Facebook and Forums and Feeds, oh my.
(Upon seeing Lance Fortnow's
Bill Gasarch asked Evan Golub, who does research in Human-Computer Interaction and
educational technologies (though his Ph.D. involved Expander Graphs)
to do a guest post on facebook. This is that post.)
Lance recently wrote wondering how he would use a Facebook page
with his course. I should start by saying that although I have
a Facebook account, I don't really use it - I signed up for it
to look around and to decide whether I wanted to start using it
and haven't decided on "yes" yet.
In thinking about Lance's question, my first question was whether
he would create a Facebook group for his class, or create an actual
user and name it after his class. Depending on what notification
options work on a group -vs- work on a user might guide this decision.
For example, if one of these allows other Facebook users to receive a
notification when the wall is written on, then it might become the
My next thoughts on this relate to Internet-based course management
ideas that could be done via other technologies, but might be
possible using Facebook instead.
So, what could Lance do with a Facebook account/group for his
class that could already be done with forums?
He could provide a way for students in the class to:
...get in touch with each other and find out about each other
outside of the classroom
...from study groups during the semester
...post links to useful resources related to class topics
Next, what could Lance do with a Facebook account/group for his
class that could be already be done with an RSS feed?
He could have a way to let students know when he has:
...posted a new assignment
...posted additional notes
...updated the grades posted online
Assuming that anything that could be done via Facebook could also
be done using forums or feeds or other technologies, why use Facebook
rather than web forums or RSS feeds or other tools at our disposal?
To borrow an idea from
Alexandre Auguste Ledru-Rollin,
one reason might be "because that's where the students are, so if
we want to guide them, that's where we should be".
However, the above is more the reason why I have not used Facebook with
my courses yet. I see Facebook as a place where students go to socialize,
not to do classwork. I recall reading when I was a student that you
shouldn't do homework in bed or your brain might have more trouble turning
off thoughts of schoolwork when you are trying to go to sleep. I don't
know whether there is research to back up this perception that I picked up
somewhere along the way, but if so, then perhaps we should ask whether it
would be better to keep our courses off of Facebook (unless we are teaching
a course that covers social networking as a topic). If this is meant to
be a social space for students, would we be infringing upon this
by bringing our courses there?
As an (essentially) non-Facebook user, there might be some uses that would
be unique to Facebook (or similar social networking sites) of which I am
unaware. This "reply" to Lance (prompted by Bill) is meant more to open
what I see as a central question raised by Lance's question of
"what to put up there" (see his original