Teaching and Learning Through Facebook

At our secondary English conference yesterday, one of the teachers shared how he had recently started to use Facebook for part of his unit on Of Mice and Men.  He had groups of students draw for a character in the novel and then they worked together to create a Facebook page as that character. The students are completely engaged and are demonstrating a sophisticated understanding of the characters in the novel. It was a great discussion.

I have some concerns though, but I’m not sure if they’re valid.

First of all, when we were looking at the teacher’s exemplar Facebook page, some inappropriate ads came up on the sidebar. I’m not sure that privacy settings are a real issue since the students are not posting as themselves, but isn’t there the possibility that Facebook might shut down the page if they realize it’s not a real person?

I thought about doing the same kind of thing on Ning, but the cool thing about Facebook, is the students (as characters) were joining groups etc. that exist on Facebook and wouldn’t exist on Ning.

Does anybody have some thoughts about this?

4 thoughts on “Teaching and Learning Through Facebook

  1. Hey Danika,

    I am intrigued, but cautious about this too. I think that the idea is great, but I’m wondering if it violates the spirit of fb. Is it an ethical use of the social web that is being modeled? The thing is, I want to teach kids to be themselves online – not create personas and deceptions. It would, however, provide an opportunity to explore the idea that one of the negative aspects of the web is its facilitation (supposed, anyhow) of deceit. We caution kids that the people with whom they interact might not be representing themselves faithfully (the 14 year old male who is in fact an adult…). And, it is always interesting to wonder how a character in a text might interact in our own world. Something to think about. Creating a class Ning would be my answer, at least at the moment.

  2. Would be a fun activity to have them just build mock facebook profiles for the characters using desktop apps (Publisher maybe, or Comic Life would be fun). They could do up a profile bio, pic, wall comments from “friends”. Would be a good way to discuss what is “safe” to put on a profile and what isn’t without getting too preachy…

  3. Thanks Shannon and Tim. Tim, I agree with you completely, but I also like the idea of interaction. I just got a response from someone at Ning who said that it shouldn’t be a problem to start a Ning and add students as characters from a novel since the intent is not to actually misrepresent themselves. I’m going to keep playing with this idea and blog about it later.