saudixpat’s Weblog

November 9, 2008

Facebook in Education

Filed under: Uncategorized — Expat in Saudi @ 9:49 pm

Facebook log-in screen.

Facebook log-in screen.

This week the question is, “To Facebook or not to Facebook?” Now that IS a hard question. I do Facebook, but not under my pseudonym I have adopted for this blog. I take my Facebook in small doses, largely chatting with family members and infrequently with friends from high school or other work places I have belonged to.

For those of you who don’t know (there can’t be that many out there though) Facebook is a website that allows people to link to their friends, to communities, such as graduates of a high school, or to areas of interest, such as hobbies, favourite cars, or sports star fans. Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerman in 2004, and according to Wikipedia, by 2008 had surpassed MySpace as the number one social networking site.

My first question that I felt needed an answer was “CAN Facebook be used in education?”. After some searching, I came across some blogs that advocated using Facebook in education. One blog had examples, including using the Files and Questions modules. The blogger states that, “All assignments and other items get posted to the “Files” module and you can use the “Questions” module to send out questions to your students.”. I didn’t even know that Facebook had Files OR Questions modules you could install on your facebook page (along with the Coffee Module, Gangster Wars module, Are You Canadian module, Cities I Have Been module, and so forth). This blogger earlier mentioned that Facebook was more familiar to students than WebCT, and it developed trust in the instructor on the part of the students. However, there was no empirical evidence given for this last statement.

Doing further research, a paper by candidate Ph.Ds at Purdue University again advocated for using Facebook, calling it a “potentially valuable resource”. However, they also admit that “…a direct quantifiable benefit may not be readily apparent“. Another web site, ecademy, quotes from George Siemens, who thinks that while Facebook might be ok for study groups or clarifying assignment questions, but who also believes that “…formal use in college-level instruction may be too much of a stretch for learners.”

That was the biggest hurdle I came across. Facebook is being integrated into some classes at some universities, but I did not come across anybody using Facebook as a tool in high school teaching. I did come across some negative responses to Facebook by universities as well. The one that attracted my attention was that involving Concordia student Chris Avenir, who ran a Facebook study group which was shut down, and 147 academic charges levelled at Chris. Although he was partially cleared and his grade reinstated, it is clear that Facebook remains a questionable tool in academia.

I then set out to attempt to identify specific examples of Facebook being used in high school education. An article about a teacher in Halifax showed promise, until it was revealed that the teacher stopped using Facebook due to the “blurring of the line between teacher and student.” An additional comment by a professor at Mount Royal College, however, showed that Facebook is being used at the college/university level.

One other story I came across, about Facebook use by students at the famous (or infamous) Horace Mann School in New York City was very negative. However, this was balanced as I stumbled across a CNN story from Missouri which highlighted a teacher’s viewpoint about using MySpace and Facebook to reach reluctant students at the high school level. I also came across a YouTube video about college admissions being affected by student’s Facebook or MySpace postings.

To sum it up, I found no emperical evidence validating the use of Facebook in secondary or elementary education. I did find evidence for using it in post-secondary education. Evidence supporting the fact that Facebook or MySpace use and access from school are contentious issues was widely available and came up much more often than any reports, anecdotal or otherwise, in support of their use.

So, while I am a Faceook user I would not use it for educational purposes within my classroom. I would use it for socializing with friends, workmates, and former classmates from high school though!

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  1. First off, great post! I really enjoyed your write up and references.

    What I have found personally from using Facebook:
    Students (when I taught) do not like to use multiple systems for classroom management and that was hard to get around with Facebook. There are Facebook apps that are making progress, but still not what students and teachers want/need. But now there are classroom web projects going on to take over WebCT and Facebook due to better classroom management and social experience.

    Two things lead to the use of Facebook. 1) trying to find better ways to create stronger relationships with students. 2) trying to find a system that student already use and are familiar with. For number 1 the answer doesn’t have to be Facebook. A lot of times it is because so many people use but by no means does it have to be the end all be all solution. If someone else comes out with a better systems, the progressive teachers will use it.

    For number 2 Facebook answered the call because as mentioned previously soooooo many students already use it. But really I found with my IT students that at first there were some negative statements about using it. Then once they got used to it I received some really positive feedback and students didn’t mind it. The reason I didn’t get everyone on board is because I didn’t spend enough time on Facebook leaving comments to students and engaging them in it.

    Personally I envision the next system being something similar to Second Life. It’s great for distance learning classes and would be easy for most students to become accustomed to. And sharing files and giving presentations is really easy. Some teachers at Illinois State University are already using it for after hour discussions before tests and quizzes and doing so with very positive feedback.

    Comment by Webs — November 10, 2008 @ 12:57 am | Reply

  2. Bruce,
    I’m going to check out Facebook’s use of Modules. I wonder how user-friendly they are for educators. I’m sure the students would learn how to use them in a snap!


    Comment by Jo-Anne — November 11, 2008 @ 6:23 am | Reply

  3. Thanks, Bruce. You found some interesting examples (both good and bad) of how Facebook can be used by educators. I think most people would agree that facebook works best as a social tool for people to keep in touch with family and friends…but it is interesting to think about these issues from a pedagogical/educational perspective.

    Comment by Joanne de Groot — November 18, 2008 @ 8:55 pm | Reply

  4. I think I just found it too “messy”. Too many distractions for use – something I have found with Ning as well, if you don’t monitor the students. Facebook really is meant for socializing, not educating. Perhaps students in post-secondary have greater focus and self-control about its use, but I know I have no plans to use it for teaching.

    Comment by sibertiger — November 19, 2008 @ 6:04 am | Reply

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