By Scott Sterling
Last week, we looked at ways to use Twitter in the classroom. Today, we’ll explore Facebook.
Nearly 20 percent of the planet has a Facebook page. Yes, some of that is noise, but it’s also a vast network that can provide a multitude of learning experiences, as well as a powerful tool that can help bring learning into reality for students. As schools and districts start relaxing their social media usage policies, some exciting opportunities can be had. Here are a few ideas.
Many schools and districts use Facebook for parent outreach. Even classes can start their own page or group, run by the teacher. It’s important to use this power on a consistent, engaging basis. Not only should it be used to convey news, but it should also share student work, accomplishments, and examples from class. Parents are much more likely to be engaged with something on their Facebook feed if it’s about their kids, rather than the school board’s budget meeting.
Fake Facebook pages
Say goodbye to the old biography projects. If you have a unit that requires the study of a particular person, there is a much better way for students to demonstrate their learning.
For better or worse, Facebook has very lax controls about who can start a page. There is nothing keeping a student from making a page for someone who no longer exists, especially if the privacy settings are kept so the wide world doesn’t see it. Suddenly, Queen Elizabeth I can have a Facebook page! If you’re worried about opening up a can of worms with this approach, or your students want to create a page for someone who is still alive, have a look into Fakebook instead.
We talked about backchanneling in relation to Twitter last week. Although that method might be more efficient in certain instances, nothing beats an actual chat room. How it works is you set up the room on a Facebook page (preferably your class page) and project it on the wall. During some passive instruction, like a lecture or video, students can discuss what’s going on without disrupting the class. It’s particularly effective for those who otherwise might be reluctant to participate.
21st century collaboration
In the old days, collaboration meant you and your group sitting around one person at the computer, asking them to look things up or type certain ideas into a document. This either had to happen during class or at a pre-arranged time in the library.
Above all else, Facebook connects people like no other network. In a group, students need to share documents, chat outside of class, and link to the research they are finding. There are applications and sites that focus on each of those tasks, but Facebook can make them all happen in one place. And, most importantly, they can happen at any time or place.
Many educational product suppliers run contests throughout the year in an effort to boost their PR. These contests often include student submissions, like an art or essay competition, and award the company’s product. The first place the companies publicize these contests is on their Facebook page.
Assign a few kids to consistently scavenge Facebook for contest opportunities. When one comes up, they present it to the class and persuade their classmates to participate. Not only is this an opportunity to grab some free stuff and showcase the talents of your students, but the ability to persuade and communicate effectively to a range of audiences is a key college and career skill.