tr?id=304425946719474&ev=PageView&noscript=1 Effectively Integrating Facebook into the Classroom

Teachers are at the centre of hi-tech learning

In this post we will examine the Denise Knowles’ web seminar entitled “How to integrate Facebook into your teaching” in terms of how it can applied in the classroom. In the web seminar, Knowles explains a range of ways in which Facebook can be used by teachers on a daily basis. First, the general methods of Facebook integration presented by Knowles will be detailed. Following this, I will discuss which methods can be be applied a world language classroom infused with technology (like my own), and which ones not. It is recommended that readers have a basic understanding of what Facebook is and how it generally functions before continuing on.

Some Background Information

     According to Knowles 90% of all students in the United States utilize Facebook (and this statistic remains true), the most used social networking web site. Considering the fact that such a large percentage of students are competent users, Knowles suggests that teachers use Facebook as an educational tool. The idea is that students are already using Facebook competently and often, and that bringing course content to them rather than bringing them to the course content makes sense. Davis (2010) supports this idea as well.

On Facebook and Security

     Knowles points out that teachers, especially those in basic education (meaning, kindergarten through high school), typically fear using Facebook in the classroom. This is something I have seen first-hand and it is understandable when day in and day out teachers across the nation are disciplined by districts when unprofessional material (photos of teachers involved in heavy drinking etc.) surface via teachers’ personal Facebook profiles (Davis, 2010). Knowles suggests that teachers need to understand what Facebook is, how it works, and how to use it to better classrooms while adeptly maintaining a teacher’s privacy. While it is not the purpose of this post to provide a breakdown of how one can effectively setup Facebook profile privacy settings, Knowles does demonstrate this in her web seminar. This would also be an easy find online.

On Facebook Groups and Pages

     The web seminar takes time to explain the differences (which are significant for the development of this post) between Facebook groups and pages. A Facebook group is a collection of individuals that share a common interest or goal and use the group’s page to communicate with one another. I, for example, maintained a Facebook group for the people in my doctoral program. Students use the group for anything from vital questions about upcoming assignments to organizing group lunches. In order to make use of a Facebook group the users must be Friends, which makes each member’s profile information accessible to one another. In a group, members can write and post what they have written to the group’s public page for all to see. A page, on the other hand, is geared toward disseminating information from one party to others who view that page. A page does not require those viewing the page to be Friends (as mentioned above).

Some Methods of Integration Using Groups

     Knowles’ web seminar describes three activities that could be used in conjunction with a Facebook group. The first is a role-playing activity in which students can take on the personas of different historical figures and speak with one another accordingly to understand those figures better. The second requires students to post thoughts and/or updates as they read an assigned novel to share thoughts with other students reading the novel. The third involves simply posting updates on a particular project so that the teacher is aware of progress as it is made.

     All three of these items can be dismissed while we consider ways to integrate Facebook into a world language classroom. The reasons are twofold. The first major issue with these activities is that they require using a Facebook group. As stated above, using a Facebook group requires all participants to be Friends, granting any Friend access to one another’s personal profile information. This includes the teacher who is overseeing the Facebook group. This loss of privacy is not one I would willing to consider as a working professional (and some districts have written policies against students and teachers becoming Friends on Facebook). The second major issue with the activities suggested here, is that it assumes that every student will have access to Facebook. Though these are modern times, not 100% of students will have the technology to access Facebook and current research accepts that if even one student cannot access an item required to complete a classroom activity, that activity must be considered supplemental rather than required (Thomas & Orthober, 2011).

Some Methods of Integration Using a Page

     Now that it has been established that Facebook groups, and in turn the activities that rely on them, will not be used, the remaining methods of integration will be analyzed and applied to the a world language classroom (given that I run a German classroom). The remaining six methods of classroom Facebook integration rely on a Facebook page which can be established by the teacher and accessed by the students without the need for becoming Facebook Friends. I will create such a page that represents the German program at the high school where I teach. The page will contain an about section explaining the information disseminating function of the Facebook page.

Post lesson plans

Prior to each lesson the I will post the associated lesson plan. This will be reasonable to accomplish as the plans are readily available and were created as though written for a student to read.

Post notes

Following each class day, the classroom notes will be posted to the Facebook page. This will be useful for students who were absent from class that day or students who may have lost their notes. German students are currently required to maintain a notebook which holds all knowledge of German obtained thus far in the course. Students will be reminded that copies of notes provided on the Facebook page will not be substitutable for students’ hand-written notes.

Post events

Using the Facebook page for reminders related to program events will be useful. An example is the yearly field trip to a German Christmas market which requires permission slips and money to reserve students’ placement on the bus. Weekly, or even daily (near the date of the trip), reminders to submit these materials could be helpful.

Important announcements

This suggestion provided by Knowles is one of a practical nature when applied to my German program. Every so often on a Monday the school computer lab will be reserved for German students to conduct a summarization activity using a German news web site and being that students rarely remember this from a Friday announcement of the change in location, a Facebook reminder on Sunday night might prove helpful.

Celebrating student work

I currently use Twitter (another online means of disseminating information) and Facebook to display photos of interesting projects to fellow world language teachers. A Facebook page for the German program would allow students to access these updates as well.

Post useful enrichment material

In addition to the possibilities detailed above, the existence of a German program Facebook page would also allow me to post useful enrichment material for interested students. One example is that the I often finds compelling news stories on the German news site heavily used in the course and would share such stories if an efficient means to do so existed. The same example applies to German commercials and other German-related videos that are deemed to be worthy of students’ time.