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Teaching With Facebook: Making a Case

Posted by on in Blended Learning
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Have you ever thought of integrating one of the main social networking sites (such as Facebook or Twitter) into your teaching? Perhaps you have; or, perhaps, it just sounds plain crazy - why would anyone even think of doing it? After all, social networking sites (SNS) are often associated with rather negative things, such as lurking, wasting time, excessive sharing, meaningless updates, and a lack of privacy, to name a few. And yet, I would like to make a case and share my experience. It would also be interesting to hear of other's experience. Please share in the comment area following the post.

So, here is the story. 

The doubts....

I must say I had been contemplating using Facebook for teaching for quite a while. On the one hand, I clearly saw the potential: 1) the students are already there, so no training will be required, 2) sharing is super easy - homework, class announcements, links and videos - all can be shared with one click,  3) discussions, group work, collaboration - the sky is the limit! Even more so -discussion threads without creating all those endless links! 4) you can see how many students have seen your announcement and, therefore, know what to expect when come to class the next day, and 5) it supports innovation - instead of collecting student work after class or having students write them on the board (which can consume a lot of time!), why not have students take pictures and share via a SNS; within a second, everyone can see everyone else's work as well as your feedback on their devices or projected on the screen. Sounds fantastic, doesn't it?

At the same time, being an introvert myself, I find even a digital crowd too overwhelming. It feels there are all sorts of people in one room...something I don't normally experience in real life.

So, there I was, eager to try, yet, with doubts and reservations. I still ended up doing it, and I am so glad I did!

The motivating factor....

In summer 2014, I took my last course toward my degree in EDTECH, and the course was called Social Networking Learning. By definition, the course involved using social networking sites, so I was able to experience it all first hand! That semester, we used Facebook and Twitter extensively, mainly for group discussions, sharing homework, etc. To be frank, it did feel weird to log in to Facebook or Twitter on a regular basis...but only for a week or two. After that, it felt normal!

Here are some strategies for using SNS in teaching:

1. Have a clear goal in mind before diving into teaching with social media. Once the goals and objectives are clear, for both the teacher and students, everything falls into place.
2. Create a Policy for SNS classroom use for both Teacher and Students.
3. Discuss with the students WHY you decided to follow this path. It's not necessarily to add a "fun" component to the class routine, or to follow some kind of a fad or trend, and not even to become friends. In my experience, once I explained that my goal was to support their learning and asked them to treat it as our class, most of their reservations seemed to be gone!
4. Have your students discuss the pros and cons of using SNS to support their learning.
5. Outline some basic rules: 1) students don't have to friend each other; 2) they should not add people from outside the class; 3)they should be polite and friendly; 4) they should use academic language; and 5)they should view it as a resource to help them collaborate, share, and learn.
6. Ask for their vision - how do they see it might help?

Here is a very basic power point presentation to introduce the idea to students. Feel free to copy and edit the slides as you see fit!

The action....

In the same summer of 2014, I just walked into the class I was then teaching and presented my students with a question: "Should Facebook be used as part of teaching and learning?"  The class was ESL Reading and Writing Level 1 (very beginners), but here is the poster that my students created. They embraced the opportunity and came up with quite a few positive points! Ever since then, I have used Facebook every semester for all of my classes. 

Again, here are the benefits:

1. I can access the entire class at anytime.
2. I have been able to incorporate discussions and activities that I had not been before - posting a video clip on a topic discussed in class and having students express their opinions is super easy! While it is true that the same could be achieved by using an LMS, Facebook still makes it at least one log in shorter (again, the students and most teachers are already there!)
3. It's been super easy to organize group discussion or group projects. Each session, students find and share great materials that I can later use with other classes (no more need to remember where to find the link. In fact, there are no links:)
4. We have been inspired to have discussions on Social Media Sites use based on our collective experience:) Quite a few teachable moments!

Finally, no matter how "strange" this experiment might sound at first, it can also be considered an "innovative" approach to teaching still based on the ISTE Standards for Teachers and Students 

Happy social media teaching! Please share your thoughts!

Sources: ISTE Standards for Teachers and Students: http://www.iste.org/standards



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Tsisana Palmer holds an M.A. in Intercultural Communication and a Master's degree in Educational Technology (M.E.T.) Her professional background includes over 8 years of teaching English as a Second Language and Intercultural Communication to international students. In addition, her experience includes instructional design, online course design, curriculum alignment, material design, teacher training and professional development, technology integration, and teaching with social media. She blogs to continue her learning, support her teaching, explore new ideas, expand her level of expertise, serve and help others, leave the comfort zone, and grow as a person and educator.

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Guest Thursday, 20 October 2016