Facebook’s roots may be planted in college campuses, but classrooms have not welcomed the social network as eagerly as their students have. Once a Harvard startup open only to college students, Facebook has been pegged as a waste of time, a classroom disruption and a bad habit that is correlated with low grades. Missouri even went so far as to ban Facebook and other social media relationships between teachers and students (the law was later repealed).
But teachers such as Reynol Junco — who recently published a study that shows certain types of Facebook use are correlated with higher GPAs — are beginning to look at ways that they can use Facebook to their advantage.
“Students are already very familiar with the platform and spend a lot of time on the site,” Junco says. “Because of this, there is usually a good amount of activity [in class related Facebook discussions] because students receive notifications of new group posts in a timely fashion (something that doesn’t happen with Learning Management Systems).”
Here are tips from Junco and other teachers on how to effectively use Facebook in the classroom.
1. Use Facebook With a Focus
Once teachers decide how they’re going to use Facebook, they need to follow through in a way that takes class participation on the social network seriously. Junco’s research suggests that social media efforts in the classroom are most effective when they are mandatory and impact grades.
2. Friend With Caution
Fortunately, you don’t have to be Facebook friends to interact on Facebook. In a guide produced in partnership with Facebook, Facebook for Educators, Facebook expert Linda Fogg Phillips, educational media consultant Derek Baird and behavior psychologist BJ Fogg recommend using Groups and Pages to communicate with students:
- Groups: Members of groups do not need to be Facebook friends, but each person in the group receives a message when any member posts to the group. Groups can be either “open,” “closed,” or “secret.” Phillips, Baird and Fogg recommend that teachers create closed groups, which means that the content of the group is private. Be aware that the list of group members will still be public unless you choose the “secret” option.
- Pages:“In an educational setting we believe that interaction between students and teachers should be open, transparent and secure,” the authors say. “Pages on Facebook are good for this.”Pages are public. Anybody can like the page in order to get updates in their news feeds from its administrator. In an educational setting, they can be used to compile relevant current events and additional resources for students. Features such as comments and notes allow students to add conversation and content to pages even if they are not administrators of the page.
3. Use a Facebook Group
- Continuing class discussions
- Giving students who might be intimidated in a class setting a low-stress way to ask questions
- Providing students academic and personal support
- Helping students connect with each other and organize study groups
4. Use a Facebook Page
Dr. Neil Hammerschlag runs a program at the University of Miami that exposes students to ocean field research (including work with sharks) and he has found Facebook Pages a useful tool for both staying in touch with research updates and expanding the number of students he can reach.
“We expose over 1,000 kids each year to ocean research,” he says. “But we want to work with more students. You can’t bring that many with you, but we can bring the ocean to them.”
Hammerschlag Uses Facebook to post research findings, videos and photos of weekly shark trips. He also posts recent articles about ocean science.
5. Consider Other Alternatives
- Edmodo, like Facebook, allows teachers and students to share ideas, files and assignments on a communal wall. Teachers can organize different groups of students and monitor them from the same dashboard. Once they’ve organized classes, they can post assignments to the wall and grade them online. They can then archive the class groups and begin new ones.
- Collaborize Classroom gives teachers four discussion format choices. Students can either agree or disagree with a statement, answer a multiple choice question, post responses, or have the choice between adding a new response or voting for someone else’s response. Teachers can add photos or videos to their prompts and all of the discussions take place on one class page.
- Edublogs is a WordPress-like blogging platform that only supports educational content and thus, unlike WordPress, usually isn’t blocked by school filters. Since 2005, it has hosted more than a million blogs from students and teachers.
- Kidblogis a bit more specific than Edublogs. There are fewer options to adjust the appearance of the main page, and it’s hard to use the platform for anything other than as a system for managing individual class blogs. The homepage serves as a catalog of student blogs on the right with a recent post feed on the left.Having said that, if you want to introduce individual class blogs to your K-8 classroom, this is the perfect tool for it. The interface is easier to navigate than Edublogs, and you can generate user names and passwords for students, teachers, administrators, and guests with a couple of intuitive clicks. Teachers are able to edit and remove any of their students’ posts.Teachers can also control how private they want the blogs to be. They can keep them student-and-teacher only, allow parents to log in with a password, or make them open to the public.
Series Supported by Buddy Media