“Let’s use Facebook in schools.” Such a short sentence, yet such long shivers going down so many spines upon the mere suggestion that this Internet Demon be used for educational purposes. Surely this is pure folly, isn’t it? Isn’t it?
For all the dangers and the pitholes of Facebook, this site can become an incredibly useful tool if it is used correctly. This website is an intricate part of most students’ lives, and it is something which they know and enjoy. Thus, as pointed out in The Ultimate Guide to the Use of Facebook in Education, using this social network in classrooms allows one to meet students in a space which makes them comfortable and more receptive. Moreover, it means that school is bound to follow those pupils at home, for they are regularly on Facebook. This double effect means that Facebook can be used to get school and everyday life closer to one another.
Facebook can be a brilliant way to hand out information to students; whereas they nearly systematically lose any paper communication given to them and often avoid going on any virtual school portal they might have, students are bound to go on Facebook, and so they will certainly be aware if any news is posted in a class group or fan page. Although groups and fan pages offer slightly different options, which are well explained on Ronnie Burt’s blog, they can both be used to share information with students, be it assignments, publicity for a school event or simply anything that might be pedagogically interesting. Facebook’s main objective, which is to share information between users, is in itself another very useful aspect of the website. Any research project, book review or creative writing made by students can be shared with classmates, who can then read them and learn from other students.
Facebook also has countless apps, and for all of the useless and derisory ones, plenty can be used for educational purposes. From the pages of museums or politicians to the simplest of learning games, plenty of educational material can be obtained easily through Facebook. A long yet far from exhaustive list of these possibilities can be found on Teachthought.
Being on Facebook with students is also a good way to teach them how to use this tool safely and responsibly. If they friend their teachers, which students are generally eager to do, they may soon realize that what they post on Facebook is not entirely appropriate, and they might understand the importance of being discreet and more regarding to what they make public with this site. Teachers can act as role models online and help students make their pages safer. An article by Cheri Lucas suggests that friending students might be a bad idea for teachers because they do not necessarily act in the same way whether they are in school or outside of it. However, nothing stops a teacher from having a professional page under his real name and a personal page under any other pseudonym.
Friending students on Facebook, for all of its advantages, is also a huge responsibility for teachers. First of all, they must be aware that anything they post, like or comment will be seen by their students, and must therefore be school appropriate. Moreover, it expands the teachers’ social responsibility towards their students; teachers who read threatening, worrying or incriminating posts cannot close their eyes on such things, they must act so as to help or reprimand the concerned students. The same thing goes for any e-conversation with students.
Of course, using Facebook in classrooms is filled with potential traps and loopholes, and any teacher willing to go forth with this must be careful and well prepared. However, if he is, both him and his students will benefit greatly from the multiple facets of this worldwide social network.