Do we want Facebook in the classroom?

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It has been said (by me, at least!) that a sure fire way to get a student to leave an area is to go and stand close to them. I call it ‘Simpson’s Zone of Proximal Awkwardness’.

Try it next time you are in the yard on duty and you want a student to move back to class. Stand next to them – they’ll leave very quickly.

Using Facebook is borderline ubiquitous now. With over 500 million active users, it would make sense to tap into such a vast collection of people/ideas/groups in order to generate teachable moments. Wouldn’t it?

My gut says; “I don’t think so”. Here’s why:

  • Students perceive Facebook (FB) as their ‘private’ (oh, the irony – I know!) space for sharing information with their friends and family – not with their teachers.
  • The students have access to the Ultranet at school and home. They won’t see the value in sacrificing their FB privacy when they can achieve similar outcomes in a sanitized area such as the Ultranet.
  • Teenagers are exploring their personalities and their characters, in the online society of FB – this opportunity is important in their self-discovery. They may prefer to keep it separate from their school life.
  • The security precautions required to conduct school tasks on FB is incompatible with the wants & needs of the students & staff.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor are my reasons particularly robust – but my gut tells me that, at least with my own students, using FB as a tool for online collaboration would not work.

So, like any good scientist, I am going to conduct an experiment to test these thoughts:

  1. I have created a Facebook account – using my real name – but with a vast majority of the privacy setting changed to ‘friends only’.
  2. I am going to allow students that I teach to ‘friend’ request me. I will not ‘friend’ request them (they have to want to participate)
  3. I will not upload personal photos or ‘friend’ individuals from outside my immediate school community.
  4. I will keep all status updates, posts or the like purely school-based in nature & content.

What I want to see is, if in the absence of private information (gossip material, in other words!) from me, students are still willing to allow me to be their FB ‘friend’ and to use the platform to conduct school-related collaboration.

I’d love to hear what other educators think of Facebook and its potential in the classroom.

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