Saturday, October 9, 2010

Today's Lesson: Facebook. Friend or enemy in the classroom?

Facebook, the premiere social networking site, is used by hundreds of thousands of students all over the world. While the site has become somewhat of a nuance for most teachers—they distract from valuable study and class time—some schools are embracing the social media site with welcoming arms. Not only are some schools incorporating Facebook into their lesson plans, but they are also tutoring students as young as 6-years-old on how to 'properly' use the site.

Yes, students are being tutored how to use Facebook.

This school year, teachers at Bluff Gunn Elementary, a school located in Iowa, decided to use Facebook in the hopes that they could create an interactive learning environment for their students—showing them the positive ways of using the site and the importance of a social networking— while squeezing a few spelling and grammar lessons in between.  While many may frown at the idea of fourth graders using Facebook in the classroom, teachers at Gunn argued that the site helps students reinforce information while simultaneously allowing parents to monitor what their child is learning in class.

How do they do this, exactly?

Upon the class' completion of the core curriculum, no matter what the subject, teachers will log on to Facebook and ask students to update the class profile page.  The trick is that students can only have updates pertaining to what was taught that day. Teachers require that students really synthesize the day's lesson and incorporate specific details it into the status update. The status is then collectively checked for sentence structure and spelling and grammar mistakes before the status is entered. In turn, parents who filled out a consent form allowing their child to participate in the classroom Facebook page can view the updates. This way, they can keep track of what their child is being taught in school. In addition to being able to view important announcements and assignment deadlines, they can also view classroom photos, videos, and other student- work, published only with the consent of the parent naturally.

First graders at Gunn Elementary also learn Facebook, however the grammar portion is geared more towards the fourth grade students.

While schools like Gunn are trying to get hip with times by incorporating networking sites like Facebook into their lesson plans, do you think that Facebook in the classroom—especially taught at such a young age—is a good idea?  While there is no concrete evidentiary support stating how young Facebook users tend to be, most typically start in middle school, not grade school.  So, do you think these schools are just trying to beat their students to the punch, meaning –the students will get a Facebook eventually, so teachers might as well inform them how not to abuse the site starting now?; or do you think these schools are in a sense forcing students to adopt these sites that they might have never wanted to use on their own?

This guest post is contributed by Olivia Coleman, who writes on topics of online colleges and universities.  She welcomes your comments at her email Id:


  1. Thanks for this post.
    Does the school give any thought to the Facebook Terms of Use that state users must be 13 years of age?

    I think there are some good ideas here, but are we promoting healthy digital citizenship here by picking and choosing some of the terms to facilitate this in the classroom?

    It's a great idea to get young students wised up about social networking sites, but curious how Facebook provides the best learning platform when there are many other alternatives out there.

    We need Facebook Education Edition. :)

  2. What is the response given to the argument that taking classtime to update Facebook status is time away from anything of educational value?

  3. I think Facebook has too long been an outlet for social status, not educational use. To try to pull something like that into the classroom is to fight a battle that I don't think is winnable. There are so many other tool available to accomplish goals. Tools like Twitter, that does not yet have the stigma of being purely social can be used.

    If we want to bring facebook into the classroom however, 1st grade is definitely the age to do it. Train them while they are young that this is an educational tool first and social outlet second. I fear that parents are too far gone though in their use of Facebook as a social outlet and the kids don't stand a chance once they leave school.

  4. @Anonymous, if I understood what this class is doing, their updates are a synthesis of what they've learned during the day. This kind of reflection seems to be of high educational value.

    @RobinThailand, I thought about the age limit in the Terms of Use also. Facebook is a powerful tool for communication, sharing events, etc., but my students are all ages 8-12. I'm not sure if parent permission is enough. I would love to see more sites like Facebook and LibraryThing create educational versions that are open to younger people.

  5. I teach High School and 90% of my students are using FB already. It is an oversight that they haven't been deliberately taught how to use it safely and responsibly by the school in earlier grades. In HS we should now be trying to correct that oversight by teaching digital citizenship. and safe use of social networking.
    As far as using FB as a classroom tool, given that they almost all have accounts and understand how to navigate and use it, it seems to me to be a logical choice for at least some level of use in class.

  6. I am amazed and I must admit envious of a teacher whose school community allows use of social media as an educational tool.I also see great value in teaching the kids from a young age to use facebook for learning and for that reason my own 7yr old has a parent administered account.
    There are other programs out there and we use some of them at school (eg, SuperClubs Plus) but they aren't as 'real' as facebook and therefore the lessons learnt on them, in my opinion, are not as rich.

  7. It's interesting that nobody seems to mind children violating terms of use. How can we just pick what rules we wish to follow? Even if we don't agree, are we teaching good digital citizenship by saying, "Oh, it's okay...everyone is doing it." Would we also teach students how to illegally download movies or music?

    Even parent administered accounts are a violation of the terms of use. I wonder how many people actually read them?

    Yet, I needs to be taught, but sex education is taught without asking students to go out and do it.