Facebook educational extremes: banning versus promotion

Jeff Utecht sings the praises for Facebook as an educational tool. While Jeff typically shines at promoting useful tools for educators, I think he goes over the top here. He begins by listing “facts” about Facebook and a couple of them sound more like a sales-pitch than sound educational advice.

1. Everyone, including parents and teachers are already using it. Not only is that false by exaggeration, but an attempt to pass off a bandwagon fallacy (argumentum ad populum for the Latin-minded).

2. Facebook has replaced e-mail for many people. While I know many who use Facebook to message others, I don’t actually know anyone who has completely stopped sending messages via e-mail and relies exclusively on Facebook. Perhaps these people exist, but many? Like microblogging or IM, these technologies have certainly added to our arsenal, but many?

3. Facebook has more privacy settings then (sic) most Internet sites. I think it would be useful (imperative?) to point to sites that serve a similar purpose, then describe how Facebook is superior in this regard. And, given the ugly history of Facebook privacy and the CEO’s contempt toward these issues, this isn’t a strong selling point. Remember who’s in control here…Zuckerberg’s the CEO, b**ch. Yes, the cards have changed, but there’s no indication the man has.

4. Not using Facebook to communicate with your school/class community is like not using Google to search. Apples and oranges. I don’t use Facebook to search nor do I use Google’s search engine to do social networking. Further, I don’t have to sign into Google and tell them who I am in order to use their search engine. I’m not sure what Jeff is getting at here but at best, it’s another bandwagon fallacy.

5. It is the future. While I have no doubt that Facebook will continue to be popular for some time, this “fact” was a real eye-roller.

6. It is the now. See #5.

7. For every negative reason to block Facebook there is a positive reason as well. I actually ended the list with this one because it ties into the title of this post…

First, I want to make clear that I agree with Jeff that schools that actively block Facebook are not doing students any favors. I abhor schools that block sites that simply act as tools. I think Jeff and I agree on this. What I question is the idea of using Facebook with elementary students (as young as Grade 1 in Jeff’s post) or even older ones for that matter. The Facebook privacy policy clearly states that children under the age of 13 are not to create accounts or use the site to post personal information. Carefully note the or. The school Jeff speaks about has cleverly circumvented the account creation aspect – by having a centralized account controlled by the teacher. However, they have failed to live up to the policy as personal information from the children is still being posted. While I think this is a concern, it isn’t even my central criticism…

Why hook a school into Facebook instead of developing a private, on-site solution? What does Facebook offer (besides popularity) that a site built on Free/Open Source software like Elgg or a combination of tools like Moodle and StatusNet doesn’t? Sure, going with Facebook sounds easy, but it also sounds like the easy way out – especially for an educational institution that could turn this into a learning opportunity for some technically-inclined pupils and a technical director and/or teacher. I get why banning Facebook in schools is an unwarranted extreme, but I fail to see any value in promoting it as an educational tool for little children. Isn’t this just going from one extreme to another?

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5 Responses to “Facebook educational extremes: banning versus promotion”

  1. wafi Says:

    Facebook can be useful between schools, parents and students through many ways but I don’t see it being the future as Jeff says. For example the school can use it to publish its school letter instead printing a lot of paper every week or month, as well as promoting school events to students and parents, which is what some schools and universities are already doing.

    Other than that I don’t see how facebook can be use for schools. As a student I wouldn’t like to get a message or a “post on my wall” from my teacher asking me where is your homework or reminding me that I have an exam tomorrow.

    Moodle is much better to use than facebook, at least the way my university is using it. For example a lot of the notes are online and the lectures can be found easily and so on.

    If facebook is to be used along with school for example by creating a group and posting in that group the assignments for students and extra notes and so on. Although it would be useful, it would mean for people who do not want to use facebook, they are required by their school to get an account. It would also force student to mix their “social” life with their academic life which is not necessarily a great idea.

  2. petrock Says:

    Using Facebook as a promotional tool is qualitatively different than using it as a learning tool. I agree that forcing students to get a Facebook account in order to complete their academic work is “not necessarily a great idea”. In fact, that’s a very polite way of putting it.

  3. Wesley Fryer Says:

    In response to your last question, I think a big think Facebook offers which a roll-your-own school social network does NOT is Facebook is already on the “information radar screen” of many school constituents. When you create your own digital garden not connected already to the ways people are already used to viewing, processing and interacting with information, you face a big challenge: How do I KEEP people coming back to my site regularly. A facebook fan page helps address that challenge for a growing number of folks. Everyone? No. But as Jeff is arguing, I think, that number is too significant to ignore.

    Email subscriptions to updates and mailing lists with update summaries are another way to get on parent radar screens. I think schools are well advised to use both Facebook and email. No single communication modality is going to work for everyone, but it makes sense to utilize those which many people are already using today in large numbers.

  4. Why publish school updates on Facebook? « Moving at the Speed of Creativity Says:

    […] Why publish school updates on Facebook? My reply today to Facebook Educational Extremes: Banning versus Promotion: […]

  5. petrock Says:

    Wes, I think you overestimate the difficulty of transitioning from one technology to another. But more importantly, this is not an issue of trying to make one’s site popular – to “keep them coming back”. This is a pedagogical issue. You keep *students* coming back to your DIY site simply by using it. Generally speaking, students don’t struggle learning new tech.

    Also, I think there’s a misunderstanding as I see the post at your site is titled “Why publish school updates on Facebook?”. As I mentioned to Wafi, there is a qualitative difference between posting school updates and using Facebook as a tool for student learning. I don’t really care about the former but I think the latter is misguided. The “promotion” I refer to in the title of my post is promotion of Facebook as a tool for learning – which is clearly the case in Jeff’s post. In fact, there is a slideshow (Prezi) on how a Grade 1 class is using (or at least attempting) it for that purpose.

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