Facebook – A square peg trying to fit in a round hole

It’s a square. SQUARE!

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Teachers have been using Facebook for educational purpose for a long time. Heck, Facebook even has Facebook in Education group about how teachers can use it for, you guessed, educational purposes.

What bothers me are the teachers who are using it as a Learning Management System (LMS). Where they are running their class from. Their assignments go up there, study guides for tests, etc. I think this is a bad idea.

Want to know why? Click on past the break to find out why. As always, if you agree or disagree with my opinion then let us at IT Babble know. We love comments!

I like Facebook, so I don’t want you leaving this post thinking Patrick hates Facebook and therefore hates its use in education. NO! That’s not it at all. Let me narrow it tell you what my beef with Facebook and teachers. I don’t think that teachers should be running their classes through it. I don’t think that using Facebook to post your assignments, study guides, readings, field questions, etc. is a good idea. So let’s break it down.

When teachers started to use Facebook in education from 2006 and onward the rationale was (and still is I think) that it is where I and my students are at. Why not connect and make the most of it? It seemed logical. You can make groups to help keep it a little more private that way you don’t have to friend the teacher. Back in 2006-7 this is a great idea. As far as Learning Management Systems go your choices are pretty slim. Moodle was around but you had to host on your server. Not a choice for the average teacher. There are other choices too, Web CT, Blackboard, but those require a paid subscription. Again, most teachers either didn’t have the means or thought the cost was too great to justify the results, so Facebook it was!

Using groups on Facebook is easy and pretty secure. You can make open, closed or private (no one can see unless they are in the group). So security is taken care of, and this is all fine and dandy and I think using groups to help plan events in a school, organize a team or to raise awareness about a cause is a great! Those however have very different requirements than running a class. So this where I want to focus my argument.

Assignments

With a class you need to be able to post assignments, but then how can the students turn it in electronically? Facebook has no native solution for this. They don’t offer one. There is no “dropbox” for Facebook (yet – they did purchase Drop.io a few years ago but no one knows what they’re doing with it). There are work arounds like using the service like Drop it To me where you can make a link and students can then submit their files directly to your dropbox, but do you see the problem? We are using another service to achieve this. It’s not convenient and it causes problems when try to organize student work to grade. If a few assignments come in around the same time you either have to point Drop it To me to different folders for each assignment or you have to manually organize. This is not difficult, it’s just very tedious and can be time consuming.

Posting articles

To link to a blog post is easy as pie on Facebook. Just drop in the URL and Facebook will make the link active and even add a thumbnail (if it can). Easy, but what if it’s a PDF? What if you have a Word document, PowerPoint or Excel file? How can you upload it to Facebook? Basically you can’t. You need to upload it to another service (GoogleDocs, Dropbox, Minus, etc.) and then link to it on Facebook. Once again we are using another outside service to manage a simple task.

Communication

Facebook excels at this. Your students will get notifications (even on their phones) when you post something new. The problem? Your students probably have over 100 friends on Facebook and are communicating with them more often. Facebook’s mission statement is to give people the power to share and make the world open and connected. That’s great to promote socializing and connecting people, but formal education doesn’t seem to be a huge component in that statement. So why do teachers think this is a good solution or a great platform to run their class through? You can read it on their website here.

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Monitoring

If a kid in your class starts berating another student with profanity and hurtful statements you intervene and take them to the office to stop it, sort it out and hopefully help those people heal. If this happens on a Facebook group you can remove that person from the group, but you can’t remove them from Facebook. They are still on that platform and you can’t monitor or regulate what happens outside of your group. I would like to think that people can monitor themselves online but personal experience has shown me that this is not the case. Most people can, but there are always a few who think that because they are sitting behind a computer that they aren’t responsible for what they type to someone.

Getting on board!

Another problem with the Facebook platform as a LMS is that some parents don’t allow their child(ren) to join Facebook. Whatever their reasons, it is a wish that the school or teacher cannot ignore. If a student can’t join the group then are they at a disadvantage and is that disadvantage enough to affect learning? It is a serious question and one that cannot be overlooked.

Solution

So I’ve been flapping my gums at yeah long enough. I hope I’ve given you enough reasons to rule out Facebook as a possible LMS, but what possible solutions are there? Not only are there solutions but you can have your pick.

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Edmodo is a very popular (and my personal favorite) and effective LMS but all of those services make a better LMS than Facebook. Below I’ve linked to my reviews of each and the actual website.

Summing it up

Like I said before, I don’t hate Facebook and I do think that Facebook can be used in a school. I don’t believe that Facebook is a good option for running your class through. If you want to use Facebook to remind students of upcoming events and to give students a place to discuss certain topics, then maybe Facebook will work for you. If you want to do more, you need to look elsewhere and the great thing about 2012 is that you have those options. Those options are effective, free and easy to use. Look into them!

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About Patrick Cauley

I teach middle school technology and love to play around with tech and teach students and colleagues alike. You can read my blog at www.itbabble.com
This entry was posted in Opinion, Patrick Cauley and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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