Facebook for college classrooms too much?

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Facebook started out on college campuses, but does that mean it should be the new forum for college classrooms? This article, “5 Best Practices for Educators on Facebook,” claims it should.

It’s obvious that a great majority of students spend hours every day online – updating their status, tagging pictures from the weekend or just out ‘creeping’ on their ever growing list of ‘friends.’ But would translating this purely social platform to one that engages with actual class time be effective?

It’s perfectly understandable that college professors are constantly looking for ways to engage their students. The article does have great point that students are already very familiar with the platform and no doubt spend plenty of time on the site. But do they really believe that while their students are on Facebook, they could be contributing to class more?

Being a recent graduate, the article’s focus on ways to make Facebook more effective in the classroom does seem legitimate. The author suggests using Pages or Groups for each classroom, which would allow for better control over the members of each group and its content. The difference between this and some other Learning Management Systems is that he proposes more students will be actively engaged on Facebook and will then be more likely to engage and/or add relevant conversations to the content on the pages/groups. His research stands by his point, that learning in this form is effective and many students do feel more comfortable asking questions or continuing with the class discussions. Who knows? He may be right.

Since most students are already on Facebook anyway, what would stop them from posting on their classroom group page? My hunch is that it’s the same reason they are unwilling to take the extra few seconds to jump to another website and post there: they just aren’t motivated to engage. I think the biggest mistake teachers make with us Millennial’s is assuming that everything we do has to be online and easy, and if it’s not, we’ll just get distracted. But, really, think about how distracted students will be on Facebook.  Facebook at its core is a social network, and socialize we will.

It’s not the whole making-it-easier-to-post-on-a-page/group thing I find less compelling, but the ethics behind it. There is a fine line between what is appropriate between teachers and students. This is the biggest concern I see. Sure, there are ways to manage that, since people who belong in a group don’t necessarily have to be friends, but it does make it a lot easier to send that friend request when you’re surrounded by your colleague’s and professor’s personal pages. And who benefits when students living outside of school start to intertwine?  Not to mention all the awkward friend requests from other students in your class that you may or may not ever have another class with, who you think, “hey, here’s so-and-so from Bio 101! I should add them,” and next thing you know you’ve just added a hundred more friends you really have nothing else in common with besides the class. Is the over-socialization chaos worth the “engaged student” benefit? Should we give in and cater to Millenialls’ online social lifestyles at the risk of eroding traditional academic process and professionalism?

So all in all, yes, Facebook is a great platform that students engage in all the time and could potentially become a great way for students to interact. It’s fun, familiar, fast and convenient. But at the end of the day, there are many other alternatives such as Edmondo, Kidblog, Edublogs, etc., that could be more promising without the risks. Overall, I think it’s great teachers are looking outside the box to help their students learn, but lets make sure this new ‘box’ isn’t already stuffed full with conflicting agendas.

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