Since its creation in 2004, Facebook has been gaining popularity at an extremely rapid pace. Now, every 12-year-old and their grandmother has a Facebook account. Most children and teens are connected 24/7, on their smartphones, their laptops, and even on their game consoles! Ever since Facebook started becoming popular, schools have restricted or banned the use of it. The question now is: could schools adapt to this new technology and actually use Facebook as an educational tool?
It is safe to say that students, at least, have already started to use Facebook for education. Even right here at Laval University we have created a help group for the BEALS students (Baccalauréat enseignement de l’anlgais langue seconde) where we can ask questions, post interesting articles and just talk about teaching English as a second language. I find it innovative and very useful to have as a student. If we students can do it why can’t the teachers do it too?
Facebook can have many advantages in the classroom, Michael Wong of The University of British Columbia brings many good ideas to the table. Facebook can be used to contact friends for projects, for file sharing or even for group conversations about projects. (http://ctlt.ubc.ca/2009/01/30/facebook-and-education/) Not only that, but Facebook can also be used to create groups for classes where students can ask questions, teachers can answer rapidly, and where everyone can benefit from the information shared. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZxrlrbP4UNo This video explains many ways in which different Social Networks can be useful. Christine Greenhow mentions that for students who are shy it is also an easier way to express themselves and ask questions they might not ask in class (not everyone is comfortable raising their hand!).
I also believe that Facebook as an educational tool is not only useful for students but for teachers looking to better their own teaching skills. There are many Facebook groups of teachers sharing activities, methods and tips about how they manage their class http://www.edutopia.org/social-media-education-examples-facebook. For example, right here in Quebec there is the Quebec ESL Teachers group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/400947743302185/) which is a great group to be a part of while doing our practicums and even for our future careers. It is full of people who want to help and learn from each other. I think that groups and information sharing is one of Facebook’s greatest assets.
On http://www.teachthought.com/technology/100-ways-to-use-facebook-in-education-by-category/ it is shown that if a teacher knows where to look, there are a ton of Facebook apps and resources that can be of use in the classroom. For example, there are apps like CiteMe which creates citations in a few different formats and StudyGroups, on which students can create study groups and share things in between themselves. This website also talks about how Facebook can be a way to include parents in the classroom. If they are allowed to join the Facebook groups for their children’s classes they can give input and tips to the students and also see what goes on in class. Most parents really like to feel involved in their child’s education and make sure what they are doing is relevant. Including parents does mean more eyes on the teacher but I think that it can also create a precious link between parents and teachers if done right.
Now using Facebook in class has a lot of potential, but also has many things to be wary of. This article explains a little about it. (http://ctlt.ubc.ca/2009/01/30/facebook-and-education/) Of course the parents need to give permission for their child to have a Facebook account if they are younger than 13 years old (and I would consider advising the parents even if the children are older). The teacher should also be with the students when they create their accounts (or use their existing ones) to go over the security and privacy settings with them. As we said in class, it is important to know who sees what and be conscious of what is on the Facebook page. It is crucial for students to be aware that everything they post can potentially be seen by the whole world. Security and privacy are also an issue for the teacher, in class we talked about creating a “professional” Facebook page and I personally think it is a good idea to keep a certain distance from students in this regard. Students don’t want to know what their teacher does on the weekend or about how much they hate their boss. Anything a teacher posts on Facebook can be detrimental to his or her career so I think it is better to keep everything separated.
All in all I think that Facebook can be a very useful tool for education if used in the right way. On one hand, there are many risks involved and a huge responsibility over all of the students a teacher brings onto Facebook. On the other hand, there are so many useful tools to use and it can be very valuable when it comes to answering queries and sharing knowledge. I say use Facebook , but know the risks and do it at your own peril!