Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Facebook in Education - There are Apps for That!

Peak interest, connect, communicate, discover, probe, inquire, apply, extend, establish relationships, demonstrate...learn; all things teachers strive for with students. In an effort to take learning to students (and parents) and to make connections with today's kids where they live and learn, some teachers in the district are trying what has become the most used social network in the world – Facebook. While Facebook is still a great way to find friends and stay connected socially, it can also be a tool for teaching and learning; class projects, communication with students and parents, demonstrating appropriate use of online communication tools, helping students to develop digital citizenship and literacy, and establishing personal learning networks with other education professionals all are possible uses of Facebook in education.

“I use it as a way of letting students and parents know what we have coming up in class and what is due,” Navasota Junior High School math teacher Cara Moreland said. Moreland’s Math Buzz is a place for Moreland to have contact with parents about how their students are doing and with students who may need help with homework assignments.

One Texas teacher from whom I got feedback said Facebook announcements about assignments really helped a struggling student in her Latin class because the student's parents were able to easily see when new assignments were posted and offer timely help outside of class. She also found making herself available online for a short time the night before tests has helped students.

"I have had some productive tutoring sessions in the chat mode with students to help clarify a certain grammatical point or to help translate a particularly tricky sentence," she said.

Westlake High School Instructional Technology Partner Dustin Windsor said developing interaction is much easier with a network like Facebook than posting information on a Website.

" We wanted to contact former teachers and students four our 40th anniversary this year," he said. "We set up a Facebook group that went from three members to over 1,200 in about five weeks."

Other potential benefits include interacting with students in an environment in which many of them are very comfortable. The format promotes collaboration among students, keeps your instructional environment current, and can be a great place to follow students as they progress beyond school.

Navasota Junior High School English teacher Leta Simpson also uses Facebook to post status reminders about assignments or things they need to bring to class. She also envisions using discussion boards and maintaining virtual office hours where she can use the chat application to answer questions about homework.

“The most important thing it has done is allow me to get to know my students and see what’s going on in their lives,” Simpson said. "My Facebook page is still in its infancy but it has definitely been a helpful tool this year.”

High school assistant principal Kristie Jones uses Facebook to get information to seniors but also to keep up with student activities.

"It is actually working better for one-to-one communication because the students use the messaging system to ask questions rather than use email," Jones said.

Navasota ISD also has a presence on Facebook, using the application's Fan Page tool for developing a community following and providing information to both Navasota ISD Facebook Fans and those who just want to view the public announcements without becoming Fans.

There are many Facebook applications and resources that can extend the network’s basic applications to help create powerful learning environments for students and communications tools for teachers.

Generation M2: Media in the Lives of 8-18 Year-Olds

100 Ways You Could Be Using Facebook in the Classroom

Educational Apps for Facebook

Navasota ISD Social Media Guidelines

Facebook Apps for Education

Facebook Recap Apps That Inspire

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