Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Facebook for Education

Facebook (fb) was created for social networking and unfortunately is often known more for its negative connotations than it is for the good things that can come from it. There is also a huge debate over whether employers should be allowed to view the profiles of job applicants and current employees. I will not discuss the ethics of this discussion here, as this is about the good things facebook CAN be used for. As a future teacher, I see the potential uses for fb. It can help me increase my involvement as a member of the educational online community (defined below) as well as communicate with students and their parents.

Educational Online Community
Teaching is said to be a lonely job. Sure, you’re surrounded by students but you’re on your own when it comes to brainstorming, writing lesson plans, etc.; any collaboration with coworkers is limited to what can be said in the teacher’s lounge during lunch. This is why the internet has become a useful tool for many teachers. They can share ideas, lesson plans, activities, classroom management strategies, etc. They can do this through websites, twitter, blogs, and, of course, facebook.

Resume Extension
Use your profile to highlight the positive aspects of you, your life, and your abilities that a resume cannot cover. If you do not want to modify your personal profile, create a separate one for professional use so that you can really highlight the aspects of your life that you want students, parents, and employers to see. Then, link this one with your work email address, blog sites, twitter, etc. Facebook itself has just recently changed their layout to be more geared towards showing off your degree(s), employment, etc. and, in a way, resembles a resume.

“friending” students
Being fb friends with your students could give you insight into their interests and abilities outside of school that you could use to facilitate their learning of school subjects. It also allows your students to get a glimpse into your own personal life and perhaps see you as a human being just like them. This could improve the teacher-student relationships which is essential for a positive learning experience.

Communicating with Parents
You can use the email message system or your own status to put out additional reminders for things such as…
• field trips
• test days
• student count days
• assemblies
• carnivals
• fund raisers
• conferences
• open houses
(Some of these would definitely be in addition to flyers sent home.)
This type of thing can help build excitement and involvement in their children’s lives. You can also share that day or week’s activities so parents can know what to ask their kids about. This might initiate a more substantial conversation than the typical “How was your day,” “Good.”

Posting Resources
Post links to great online resources that students can use to learn more about a subject, get extra practice, etc. If it is geared towards parents, you could post ideas on what they can do at home with their child to help them out using the Notes application. You could post instructions for at- home projects or assignments. Some of these would be easier, and perhaps more appropriate, to do on a class wiki or website, which could also be linked to fb.

-show off student accomplishments
-share photos from field trips and assemblies

Possible Assignments
Buildings Roman Photo Assignment
Students could create a photo album showing a trip or experience that they had that helped them grow. They can use the photo description and comment boxes to describe the meaning of the photo and how it added to their development.

Art Appreciation
Post several photos in a specified album and assign your students the task of studying it. This can focus on the five senses and imagining what it would be like to be inside the picture. They could write a poem and post it as a comment on the photo. They could research the background of the photo or painting and talk about what went in to making it.

Utilize the Notes application similar to a blog. Post a topic and information and have students comment on it.

Encouraging Citizens
This would follow a class discussion on the importance of encouraging others. Students could post encouraging statements, notes of thanks for things that a person has done, or talk about characteristics he/she appreciates about that person. This activity may sound corny and childish, but one of my teachers did something similar when I was 16 and we loved it. I still have the little notes my classmates wrote to me.

-facebook changes layout and features quite often

-This assumes that students and parents have regular dependable access to the internet which is not always the case. It also assumes that they have fb profiles and are willing to “friend” a teacher. It is not good to make assumptions, for obvious reasons, and you should always do what works for your students and families.