Tag Archives: discussion

Facebook in the classroom: Pros and Cons

facebook logo
How does Facebook relate to Higher Ed?
Inside Higher Ed gives you an overview here.
What could you use Facebook for?
It’s been used as place for discussion groups, as a learning management system, and as a character role-playing tool.
Why SHOULD I use it?

  • It promotes collaboration.
  • The interface is familiar to students: it’s not one more program they have to learn.
  • Using Facebook in class gives you an opportunity to discuss digital literacy with students. Per Professor Melanie McBride: “The greatest goal for educators using social media is to teach students to think critically about the uses and abuses of these tools. Namely, about user controls, privacy, democracy, ethics, compassion, and all the other things the corporate developers of social media would rather they DIDN’T learn.”

Why SHOULDN’T I use it?

  • This is perhaps obvious, but Facebook is not run by Emerson. That means that it can do whatever it wants with user data and accounts, and we have no control over it. It also has a small amount of ads.
  • Concerns about privacy: your privacy, and students’ privacy.
  • The “creepy treehouse” issue: defined by Prof Hacker as “the requirement, enforced by someone in authority, that others interact socially with them.”

What are the best practices for using it?

  • Take a look at your privacy settings (a good idea for everyone!)
  • Look at Facebook’s guidelines for educators. There are ways to interact that protect everyone’s privacy.
  • Have a plan for how you will handle the students that are not comfortable being on Facebook for whatever reason (opting out of technology, privacy needs because of abuse, etc.) How will this affect their grade?

Tips from ProfHacker (abridged):

  • Be transparent. Explain why it’s required, what students will be graded on, etc. Explain the tool’s ownership and logistics.
  • Deputize worthwhile ad-hoc groups. This encourages the perception-which hopefully is accurate!-that the class’s social media usage is bottom-up, and not top-down.
  • Be nimble. Notice how students are interacting with your course material, and put resources where they feel most comfortable.

Where should I look for further research?
danah boyd does a lot of research on teen and young adult social media use.

Real-time writing tool enables more efficient peer collaboration

Writing for Marketing Communication professor Suzy Im had an idea. She wanted her students to analyze each other’s writing and provide suggestions for improvements. The writing would take place in the classroom and involve all students collaborating on press releases and editorials.

After considering several software options such as WriteWith, and Google Docs, Professor Im decided to try Etherpad because it allowed students to see the changes their peers were making concurrently. Designed for real-time collaborative writing, Etherpad was easy for the class to access and use. Within moments of sharing the link, the class began playing with Etherpad’s rich features and intuitive interface. After her first class with the tool, Im reported, “we had so much fun!”

screenshot of etherpad

Etherpad's colorful interface

*Note: Etherpad is now available at TitanPad.com