Ilse's weblog of random thoughts

Teachers, leave my Facebook alone!

Lately, I have seen various blogposts and suggestions by teachers to use Facebook as a learning platform. At the CLT, the Centre of Languages where I studied Spanish, staff members are wondering if they could bypass the fact that they don’t have a proper learning platform by using Facebook with their students. From one of the teachers’ comments on Facebook itself, it seems that the students are not so keen on this idea. For them, Facebook is personal, and shouldn’t be used in the classroom.

I have heard this idea for several years now. It started a couple of years ago, on the EIfEL conference about e-portfolio in Maastricht. During a post-keynote discussion, several teachers suggested asking students to use Facebook, Myspace and similar social network sites, to create portfolios for educational purposes. Back then, it already struck me as a serious violation of student’s privacy to demand of them to use a tool from their personal sphere, where they no doubt post all kinds of comments that you as a teacher or a parent for that matter don’t need, want or dare to see. And believe me, I know what I’m talking of, I’m Facebook-friends with my godchild and often blush at her comments.

A couple of months ago, on the Blackboard World Europe conference in Barcelona, Paul Wigfield, a very enthousiastic professor at the dental department of the university of Sheffield, who every year amazes me with how he incorporates new media as podcasting and other web 2.0 tools into his courses, talked about how his students did use Facebook for informal chatting about their group work, as long as he was not part of it. For the more formal discussions, he set up a Ning-community, and let the students use Facebook as an extra, optional and personal tool, if they liked.

I do admit that most of our students are already using Facebook, and that using another tool like Ning obliges them to create yet another account. Tom Karrer sites on his blog the bank robber Willie Sutton who, when asked why he robbed banks, answered: ‘Cause that’s where the money is’. But still, I believe that facebook is the wrong place (and perhaps even the wrong tool) to use for classroom purposes. That doesn’t mean it can’t have other purposes for a school, like an informal discussion place like at Sheffield, or for PR reasons. Many schools, organisations and departments, like Wisper, who organises my flamenco classes, or Cultuurcoördinatie K.U.Leuven, the department at our uni responsable for organising cultural events, already have Facebook pages or groups, to keep members updated on upcoming events.

In my humble opinion, tools should be used for what they are designed. Sunday, there is a reunion of MOT, an organisation I was part of more than 10 years ago, and we found most of the old members back through Facebook. This proves that it’s an ideal networking tool, and I love to keep updated of my friends’ and family’s whereabouts, look at pictures of their kids and get invited to events. But I rather leave the e-learning to proper tools which are more suited, and more importantly, don’t intervene with my personal life. You wouldn’t want students to start a discussion about what they are going to do this weekend and what beer they prefer in a Blackboard course, would you?

As a final remark (for now, that is), I have found one good example of implementing Facebook in a classroom, and that is by using it as a course subject. Like in Stanford University, where the most popular computer science course of the fall semester 2007 apparently was about how to create engaging applications for Facebook. Although some folks questioned  the  $2.500 tuition fee, I think the students who took it got worth for their money. I’m sure Sami would agree, now he got me hooked on that Bubbles World Challenge game that he  designed for Facebook.


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  1. * Jeroen T. says:

    I agree FB probably shouldn’t be used as a learning platform (meaning the software tool). I first saw this post on your FB however, before spotting it in my RSS reader. Which confirms FB’s value of being connected since we both deal with this matter in our jobs. Could it also have been LinkedIn? Probably, although – in my own experience – I now tend to get more valuable information through my FB connections than through LinkedIn. Proof: this post of yours.

    Check out an older post of mine: I am still curious about some user friendly ‘general and individual platform’ where all of my accounts are linked together so I can keep managing them/it.


    Jeroen T.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 8 months ago

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