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Can anything good come from social networking?


I don’t know who is reading this; in fact, I don’t know who you are probably.  But I do know something about you.  You’re on facebook, twitter, and/or myspace.  I have wasted so much of my life sitting in front of this screen learning so much useless information about the smallest, most minute details of my “friends'” lives.  Did you know that Tara is at Sinbad with Joey?  In any other context, my response would be somewhere along the lines of “who cares?” (Who cares being the blogger-friendly version of what I would probably say).  But on Facebook I can choose to “like” this or to comment on this.  Yes, we could sit here and discuss the destruction of our minds by the corrupting takeover of facebook, but let’s concentrate on something a little more constructive, shall we? 

Social networking definitely has a bad name in schools.  Hm, why could that be? Cyberbullying, classroom distraction, ability to post inappropriate material, etc.  Cyberbullying is a hugggeee issue; there is no way we can stop it or it’s damaging effects besides forcing facebook to shut down.  When you are young, you are trying to “fit in,” whatever that means, to the standards, to what is expected of teenagers by their peers.  It’s just another means of making teens feel even more self concious about their image. 

So how can we turn that around and make Facebook a positive tool in the classroom?  I’m going to brainstorm some ways that we can use facebook in our classrooms that you may find useful someday as a future educator.  If you come up with any while reading this, add them as a comment!

1-Have students write poetry on their walls or send them as messages to other students in the class to review and leave comments. 

2-Split the class up into different groups and give them a topic to research.  Have them create a facebook group or page on that topic. 

3-If you’re teaching history, give your students a historical person to research.  Let them create a facebook page for that person, including important information and things they might say or do (have Thomas Jefferson talk smack on Alexander Hamilton’s wall.  If you are a history nerd like me, this sounds like the greatest idea ever). 

4-Use facebook as research! Clearly the students need to know that facebook is not fact.  But if you are doing a sociological project, for example, examining where the seniors are going to college (based upon their educational information), and what the “average” distance is that they are travelling.  This would need to be done in a small controlled setting, with the individuals’ consent, but you get the picture. 

5-Have students take pictures of what they are learning about in Biology class and upload it to facebook.  See if other students can identify the object.

6-creative writing: start off the story with an introduction like “it was July 23rd, around 11am.  I was walking back from Ben’s house when…”  have the students leave comments on this status and see where the story goes. 

These are only a few ideas; I am not the most creative person.  But if you have ideas, add them!  Can we take the “bad” out of facebook?  No: using facebook in school is risky.  If you choose to use facebook for educational purposes, you need to really plan for any scenario.  If there is a way that the students can do something inappropriate with the lesson, they’ll find it out, and will probably do it.  But just like my previous blog post, I will stress the need to use what the students are using outside of school to make learning more meaningful.  It will be hard using facebook in a positive way that won’t lead to issues in the classroom.  But the more planning you put into it, the better the lesson will be.


6 responses to “Can anything good come from social networking?

  1. brmorg01

    I think this idea has potential, however my only concern would be something like Cyber-bullying stemming from the classroom group or project etc. If something like this happened, where it would not have necessarily occurred, is the teacher at fault?

    Although a rarity, what if a student did not have Facebook? Or their parents do not want them to have Facebook but the student is forced to for a project?

    Just some thoughts I had, I think you’re on the right path though with including culturally relevant areas for the students.

    • Cyber-bullying: I totally agree that this is a problem. I honestly don’t have an answer to this issue. Also, you always run into the potential of having a parent step in and saying no to a project along these lines. In this scenario you would need to have a back up task for the students to complete (but then they may feel like an outsider because they cannot participate). I think your questions are valid. I do not have the answers to these problems. I learned so much in my undergrad. pedagogy classes though hearing the ideas of other students and adjusting them to my needs. I feel like my post should be seen more as a starting point to build off of then a suggestion on how to do things. I also find it a novel idea to include things that are socially/culturally relevant to the students, and I think this is one way to, but there are some serious kinks that would need to be worked out first.

  2. Stephen Ransom ⋅

    Great post and ideas. I must add that there is no “bad” in Facebook or any other technology. If there is any “bad”, it is in US. Hence, the responsibility is then on us, the adults responsible for helping our children make good and powerful decisions with the cultural tools at their disposal. To do this, we must use them in good and powerful ways. We can’t just preach about their misuse, can we? All over the globe there are such tools being used in meaningful ways. And yes – you are so right – it requires a willingness and desire to harness creativity and have a passion for engaging students in meaningful work.

    The following resources are Facebook-centric, but there are many social learning spaces that can be used in meaningful ways, as we will learn about in a few weeks. It doesn’t have to be Facebook, per se.

  3. adunn7

    Mike, what awesome ideas! I have to admit that I am a Facebook naysayer. I don’t have one and people close to me have experienced the negative human behavior that often seem to occur in the context of Facebook/online social networking.

    BUT your ideas for how to constructively use Facebook in the classroom are so inspiring! Number three was my favorite but I could also envision myself using all of the rest as well (even though they might force me to create a Facebook myself).

    My only question is, what might the administration say about using Facebook during instruction? Would they be supportive because its use could increase student engagement or because it is innovative? Would they be against it? Could it be a liability for the school in some way? I don’t really expect answers, just some questions to ponder. I hope administration would be for it if it was being used appropriately and effectively, but you never know, sometimes The Man brings good ideas down.

    • A facebook naysayer? you mean you can survive in the 21st without social networking?! It just goes to show how quickly a new technology can become ingrained in our culture and society. Yet again, another problem: the administration. Yes, it would most definitely take a forward looking principal to approve of such a project, but maybe if you present your reasoning for such a project in a strong way and show how you prepare to deal with any potential issues you may stand a fighting chance? There are so many hoops to jump through in regards to making this project work: getting the support of the parents, administrators, and even the students (this may not seem as difficult, but there may be students in the class who feel the same way as you do towards social networking. What do you do when a few of the students can’t/won’t participate?). Maybe a new social networking device should be proposed? A sort of academic software that allows for social sharing that can potentially cut back on the risks? Something that transcends a blog: a sharing platform that allows for status updates, profile creating, and information sharing that takes place in a controlled, monitored, environment. What I mean is things can’t be seen by others until a teacher approves it. This would be logistically impossible with a large class, but you could always have students work in groups.

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