Once upon a time, Facebook used to be a student only playground as it was a closed system. But ever since Facebook opened up to allow anyone and their cat to have an account, well maybe not their cat as it’s hard to be a fake person with a fake name on Facebook, many academic professionals have been signing up and experimenting with using Facebook as an academic tool.
Recently I read an article about how a teacher from the University of Maryland uses Facebook to get in touch with her students. She explained that with everyone on Facebook it was much easier to remember names and faces. Since Facebook is not a school controlled site it kind of sets an atmosphere of neutral grounds, allowing the students to experience a more casual interaction with teachers, enabling them to be more open with their communication. Due to the fluidity of personal information shared back and forth on Facebook, a certain level of familiarity is developed quicker than could be during precious classroom time.
Not everyone is in agreement. There are many teachers that do not see a benefit in using Facebook for their class, some say there’s no classroom value in it and that it might even be an avenue for accessing inappropriate material, others suggest that it only adds to the many distractions in class. Many school districts agree and block these sites from school computers. Some unfortunate byproducts occur from this however; faculty computers are also blocked, students discover proxy sites, IT hires more personnel to block proxy sites, students access the sites from their cell phones.
The article concludes with saying, Facebook can be an excellent virtual medium for building and maintaining real world social connections within a class, but only when it’s used informally and everyone understands its purpose and limits.
Where do you stand on the issue? Do you use Facebook in your job formally or informally? Are you worried about TMI with your students? Do you separate your personal and professional online profiles?