Sunday, August 23, 2009

Facebook as a Tool for Learning

When I first started using facebook, I was very literal about the word "friends" and had little understanding why all of these people who I barely knew would consider "adding" me as a "friend". Over time, and through some conversations with students, I started to understand that "friends" on facebook can be mere acquaintances and that the more "friends" you have, the more social connections you have.

At first, I did not accept students as "friends". I told students who had requested me that we could become "friends" once they graduated from high school. After a while, though, I started to see the benefits in adding my students to my circle of friends. Some students moved away and I lost touch with them, others dropped out and I had no way of contacting them. Once I started to accept friend requests from students, I was able to engage in meaningful, rich conversations through the messaging and chat features on facebook. I've had students who've clarified homework expectations using facebook as a mode of communication and I've had students who've conversed about characters and plot lines that I've not assigned for reading. In short, I had actual conversations about books with students that were not required or graded and that happened in students' free time. Isn't this something that should be encouraged?

This year, I'm going to find ways to utilize facebook in my teaching. I am not completely sure how I am going to do this and I am definitely accepting suggestions. I am finding this technology more and more exciting and less intimidating than before I started to use it on a regular basis. I feel like students will be more engaged in their learning if I use a mode of communication that is comfortable, accessible, and is something they already use on a daily basis.

Here are some of the facebook applications that I plan to use:

Notes: Notes could be very, very cool for classroom use. I love that students can tag one another and get responses to questions. I love that I could create discussion questions and tag students who can then answers questions and add to the discussion by tagging others.

Visual Bookshelf: I am excited by the possibility of students sharing their independent, or free reads with one another through their virtual bookshelves. I have a circle of friends who read and share reviews of books through this application. This could put a whole new, cool spin on the traditional "book talk" routine.

Photos: It can be challenging for students to share photos in class. I anticipate using photography more and more in my teaching, and I hope to utilize this facebook feature more in the future. I also love that we can tag photos for sharing. This way, discussions and group work could become much more efficient.

Here's a link to another list of ideas for integrating facebook applications into the school setting.

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