The Facebook Factor
Well, I’d avoided signing up for a Facebook account as long as I could. When I received the outline for this class, I realized that in order to be prepared for this portion of my learning, I needed to set up an account and get started exploring Facebook. So in the spring I started my Facebook account and began my social networking journey. To be honest I’ve been skeptical of the whole Facebook thing from the get go. Here are my top reasons for my skepticism.
1. Time. It’s another thing that would take up more time in an already busy schedule. Between a hectic school schedule, spending time with my family, running kids to evening and afternoon activities, and trying to maintain a fitness schedule (running a few times a week), sometimes there isn’t enough time in the day to fit “extras” in.
2. The friend competition. From my limited exposure to Facebook (prior to obtaining an account), I viewed Facebook as little more than a competition by participants to accumulate the most “friends” (a term I use very loosely with Facebook). I’ll get into this a little more a little later in this post.
3. Using it as a communication tool. When I wish to communicate with my “friends”, I usually use more traditional methods such as the phone, email or face to face visits. Call me crazy but these work for me.
So, what do I think about Facebook after using it over the last few months?
I haven’t strayed too much from my original thoughts on Facebook. I’m not sure I personally see the value of a Facebook account. I see people I know who have hundreds of so called “friends” in their profile and I wonder what the purpose of this collection of friends really is. Are these really your friends? Doubtful. In my experience, I’ve collected 40 some “friends” mostly through invitations initiated by others, not myself. Do I consider these people my friends? Not really. Most of them are people that I went to high school with. In most cases, I didn’t even have anything to do with many of these individuals and I would hardly consider them my friends. So, what’s the purpose of adding them to my list of “friends”? I also have 10 people who have sent me an invitation to be their friend who I for the life of me can’t figure out who they are. I’m guessing they went to my high school but I haven’t bothered to pull out my yearbook to check. I figure if I don’t remember them of the top of my head, they really don’t play much of a role in my life. So, if I don’t respond to their invitation to be their “friend” and choose to ignore them, am I offending them?
Is on-line social literacy an important new literacy as Stephen Abraham suggests in “Scaffolding the New Social Literacies”? There are all kinds of arguments both for and against such social networking sites. Is it a relevant new literacy for students today? Absolutely! How does it fit into school? Good question. There are many websites, blogs and wiki’s that suggest different uses for such sites as Facebook, My Space, Bebo, Twitter, etc. that give suggestions on how to use such social networking sites for educational purposes.
Educational Implications (Educators)
Whenever I think of educational implications for web 2.0 tools I usually think first about student use in the classroom and then later think about what it means professionally for teachers. This time, I’d thought I’d tackle what Facebook means for educators and how teachers could use such social networking sites for professional development opportunities.
Professional Learning Communities
I could see how teachers could create a “friend” list of professional colleagues. From there, you could post messages and regularly communicate with others about educational topics from planning to sharing of resources and beyond. Nings are another tool that can accomplish this same goal. I’m not sold that Facebook is the tool of choice for this sort of communication. The structure of Facebook is set up to be a much more social setting. Could you personalize your page so it is more educational? Certainly but I’m not sure it would be worth the time invested in doing so unless others are planning on doing the same. Ning’s are more suited to this sort of on-line collaboration (Ning's in Education).
Social Networking & Safety
An issue always at the forefront of discussion when it comes to web 2.0 tools is that of safety for users (particularly students when we are using the application in an educational setting). Social Networking Sites: Safety Tips for Tweens and Teens is a website that is published by the American Federal Trade Commission. It offers some precautionary information for people to consider when using social networking sites such as Facebook. Included are also several links to websites that offer other safety and precautionary information when exploring the web.
What I’d Like to See in Facebook
Here’s my two cents on Facebook and how I’d like to see it evolve for me to get the most out of it.
I’d like to see “friendships” evolve into communities where common likes, interests, information are shared. Some topics possibly…
a. Entertainment ideas
b. Restaurant info
c. Book title sharing
d. Parenting practices
e. the sky is the limit!
I’m sure it is possible to do many of these things through other web tools (such as Shelfari), but it would be nice to be able to include this on the Facebook page. Perhaps this is possible and I just haven’t explored it enough.
Wrapping it up
I still am skeptical about creating such social networks for students using tools such as Facebook and MySpace largely due to the inability to control some of the content that is available on individual pages. I fear that this tool will not be used to is educational potential because of the “social” focus of the application. Can it be fun? Addicting? Useful? Absolutely, but I’m not sure if an educational setting is the proper place for it. There are so many other Web 2.0 tools with much more learning potential in my humble opinion.