Reasons Why Facebook is Revolutionizing Education

The 21st century has witnessed a stunning technological revolution touching every facet of our life. The way people used to interact with internet has radically changed , users are no longer just static consumers of the information but active contributors and makers of online content. It is thanks to the introduction of web 2.0 technologies that human knowledge has finally been liberated and is made accessible to everyone and at anytime. This in itself is the biggest human achievement ever equal in importance to the invention of telecommunications and electriciy.

I will not be talking about internet in its general scope but will rather tailor my topic to cover just a very important element called social networks and particularly Facebook and its uses in education. Genrally speraking, Social networks are online platforms ,most of which are free, where people of similar interests meet to discuss, share , collaborate and interact with each others through the use of means such as emails, IMs, chat, blogging..etc. Facebook is one of the major current players in this field and more than 500 million people are using it with students and adults constituting a large part of its users. Being as such , it becomes imperative that we , educators, try to invistigate its educational potentials and look for ways to better use it in the classroom with our students. Wether we like it or not Facebook is part and parcel of our educational landscape. It is the top socialising tool students are using on a daily basis. Now with its mobile version and  the widespread use of smartphones , Facebook has finally infiltrated the classrooms even when it is blocked by the school network. Guess what , This is just the emerging part of the iceberg, in what follows are some of the amazing facts about this social media guru.

Teacher's Guide to Using Facebook (Read Fullscreen)

Why Facebook and not other social networking websites ?

Generally speaking, all social networking websites have their own importance in education but the degree of each one of them vary accordning to its widespread, popularity and the usefulness of its  features. In this regard , Facebook excells in all the above mentioned criteria . With its launch in February 2004, Facebook has gained such a reputation that it becomes an integral element of users' digital identity contributing with almost 770 billion page views per month. In January 2011, Facebook users reached 600 million users making it the biggest vritual nation ever with 4.5 billion updates every week and the list is  too long to be shared  here. Here are some short videos that can show you exactly what i mean when i say Facebook excells all the other social networking websites

Here is another video that shows how Facebook has become the number one website in the internet, the stats are a little bit outdated as they were done in 2010 but still the video is really great and worth watching.

It is really difficult to deny these impressive  statistics about Facebook. These are important facts that we need to consider when talking about Facebook in education. Remember I am not an expert here but just an educator and ambitious researcher trying to increase awareness of the importance of Facebook as a learning tool.

Pros of Facebook in education

Embracing Facebook in education can have several pluses for both teachers and students, here is a list of some of its advantages as mentioned in several online surveys and articles , please go to webliography for references :

  • Facebook is a free collaborative learning tool that provides an anxiety free environment where students can speak up their minds and work together instead of being socially held back as happens in the real classroom setting.
  • Reminders, calendars, and events are easily shared with students
  • It offers easy access to online resources such as links, posts, videos, pictures...etc
  • Students who can not attend some classes can use their Classroom page to stay in the loop
  • Facebook can boost students self esteem. They can share what they have learnt not just with their fellow students but with the whole world.
  • Facebook creates strong social bonds between instructors and students
  • Through the use of Facebook students will have an idea about the importance of social media in learning.
  • Facebook can be used as a research tool  . Students can  use it to inquire about topics of relevant interest to them from other far flung students, experts, or simply other teachers they have met in discussion groups.
  • Facebook gives the introverts and shy students a golden opportunity to excell and contribute to their learning.
  • Parents can use it to follow along with class postings and progress of their kids. They wont wonder about their kids' achievement and they will be able to   intervene in the appropriate time to redress the situation.
  • Facebook breaks up the unnecessary and old fashioned barriers between instructors and their students making, thus, teachers more socially available to students.
  • Facebook pushes students to contribute to their learning , they can create , post discussion triggers, links and share resources and comment on  others' walls.
  • Facebook can also be used to introduce students of the same class to each other by associating names with faces.
  • Facebook is full of learning applications including mathematical formulae, slideshows, class notes, and many more. check The Best Facebook Learning Applications to learn more
  • Facebook can even open up career opportunities for students.
  • Technology in general and Facebook in particular helps create a sense of belonging in the classroom.' When students feel a sense of belonging, they tend to be more academically successful in school ' ( Mc Dowell, San Diego, Computer Using Educators Conference 11/06/10 )

Watch these videos to learn more 

Pros and Cons of Facebook Part 1

Pros and Cons of Facebook Part 2

How can educators use Facebook in their classrooms ?

There are several ways instructors and their students can embrace this technology into their teaching and learning , here are some of them :

Examples of how students can use Facebook in their learning :

  1. Students can  take photos of their teachers' notes on the board and refer to them after class is over in their photo albums. It is preferable that they organize photos with captions and devote a new album just for class notes.
  2. Students can use Facebook as a class buddy system. For instance, if one knows that he would be absent from a certain session then he could just ask one of his friends to log  on to facebook and update him about what is going on in  real time.
  3. Students can use Facebook to create productive study groups. They can create an event invitations for quizzes, labs, exams...etc and send it to their classmates and teachers.
  4. Students can also look for Facebook discussion groups that relate to their educational interests and try to participate in the ongoing discussions
  5. Students can use it to get  access to extra assignments and activities posted by their teachers in the classroom page wall.
  6. Facebook has a great tagging system. Students can use it to appropriately tag their materials like online materials, links, posts..etc to refer to them later on when reviewing for an exam.
  7. Students can also use it to form groups for classroom projects where they can share materials, assignments and information
  8. Students can also use it to partner up - under the supervision of their teachers- with students and schools from other parts of the world. This is especially helpful to science and foreign language learners.
Here is a video to show you how to create a Facebook group for your classroom

Examples of how teachers can use Facebook in their teaching :

  1. Teachers can use it to schedule daily learning activities
  2. Teachers can send Facebook updates to their students to remind them about certain assignements or simply to tell them not to be late
  3. Teachers can use it to get instant and easy feedback  of what their students think of an assignement or activity .This helps instructors better understand their students major interests and background allowing them to suggest ideas and topics they would be interested in
  4. Teachers can also use  Facebook as a forum for communication with their students. Thus , it will create an online opportunity for co-constructing knowledge and can be done in and out of the classroom.

There are hundreds of ways Facebook can be used in the classroom and if you want to learn more refer to the webliography below.

Tips educators need to know before using Facebook in the classroom

The following are some of the tips educators need to keep in mind when trying to use Facebook in their classrooms. They are generally meant to help teachers use this social media tool both effectively and professionally :

  • Do not use use your personal Facebook page as the official page of your classroom instead  create a separate page for your class. If you do not want to manage two different pages then i advise you to read " How to Keep you Personal and Professional Lives Separate on Facebook "
  • To avoid privacy rights' problems teachers need to obtain parents permission before using Facebook with their kids in the classroom
  • Teachers need to clearly  explain to the parents the guidelines, objectives, and expectations behind using Facebook as a learning tool.
  • Teachers need to be careful when friending students on Facebook. They need to always keep that professional feel in all the relationships they make and because of the public nature of wall posts, teachers generally do not friend students. Honestly speaking , I would not friend my students because what i will post on my wall will be different from what they will be posting. Maintaining  contact through the class page is the best solution
  • Teachers need to always stay active in classroom group page via constantly posting resources, links, and updating status reports so students know their teachers are engaged and always ready to help.

Facebook in the Classroom : watch this great video

Negative effects of Facebook

Although I am so much for the use of social media including Facebook in education  and so that this post sounds fair to both proponents and opponents of the use of Facebook in education I will not let it go by without including this paragraph here.

Like any other technological tool , Facebook has also its drawbacks. It is our responsibility as educators to pay attention to these pitfalls and help our kids and students avoid facing them.

Facebook has been criticized for many things but mostly for being :

  1. A source of distraction ; It can distract students' attention and derail them from the targeted learning goals especially when the chat service is available.
  2. Fake and misrepresented identities : Many users do not accurately identify themselves and some of them even misrepresent themselves online waving thus a red flag in the face of whom our students will be talking to.
  3. Privacy issues : Several people claim that Facebook leaves a personal digital trace of your activities on the internet for the world to see it.
  4. A source of information overload : so much content is being shared on Facebook everyday which could confuse students as to the authenticity and veracity of what they read online.This is where educators need to intervene  and show students how to sift through the info they find on the web.

In fact, there are many other legal and privacy issues with using Facebook that I just can not comprehensively  cover here but if you are interested and want to learn more about this topic then I invite you to read " Negative Effects of Facebook ".

An Austrian group called Europe versus Facebook has so far made 22 complaints regarding the social network’s practices. To read these complaints i would refer you to : Facebook , Releasing Your Personal Data Reveals Our Trade Secrets .
You can also check these articles :

Finally and before I let you go I want you please to note that the above mentioned side effects of Facebook should never be looked at as depressing the spirits and courage in you or diswaying you from using Facebook in your teaching but rather as an effort from my part to awaken your awareness of its  potential pitfalls so that you do not end up regretting using social networking sites such as Facebook at work.
Best of luck and do not forget to share your impressions and comments down.

Updates : Here is a great documentary I have just wached on CBC about Facebook and I want you to see it too , it is really great by all means. Check out Facebook Foolies

Webliography :

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