Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Facebook in the Classroom? #137

My theme for blog posts this week has been Social Media - today I am posting about Facebook in my classes.

Image source: ACE Online Schools Blog.
I don't need a mirror at the back of my classroom to know that some students are checking Facebook (and other stuff) during class. I'm not a mind reader either, nor can I see the reflection of the Facebook screen in students' eyes. So - while I have no proof that they are on Facebook, I just know that they are.

What Facebook is being used for in class is a mighty question. Too often I see students in rows behind glancing at what a student in front is doing. While this could be a video of a cat walking a tightrope, it might also be something meaningful and creative - perhaps even relevant to class. Many College Clubs and Societies use Facebook, and the College itself even has a Facebook page. Many classes set up a class Facebook page, and it is even useful for some project groups. I have actually seen students using Facebook to communicate in class while working together for tutorials. A student might also be keeping in touch with a sick parent or child, or responding to an urgent message from family or friends. A student may also have a friend in a distressed or suicidal state who just needs to stay in touch. Maybe they are just bored with my class and are taking a short unscheduled break.

So there could be many legitimate reasons for students to access Facebook during class. I have no problem with any of the above. 

I often tell students that I don't object to what they are doing. However, I do object if this causes collateral effect on other students. This is a real problem for me, and it is not confined to younger students. Time and time again I see students' eyes being drawn to what other students have on their screens - it's human nature to be curious. I stop short of banning it totally - I just warn students not to disturb others. Facebook and its ilk are parts of our lives now, and the classroom is no different. Some educators try to overcome the problem by incorporating it into the class - I don't personally see the need for this. So rather than confronting the problem I do now tolerate Facebook in my class.

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