication between students and teachers. Educators can answer questions via the Facebook page.
  • Teachers can post the homework assignments, announce upcoming tests, or add articles, videos, etc.
  • Social networking sites are becoming a critical part of the employment seeking process and the use of Facebook in a professional manner can help prepare students.

CONS

  • Among some parents and teachers there is a negative stigma attached to Facebook.
  • The possibility exists that Facebook can be a distraction (especially if used directly in the classroom). Most students admit that their primary use of Facebook is “to goof off” and it may not be wise to draw an association between education and this dynamic.
  • Cyberbullying is a growing problem and there is potential for this to take place either overtly or behind the scenes. There is potential for the teacher to be put in the place of arbitrator.
  • There is a possibility that the use of Facebook could discourage face to face contact (such as during office hours). I personally believe that there is no substitute for one on one teaching and would assume that several other teachers feel similarly.

 

Ultimately I’m still unsure what role Facebook will play in my classrooms; however, I cannot deny that it will be a huge influence on my students whether I utilize it or not.

 

100 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom

 [http://www.onlinecollege.org]

  1. Ask for information: Instead of trusting Wikipedia, ask the crowd on Facebook. One kindergarten teacher asked parents to research seeds and got great information about the largest seed in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
  2. Attend remote lectures: Using Facebook, you can tune into remote lectures and presentations from around the world.
  3. Museums and more: Help your students follow along with local and international museums, art galleries, exhibits, and more for enriched learning on Facebook.
  4. Firsthand research: Students can connect with family members for genealogy assignments, discuss issues with local celebrities and more through Facebook.
  5. Follow politicians: If your class is studying the current election, use Facebook to follow politicians on the local, state, and national scale. You can even ask students to interact with the candidates, posting questions and getting feedback.
  6. Learning games: Plenty of games are on Facebook, and many of them are actually educational. Adopt Facebook crosswords, math games, and more as a reward in your classroom.
  7. Public polling: Students can research and poll friends and family members by simply asking questions on Facebook.
    1. Applications: Flashcards, Courses, and more offer easy ways to adopt and create learning tools in your classroom.

Projects & Assignments

Facebook is an interesting platform for learning, and these ideas offer great ways to make the site a part of projects and assignments in your classroom.

  1. Rise to meet a challenge: As a class, you can participate in challenges posted by educational outlets, companies, and more.
  2. Book reviews: Ask students to head to Facebook to review and report on books that you’ve assigned in class, sharing what they’ve learned with the rest of the class.
  3. Get support: If your school is being forced to cut a service due to budget constraints, or your classroom needs help getting connected with a resource, head to Facebook and ask for help.
  4. Offer extra credit: Post extra-credit assignments on Facebook that students can quickly take advantage of.
  5. News gathering: Your classroom can follow journalists and media outlets on social networks, gathering past and current news clips relevant to your latest classroom discussions.
  6. Documenting growth: Whether it’s a potted plant or a caterpillar, students can document the growth of classroom projects through Facebook.
  7. Teaching 21st century skills: Use Facebook to create a lesson on using social media tools for collaboration, news, networking, and more.
  8. Build a Facebook application: Computer science students can learn valuable skills for the future by taking on a project to create an app that can be used on Facebook.
  9. Ask students to create content: Have students try their hand as content creators by sharing resources, sparking discussions, taking polls, and more.
  10. Take on a classroom cause: Using the Causes application on Facebook, students can take on projects that benefit the greater good.
  11. Brainstorm: Ask students to collaborate and brainstorm on your classroom’s Facebook page.
  12. Journal entries: Students can post regular journal entries to share with the class via a classroom Page or Group.
  13. Scavenger hunt: Put together a scavenger hunt kids can participate in, sharing clues and hints on Facebook.
  14. Facebook book club: Host a regular book club gathering with your students on Facebook.
  15. A lesson in social media etiquette: Use Facebook in the classroom as an opportunity to teach students how to be safe, polite, and effective when using Facebook and other social media tools.
  16. Resource curation: Students can gather news links, photos, videos, and more to share on the classroom Facebook page, curating valuable resources for the class.
  17. Exam practice: Keep students on their toes and prepared for exams by posting exam practice activities on Facebook.
  18. Create fake profiles: Students often love filling out their own profiles, so creating fake ones offers great appeal. Ask students to create fake profiles for historical figures, fictional characters, and more.
  19. Reading summaries: After each reading assignment, ask students to post a summary of what they’ve just covered.
    1. Broadcast school news: Ask students to be the source, taking on a classroom journalism project to report on sports results, campus news, events, and more.

Sharing

Give students, parents, and your community something of value by sharing knowledge and resources through the power of Facebook.

  1. Import your class blog to Facebook: If your class maintains a blog, be sure to have it shared on Facebook.
  2. Ask parents to get involved: Parents can follow along as kids post their projects, and even highlight any insightful resources they may know about.
  3. Pet day can get a little less scary: Students with pets that are not quite appropriate for school (like huge pythons or newborn kittens) can still participate, sharing photos of their beloved friend at home.
  4. Archived videos: Important lectures, slides, and more can be shared and saved on Facebook.
  5. Document class trips: Headed to the zoo? Have your class share the tasks of taking photos, notes, and more to share in a Facebook report on the activity.
  6. Highlighting vocabulary: An easy and quick way to fit vocabulary review into study time is posting words and definitions on Facebook.
  7. Make graphs out of parent data: Ask parents about household habits, favorite animals, and more, creating graphs in your classroom that you can share on Facebook.
  8. Explore Questions: Facebook offers a Questions app, which is clearly useful for the classroom and allows teachers to ask questions about photos, topics, and more with responses from students.
  9. Archive discussions: Facebook is a great place to link to and archive classroom slides, discussions, and more that students can reference if they missed class or need to review.
    1. Posting educational content: Teachers can post educational videos and links for concepts that are currently being discussed in class.

Collaboration & Discussion

Students, educational professionals, and even parents can get together for collaboration and discussion through Facebook.

  1. Ask for feedback on assignments and activities: If you’re not sure of a new assignment or activity that you’d like to introduce in your classroom, ask students what they think on Facebook.
  2. Writing workshops: Facebook’s collaborative nature makes it easy for students to participate in writing workshops with peer review and instructor oversight.
  3. Set up a Facebook backchannel: For courses that are simply too large to allow every student to participate in the discussion, encourage students to communicate through a Facebook discussion wall that operates during class time.
  4. Practice foreign language with native speakers: Use Facebook to connect your classroom with speakers around the world, and get a chance to improve their foreign language skills.
  5. Encourage online participation: Bring quiet students out of their shell by asking them to participate in Facebook discussions.
  6. Create study groups: Allow study groups and group projects to easily connect with each other within their own Facebook groups.
  7. Take classroom polls: Need to gather classroom opinions on snack time, movie Friday, or the next book to read? Take a poll on Facebook!
  8. Get connected with guest speakers: Use Facebook to track down old students or professionals that would make for great guest speakers in your classroom.
  9. Students can discuss work through Notes: On Facebook Notes, students can publish their work, tag classmates, and get feedback on what they’ve written.
  10. Connect with classes around the world: Whether it’s a class in your school, or a class on another continent, Facebook offers a great way to get connected with other students.
  11. Discuss classroom ideas with other teachers: Facebook is great for connecting not just classes, but teachers with helpful ides.
  12. Homework help: It may be awkward for some students to call up a classmate and ask for help on a homework problem, but posting on a class Facebook wall is less intrusive, and teachers can get involved as well.
    1. Stay in touch with old students: Keep in touch with old students and find out what’s been valuable to them years down the road.

Classroom Management & Organization

These ideas offer great ways to enrich your classroom with personal connection, reminders, and tools for organization.

  1. Post events: Get your classroom event on your students’ calendars by creating a Facebook event. This can be used for everything from exam dates to after-school mixers.
  2. Organize different classes into groups: If you teach any number of different courses, keep things organized by asking students to join appropriate groups for their class.
  3. Celebrate birthdays: Use Facebook as a tool for remembering and pointing out birthdays within your classroom community.
  4. Familiarize yourself with students: In large classes, it can sometimes be hard to remember each and every student. Facebook makes it a little easier to connect faces and personalities with names.
  5. Get a record that students read what you’re writing: Emails get ignored, but you can ask students to “Like” important updates so that you’ll know they got the message.
  6. Share positive updates: When a certain class or group does particularly well, be sure to point it out with a Facebook status message.
  7. Save paper: Instead of handing out permission slips and flyers, post them to Facebook and allow parents to download and print them at home.
  8. Continue discussions on Facebook: If you’re finding that an interesting discussion is taking up too much classroom time, ask students to simply continue the discussion on Facebook and move on.
  9. Share last minute updates: Let students know if school is closed due to snow, if you’ll be absent, and more on Facebook.
  10. Investigate “dog ate my homework” claims: One professor busted a student who had lied to her about losing Internet access (and was thus unable to work on her paper), pointing out that she was somehow able to connect because she made several Facebook updates during that same time.
  11. Maintain a classroom map: Share a geography lesson and increase participation at the same time by asking students to share their heritage, travels, and favorite countries.
  12. Parents can learn about what kids are doing: Gone are the days when parents have to pry information out of their kids with power tools. Now, parents can get in on the classroom through Facebook, and spark conversations about projects they’ve actually seen already.
  13. Ask for feedback on exams: Gauge how students think they did on exams by asking about them on Facebook, and appropriately plan how much time you’ll need to grade them.
  14. Get updates on progress: Make sure students are staying on top of their assignments by using Facebook to ask how things are coming along.
  15. Improve classroom participation: Keep students engaged by giving them something productive to do on Facebook, rather than allowing them to zone out on the social site during lectures.
  16. Use Facebook for career guidance: Get students connected with recruiting professionals, mentors, and more through Facebook.
  17. School fundraising: Use Facebook to promote any fundraising activities you have in your classroom.
  18. Create a Facebook page for parents: Many teachers have found that parents aren’t happy with their existing method of communication, whether it’s an online parent portal, or just pinning notes to backpacks. Creating a Facebook page for your class offers an excellent opportunity for parents to get involved and stay informed.
  19. Find out what students are into: Learn about their hobbies and interests, and you just might discover a way to bring what they love into the classroom.
  20. Host fun contests: Host contests on Facebook that require students to participate or attend to win, keeping kids involved in studies.
  21. Remind students to come to class: Facebook is a great tool for reminding frequently tardy or absent students to make it on time to class.
  22. Finding future lessons: Paying attention to discussions on your Facebook classroom page can help you discover great ideas for future lessons and assignments.
  23. Stay up to date on assignments: Remind students of assignments they need to be working on, upcoming due dates, and more with Facebook.
  24. Tag books: Tag books for students to read easily and conveniently right on Facebook, and even create resources to go along with the readings.
  25. Clarify directions: If it’s clear some students are having trouble understanding an assignment, use Facebook to post clarified directions.
    1. Celebrate student work: Teachers can highlight some of the best work students have done in any period of time on Facebook walls.

 

Apps & Groups

These Facebook resources can help you when it comes to sharing documents, college resources, books, and more.

  1. Courses: This app will make managing your courses on Facebook and beyond an easier job to do.
  2. CiteMe: Ask students to use the CiteMe app on Facebook so that they can create properly formatted citations.
  3. Booktag: Share books and ask students to comment on them with the Booktag Facebook app.
  4. Acceptly: Help guide students in getting accepted to college by using the Acceptly Facebook app in class.
  5. Calendar: Make sure everyone is on the same page by sharing your class calendar through this app.
  6. Knighthood: Promote reading skills with this game app on Facebook.
  7. Mathematical Formulas: Math teachers can take advantage of this app, sharing formulas and solutions with students on Facebook.
  8. Used Text Books: Students can get connected with a Facebook marketplace for books through the Used Text Books group.
  9. Webinairia: Use Facebook to create and host screencasts for your classroom and beyond.
  10. JSTOR Search: Your classroom can use the JSTOR Search app on Facebook to find useful scholarly articles and research.
  11. Homework Help: If students are stuck on a problem, they can find assistance in the Homework Help Facebook group.
  12. Word of the Day: Use apps like Word of the Day, This Day in History, and more to create small but fun nuggets of learning on a regular basis.
  13. Zoho Online Office: Make Facebook a source for documents with Zoho, which allows you to share and even collaborate on documents within Facebook.
  14. Notely: Get all of your classroom documents and notes organized with the help of this Facebook app for education and beyond.
  15. Language Exchange: Help your students get connected with foreign language practice through the Language Exchange app.
  16. Typing Test: Help students build their typing skills right inside Facebook using the Typing Test app.
  17. Quiz Monster: Host online quizzes through Facebook with the Quiz Monster app.
  18. Study Groups: This app was made to create the perfect environment for study groups to connect and collaborate on Facebook.
  19. Notecentric: Encourage students to take and share notes on Facebook with the Notecentric app.
  20. Slideshare: Share presentations, photos, and other great resources through the Facebook Slideshare app.
  21. WorldCat: Do research, share sources, and more within Facebook with the help of the WorldCat app.
  22. Hey Math! Challenge: Point students to this Facebook math app to get help understanding difficult math concepts.
    1. Flashcardlet: Using Flashcardlet, you can create your own flash cards that students can study on Facebook.

 

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