Editor’s Note: It’s not an easy decision to bring Facebook into the classroom. Teachers must contend with all kinds of issues — including breaking the law. In this fraught world of social media privacy, the terrain is that much less clear, but for those who are willing to think about opening that door, here’s an article by Carol Brown of Online College.

By Carol Brown

At its start, Facebook was once exclusively for college students. But as it has grown in popularity and become adopted by everyone from grad students to grandmas, its usefulness has grown, too. Educators are beginning to realize the powerful potential that Facebook has in the classroom, not as a distraction, but as a collaborative learning tool. While some schools and instructors may be wary of inviting such a temptingly fun procrastination platform into their classrooms, others have seen great benefits in using social media. In fact, teacher Elizabeth Delmatoff in Portland saw a 50% increase in grades after implementing a social media program in her classroom. How can Facebook benefit your class? Online College enumerates 50 ways.

  1. Facebook is fun: Almost every student is familiar with Facebook, and most are excited to be able to use the site for collaborative learning.
  2. It’s free: Schools pay thousands of dollars for collaboration, digital storage, and communication systems, but Facebook does all of these things — for free.
  3. Students are simply more connected: Many teachers are familiar with Blackboard and other classroom community systems, but students typically only check in when necessary, while students are often checking Facebook multiple times per day.
  4. Calendars and events are easy to share: Remind students of important dates and events right where they hang out — on Facebook.
  5. Students will learn 21st century skills: A study from the University of Minnesota discovered that social networking sites like Facebook help students practice the skills they need to be successful in the 21st century.
  6. Students want to share beyond the classroom: Facebook and other social media tools open up the possibility for students to share what they’ve learned not just with their fellow students, but with the world.
  7. Online resources are even more convenient: Posting links on your classroom wall makes it easy for students to read them, and share interesting finds as well.
  8. Students can use Facebook productively: Most students use Facebook to procrastinate or catch up with friends, but using it in the classroom will help them see the tool in a different light.
  9. Absent students stay in the loop: Students who can’t make it to class can stay updated using the classroom Facebook group.
  10. Campus clubs have a simple forum: Students in extracurricular activities can use Facebook to stay in touch and keep everyone updated.
  11. You can schedule daily learning activities: Sign up your classroom Facebook group for a word of the day, or history lesson of the day to utilize a learning point that can be enjoyed together and referenced later.
  12. Facebook encourages collaboration rather than cliques: Everyone can speak up and work together on Facebook, where students may be held back socially in the classroom.
  13. There’s an opportunity to discuss appropriate use: Set students up for success in social media by discussing appropriate ways to use it.
  14. Facebook creates a social bond: Teachers and students can benefit from the social bond created by interaction on Facebook.
  15. Students can get access to extra assignments: Instructors can post extra credit assignments-or just fun activities students can pick up.
  16. Review material is easily organized: By tagging important items, you can easily collect links, photos, notes, and other resources that are essential for pre-exam review, which is useful for instructors as well as students.
  17. It’s great for professional development: Students aren’t the only ones who can benefit from using Facebook. Teachers can use it for professional development, too.
  18. Students can listen more actively: Students may passively listen to lectures, but interactively using Facebook will result in active learning.
  19. Parents can be more involved: Share lunch menus, important reminders, activities, events, closings, and special notes via a Facebook Page for your classroom.
  20. Class resources are available anywhere: Students can read notes and assignments anywhere they can find the Internet when they’re posted on Facebook.
  21. You can reach students on to go: Want to remind your chronically late students to get to class on time today? Students can receive Facebook updates by text, allowing you to get in contact before they’re late for your lecture.
  22. Students can learn about social media in a safe environment: By using Facebook in the classroom, you can teach students about the safe use of social media.
  23. You’ll save paper: Permission slips and flyers that used to be sent home on paper and eaten by the dog can bow be uploaded in Facebook groups for parents to use instead.
  24. Students can conduct research: Whether it’s for asking a far-flung family member about genealogy or taking an informal poll, students can use their Facebook friends to gather information.
  25. Facebook is great for reminders: Even if you’re mentioning important dates and assignments elsewhere, students can be helped with reminders that pop up right in their Facebook feed.
  26. Students can share at-home progress: Want to know how student science projects are coming along? Ask for photos of their works in progress, posted on your classroom Facebook wall.
  27. Social media becomes less of a distraction: Some teachers have found that using Facebook and other social media sites for education means that students are less tempted to use them inappropriately during class time.
  28. Shy students can shine: Students who might otherwise not speak up can contribute on Facebook where they may be more comfortable.
  29. You can share resources with colleagues: Your school teaching group or a collection of 4th grade teachers in your district can get together can share resources for teaching, saving time and enriching the classroom experience for students.
  30. Kids and parents can talk about activities: When parents are following along with class postings, they’ll never have to wonder what happened at school-and they can build upon what was discussed.
  31. Media can be disseminated with ease: Teachers, students, and parents can post pictures, video, and questions, sharing a dialog and resources on Facebook.
  32. Group projects can be executed on Facebook: Students can form groups for class projects, sharing assignments, information, and bringing it all together with trackable involvement.
  33. Show and tell: Students may not be able to bring their zoo-worthy python into the classroom, but photos and videos can be shared on Facebook.
  34. Debates can be taken online: Extend classroom discussions onto Facebook, where students can spend more time in active learning and debate.
  35. Students are more likely to interact with faculty: Facebook breaks down barriers, making instructors more socially available to students-and making it easier to talk to them.
  36. Outsiders can offer their input: Teachers can easily ask experts to chime in on Facebook pages, sparking a new level of discussion and involvement.
  37. Students can learn the importance of creating content: Instead of simply consuming content, students can create, posting discussions, resources, and more.
  38. Faculty can learn names and faces: With constant updates and interaction, faculty can use Facebook to better associate names and faces in the classroom.
  39. Students can interact with others around the world: Many classrooms use Facebook for foreign language learning, partnering up with students who speak different languages.
  40. Facebook can help new students settle in: Whether it’s grade school or college, Facebook is a great tool for helping students get integrated into the social and academic life of a new school.
  41. You can poll students on Facebook: Ask questions of your class on Facebook and get easy answers using polling tools on the site.
  42. You can get instant feedback: Find out quickly and easily what students think of an assignment or activity idea.
  43. Students can stay connected anywhere: Even if they can’t make it to class or check Facebook on their home computer, students can use Facebook on their mobile devices to stay updated at all times.
  44. Instructors can better understand the interests of students: When students make their profile details available, instructors can learn more about a student’s major, interests, and background, allowing them to suggest information and topics they’d be interested in.
  45. Facebook is full of learning apps: You can find tons of apps for classroom learning, including mathematical formulas, slideshow applications, class notes, and more.
  46. Relationships can continue after the course: Students can ask for recommendation letters, advice for other classes, and more because of Facebook’s informal communication.
  47. Students can become established on Facebook: Using Facebook in the classroom will allow students to start seeing it as a professional tool, and allow them to build a presence on the site.
  48. Facebook provides an opportunity for collaborative learning: Bringing the social element of Facebook into collaborative learning helps to encourage the practice and improve student engagement.
  49. Students can learn about academic and professional networking opportunities: By using Facebook, students will be able to discover the opportunities for career focused networking that are available.
  50. Faster feedback: Facebook allows instructors to host extended virtual office hours, with postings and responses available around the clock.
50 Reasons to Invite Facebook Into Your Classroom 9 August,2011Tina Barseghian

  • Mdcromp

    The problem is this: you can do all of this in more protected spaces. College students are of an age that they can make their own decisions about personal privacy and appropriate behaviour on line – K12 students aren’t. The only advantage that Facebook has from school perspective is that everyone already has an account. In an environment were students should feel safe to make mistakes, a fully open, exposed and permanent platform is not appropriate.

    • Eug_carizma

      The problem is if we as teachers don’t step in soon to help them learn about making appropriate and responsible decisions, who will? And you can’t suggest the parents will do it…unfortunately many parents don’t know how to teach them in this instance because they didn’t grow up in the digital age. It is our job as educators to teach children the things they won’t or can’t learn at home.

      • Nancy Willard

        I totally agree that teachers need to help students learn about making safe and responsible choices. (Disclaimer, my book Cyber Savvy: Embracing Digital Safety and Civility is coming out this fall.) But it is not necessary for teachers to be intruding themselves into students social environments to do this. Teachers can set up constructive instructional activities in class – even without Internet access – where students can discuss these issues. Face-to-face discussions about these issues are better. And then application of skills within an interactive instructional environment.

        Your comment implies that young people are not making appropriate and responsible decisions – and the research indicates that the majority are. So it is best to set up instructional activities so that students can gain insight into the positive norms and practices of their savvy peers.

  • Social media for teaching is GREAT… Facebook is a disaster, just because of the awful ads, if nothing else. There are all kinds of fantastic social media tools out there, far better suited to teaching and learning than Facebook. Just to take one example, I have had EXCELLENT experiences with a dedicated Ning network for my classes, which I’ve been using for three years now. Pearson sponsors FREE Nings for K-12 and for Higher Ed, too. So, please, don’t recommend Facebook when there are so many better alternatives.  I like Mind/Shift a lot but it is pretty disappointing that you are promoting Facebook here, as if it were the best alternative for educational social media, when it is certainly not the best choice. This article would be much more useful if it were presented as 50 Reasons to Invite a Social Network Into Your Classroom with a good list of social networks that really serve the needs of students and teachers. For more information about Ning and the free Pearson sponsorship, visit this webpage:

  • Nancy Willard

    Interactive technologies (social media) are great for instruction. In fact trying to prepare students for their future without these technologies in schools would be like trying to teach children to swim without a swimming pool.

    But the technologies used in school need to be designed to support instructional activities, should be non-commercial, and especially should protect student privacy. It is perfectly appropriate for schools or extracurricular organizations to use Facebook for community outreach. But there are many reasons why Facebook should not be use for instructional purposes:

    Facebook is an environment for socializing. It is important to draw a distinction between educational activities and socializing.

    Facebook is not free. It is a commercial system that depends on market profiling and advertising. Schools should invest in appropriate interactive technologies for instructional purposes that do not allow such activities.

    Interactive instructional environments can provide all of the benefits this writer attributes to Facebook, including learning 21st Century skills, accessing resources, discussing and debating, polling, feedback, and the like — but in a safe environment designed to support educational activities. Further, these instructional activities will be in an environment that provides for appropriate monitoring.

    Interactive instructional environments for schools need to be designed to serve the needs of ALL students – not just those over the age of 13. Encouraging a direction that is only legally permissible for high school students is not forward thinking.

    It is essential to insure appropriate protection for student privacy and work product. Teachers must scrupulously protect student privacy under the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act. There are ways to establish more private groups on Facebook, but if any teacher fails to implement these features properly – the school district could be held liable. This article has ignored these privacy concerns.

    This writer presumes that students will also welcome teachers into their private social networking lives – just like students would love to have teachers hang out with them at the mall, going to movies, and at their parties – Not! If some students do friend teachers, there will be the perception of grading bias. If teachers request students to be friends, students may feel unduly pressured to allow someone who they do not want to be able to intrude into their private life. Teachers who do friend students may end up responsible for failure to detect and report a concern.

  • Andrew Bills

    As a teacher myself, all I can say is “Load of crap” – sounds like an article a student wrote in order to try to justify facebook in schools. While Facebook does have potential for good in the schools there is just too much about it that doesnt work. Also, not every student has a Facebook account and some parents simply don’t allow their children to have Facebook accounts yet. -So again, this premis = fail.

  • norbert boruett

    I hope the skeptics of facebook get this 

  • Robin SellersEDU

    I suggest using FB pages or groups, not private profile accounts with students. This way, you don’t see your students personal posts and they don’t see yours. (I scooped this post to my technology integration scoop.it page too at http://www.scoop.it/t/technology-integration)

  • Luis

    Sugiro o Facebook Educators pois acho que os brasileiros podem aprender muito com os americanos.

  • Huang Laoshi

    I would like to share some positive perspectives and my past experience. I used Facebook with my students, because my secondary students suggested me to set up a group for the class use. We had class discussions and clear guidelines beforehand. My students shared their Chinese scripts and videos through Facebook. They shared feedbacks and suggestions to classmates. The parents were happy to know that they were using Facebook properly to learn Chinese as a second language. I do believe that with teacher’s guidance and patience, students will be more mature to respect each other’s privacy.  

  • Despite the hype and the benefits, keep in mind age restriction, appropriateness and the fact that it is not a pedagogical tool, so make sure you design a pedagogic framework and methodology for its inclusion. If you do all that, it can be quite fun and beneficial.

  • Jon McLaren

    All of this at the cost of their privacy and risk of pedophile teachers Google + would be way better suited for this and the ability to do class hangouts would greatly improve the teachers flexibility with showing examples and demonstrating tough topics. Also since hangouts are group things with the ability to report people, you won’t find pedo teachers trying todo hangouts with little kids. I do believe though that this should be a highschool and up sort of idea.

    Social media is not right for kids in middleschool unless it’s properly controlled. Bullying is a serious problem and social media makes it easier for bullies to bully and more permanent of a problem for victims. Ultimately a separate more controlled social network would be required for doing middleschool kids.

  • Saxby

    Plenty of room for exploitation there. I can already see students I went to school with setting up funny parent profiles… In saying that, I can still see the potential if managed correctly

  • What many of you forget is that it is our responsibility to reach student in the manner which is best for them…not us. Although I admit Ning is great, it becomes just another technology for students to have to use, which defeats several of the goals of Ning or Facebook. I’m sure pretty soon Google will have something similar (maybe a modified Google +) and educators will say that should be used. Can we MAKE students use Facebook, Ning, or any other social networking tool? Probably not, but they’re likely to WANT to use Facebook for school because they already use it socially.

  • Doveybrett

    The Khan Academy is making very good use of the social media platform to teach people … You get badges for your accomplishments …. And its a good motivator for success …

  • Raymullen

    interactive technology is great but ‘social media’ is not the role of the teacher. half these suggestions are not what a teacher should be doing…its the role of parents to teach, not teachers.

    teachers i know do not want to to extend their job to 24/7 and also blue the line between ‘social’ and student.  

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