Wednesday, January 18, 2012

7 reasons why Facebook is front runner in social media learning

There’s a lot of talk about social media in learning but where’s the action? Well, something’s happening in social media and learning, and Facebook is looking like a front runner. I first noticed this through the work of Millie Watts at Richard Huish College (see previous post) and Dr Ray Blunco sums it up in his Social Media in HE’ blog, when he says that the studies he’s run and participated in show that “students will overwhelmingly use Facebook”. Twitter seems to be used less and therefore less relevant and people don’t normally hang out in formal discussion groups in Ning! This has been reinforced by chats with the Facebook folks, who seem to have some serious plans in this area.
1. Why Facebook? They’re all there.
Interestingly, students argue that they prefer Facebook in learning because they’re already there and it’s easy to use. Almost all students are on Facebook and they’re there all of the time receiving updates all day long, so you can tap into their daily flow and make learning a part of their life, not just a chore through talks, tasks and tests. In fact, many report that they already, informally, use Facebook to ask each other questions, make enquiries about assignments and generally catch –up. So it makes sense to amplify that behaviour.
2. Learning automatically mobile
The fact that students get updates on their mobiles, is of course, an obvious advantage. Learning through Facebook, means for most, automatically engaging in mobile learning. This is a big leap forward, as learners spend a lot of wasted time being on the move – walking to educational institutions, hanging around waiting and so on.
3. Facebook - Groups
Let’s dispel the first myth. You don’t have to be ‘friends’ with your students, or respond to their ‘friend’ requests. You simply become a participant in a separate group. So think Facebook groups (not Facebook pages). A formal Facebook group is a private, closed space where you can share, poll, ask questions, chat, share documents, share images and so on. No one else sees the posts. Of course, you also receive notifications of group updates.
4. Tools (apps)
In addition to the group dynamics, there’s a rack of practical tools learners can use, as they can be interested into Facebook, including: Blogger (do teacher and student blogs), Slideshare (share slides), YouTube (show videos), Flickr (share images), CITEME (citation tool that finds and formats citations absolutely brilliant) and so on. We can also expect to see a rack of apps appearing that will accelerate this process.  ‘Appsfor good’ is a charity that runs courses for students in building apps (check them out). This is relevant, entrepreneurial and way beyond what the normal dull ICT curriculum teaches.
5. Facebook for educators
A useful starting point is ‘Facebook for educators’, a well written introduction which explains the basics. It has a useful list of the 'Ways Educators Can Use Facebook':
Help develop and follow your school’s policy about Facebook. 
 Encourage students to follow Facebook’s guidelines. 
Stay up to date about safety and privacy settings on Facebook.
Promote good citizenship in the digital world. 
Use Facebook’s pages and groups features to communicate with students and parents.
Embrace the digital, social, mobile, and “always-on” learning styles of 21st Century students.
Use Facebook as a professional development resource.


6. Civil use of social media
The bottom line is that world class institutions, like Stanford, have Facebook policies and encourage its use on campus. In any case using Facebook in schools, colleges, Universities and workplaces allows us to get the message across about the safe use of the internet, how to report problems, understand privacy settings, being civil, how to deal with cyberbullying etc. Using Facebook kills two birds with one stone – the medium is the message, so use the medium to teach the safe and sensible message.
7. Facebook as professional development
Devote a portion of your next INSET/training day to setting up a Facebook teachers/lecturers/trainers group to share professional knowledge. Surely there’s no better way to learn about the use of social media in learning than to simply get on and use it!
Lastly a shout for some of the good folk who are working hard to bring you advice, examples and so from the world of social media and learning, like Jane Hart, Jane Bozarth and many others.

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21 Comments:

Anonymous Ben Betts said...

I don't disagree Donald, but I think there is something to the separation of church and state.

Anecdotally I've spoken with a number of people on this topic who like to keep their online social presences separate. I'm one of those people - Facebook is my space; not works, not university.

I can remember blagging my way into an Oxford college bar years ago and, to my shock and dismay, there was a lecture going on in the corner. Not even the £1 pint could make me stay.

3:32 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Fair enough Ben. I'm no fan of enforcement on these issues.

One thing to bear in mind is the separation of groups from pages. Groups are closed and private. That goes some way towards the separation you mention. A second point is 'taking the mountain to Mohammed'. There's an argument for taking social learning (if that's desired) to the places where social exchange takes place - and that's largely Facebook. But I take your point.

3:41 PM  
Blogger Jane Bozarth said...

One of the advantages of Facebook pages and groups is that news/updates will push to the feed and pull the learners in, rather than have them remember to log in to some separate site or check a blog. To paraphrase Richard Byrne: Learners are more likely to log in to Facebook every day than www.JanesManagementCourse.com .

Cheers,
Jane

5:51 PM  
Blogger Millie The Geography Teacher said...

Hi Donald, thank you for the mention again, I was curious about what was being "reinforced by chats with the Facebook folks, who seem to have some serious plans in this area", sounds like it could be exciting? I was presenting at a JISC conference today, and we had Linda Fogg Phillips from Facebook as the keynote, and she was saying the same as you, and a number of others, that we really need to address the idea of Digital Literacy/Digital Footprints with students, at the same time as enabling learning through different mediums.

The only thing I would add to your post, is that before any teachers start to engage students through Facebook, there is an important process of going through the safety and privacy issues, and having an institutional code of conduct. Not to sound in any way restrictive, as you know, I wholeheartedly believe students and teachers benefit from using social media, but there are some serious considerations. For instance, Pages/Groups, does the closed nature of groups detract from potential benefits of bringing in the wider community and experts from HE, or is the risk of a completely open page too high? What about other new media? Ex-students becoming friends?

There are a number of potential problems, and we certainly benefited from having a series of discussions and training sessions around these issues. We have also, starting this year, trained all students on issues with FB, privacy settings and the good it can do, in an attempt to reduce the problems associated with cyberbullying and misuse of FB, which is a very real concern to any school or college.

However, I looked at our figures for the last term, and from September to November, our VLE page in geography had 331 direct hits, whereas the Richuish Geography FB page had 1621, and out of 370 (approx.) students over the past two years, I have only met three without a Facebook account.

At Huish, it is of course optional to using existing VLE's or Facebook, and we make sure resources are available through both. However, the ease with which information and discussions can be accessed through Facebook, and the way in which students seem to see their digital lives, does lead to a very high uptake of the pages within the subjects that now use the site, so although some do like to keep the professional/personal divide clear, Facebook does allow you that option.
You no longer have to "Like" pages to contribute, and groups are unobtrusive, yet convenient, I have my tutor group online, and even if I tag a tutee in a post, it doesnt display to their friends, but has been invaluable in getting UCAS personal statements written and arranging tutorials. There are a lot of misconceptions about FB, but I manage to run my personal page and 17 work based pages from the same account, without feeling too much overlap. As you said, students are "on" in terms of learning and access to information all the time, and we need to be making use of that, and changing the way we teach.

On a separate note, your last post about M-Learning has made it to the classroom, I am now using a website called "StudyBlue" - you may like it!

Millie

10:38 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Excellent comments as always Millie. The group v page issue is interesting, as is the preparatory work you outline. I've forwarded your case study to the folks at Facebook.

11:16 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Jane - exactly. Learning is about habit, repeated exposure and rehearsal. The push feature is entirely in line with the psychology of learning.

11:17 PM  
Anonymous John Curran said...

Like Ben I also like to separate work and personal life and using Facebook really blurs the lines between the two (I haven't used groups). More significantly though is my concern that we should all sign-up to Facebook's business model just because that is where 'all the young people are'. We need a variety of tools and platforms to deliver engaging online learning and that means learners should be capable of operating in a diverse online environment using a range of tools and platforms. The fact that young people only want to use Facebook suggests laziness and paradoxically a degree of conservativism.

Finally, Facebook is a business and it exists primarily to maximise shareholder value - educator's shouldn't forget that.

9:43 AM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

John - as I said to Ben, there's no obligation here. I'm merely pointing out that they're emerging as the front-runner in an eclectic race. You can choose to do this or not. However, is it right to brand young people as being 'lazy' and 'conservative' for using Facebook? In my experience they use a wide range of online tools including search, Wikipedia, YouTube, BBM, IM, txting, Skype and so on. It's teachers, trainers and lecturers that show signs of laziness, many using little or no online tools for learning. Having spent a considerable amount of time in the Middle East last year, in Syria, Egypt and the Gulf States, I can assure you that their use of Facebook is far from 'lazy'. It's changing the world for the better.
As for the anti-corporate swipe at the end - so educators should not use Google, Apple, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, textbook publishers, indeed most book publishers.....just because they're 'businesses' - that's so last century. I'm an educator and have never been involved in anything but business - but I don't recommend that educators avoid the public sector.

12:04 PM  
Anonymous John Curran said...

One extra point that I meant to add was that I think the real benefit will come with integration between a diverse range of platforms and technologies mobilised with a clear focus on learning.

Imagine a 'learning dashboard' that includes a learning path from Moodle, how to videos from YouTube, status updates from Facebook and a expertise feed from Twitter. Project work would de done through Huddle...you can see where I am going here.

As a learning designer my role would then be to collate the various widgets, add some core content (through a mix of creation and curation) and then let the learners do the rest.

A perfect learner mashup I guess... ;-)

12:16 PM  
Blogger johncurran said...

Donald - I'm not against using the 'popular' social media platforms - after all its no good being in a social space that is devoid of other people. I'm just suggesting that we are careful about how we use them. A good example is the increasingly overt advertising on YouTube, some of which is totally inappropriate for the content. Similarly Facebook is busily looking at more and more ways of monetizing it's user generated content.

My point is that we should encourage diversity and not become too reliant on the most 'popular' platforms.

12:33 PM  
Blogger Millie The Geography Teacher said...

@ John Curran - I completely agree with your point about having a central resource, capable of collating other web based activities, videos, sources of information, and taking all of this to create an interactive "Learning Dashboard", but Facebook already does this. You can hyperlink to moodle, there is even a Moodle App for Facebook, you can embed documents through Scribd/Microsoft Docs, isolate relevant videos with the Youtube App and sync a blog where you can input resources of your own creation.

The simplicity of using Facebook, is not laziness, Facebook, like it or not, has changed the way we interact with the web, each of us now collates information and news from personal relationships/ corporations or charities through Facebook, by choosing sources to follow that interest us, and I dont think that meeting the students there is a sign if being lazy, or being conservative in how we approach education. However, I dont quite agree with Donald about teachers/trainers/lecturers being lazy either. There are some very real concerns about using Facebook, both from a child protection standpoint, and for higher levels of education, a loss of control over content created for a course. Once it goes on Facebook, it is very difficult to track, and there is a lot of confusion over copyright/intellectual property,and whether or not educators can protect themselves by having two accounts, all of which need clarification.

As for advertising, the same should apply to documentaries. If I shouldn't be using Facebook/Youtube due to the content and volume of ads, surely, I also shouldnt tell my geography students to watch a documentary on the TV with Ad breaks.

Facebook can work, it's not a replacement to other forms of ILT, but it holds some serious potential for engagement, and that is what we should be exploring.

1:04 PM  
Blogger johncurran said...

Millie - I will look at Facebook with fresh eyes but my central point is that we shouldn't become over reliant on it, not least because there are many potential pitfalls some of which you mention in your comment.

It's also good to see that online education is alive and well in Taunton (I'm just down the road in Exeter).

2:03 PM  
Blogger Gillian Fielding said...

Hi all, some great points and issues raised here.
I think new technologies should be pushed, tried, tested, but with due diligence. FB continues to grow and evolve. The number of users is now 800million. It is for these reasons and others that I have created a very short distance elearning "course" in fb. I want to experiment and see what happens putting learning in this environment, particularly in the area of networked learning. Take a look, join in, do the course... All contributions and feedback welcome.
www.facebook.com/qrcodescourse

I concur with Donald's point about fb being a business like others Amazon, etc, and add so vle providers.
Adverts are everywhere and concur with Millie's point. In fact John's comment made me reflect on the adverts I get on my account, I realise they are like wallpaper I just ignore them (after all who needs botox, and nips and tucks!!)

A reservation I am conscious of, is the takeover by other uses of facebook, eg businesses, Dove, Boots, Guardian, all have facebook profiles. Are these companies, and others including me (by putting learning in there) taking the Social out of Social Media? I tell myself that at the end of the day everything evolves.

4:17 PM  
Blogger johncurran said...

Gillian - Really interesting 'course' in Facebook. So different to a conventional LMS. I'm intrigued - lots of ideas here. I particularly loved the ability to add my own answers to questions - that never ever happens on a corporate LMS!

Thanks so much for sharing.

6:39 PM  
Blogger Donald Clark said...

Interesting simple fact emerging here - Facebook is there, it's used all the time by almost all learners, it's free and has some good functionality. Not saying it's the answer to all problems, but it's the answer to some. (Thanks to all for comments - found them detailed and reflective.)

9:09 PM  
Blogger johncurran said...

An interesting exchange of ideas. I will genuinely look at Facebook as part of the learning mix with fresh eyes.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Dave Ferguson said...

Donald: very minor point (no need to publish the comment). You say at one point about the tools:

...as they can be interested into Facebook...

I'm sure you meant "integrated." It probably says more about me than about you that if I'd done this, I'd want to change it. ;-)

Dave

10:46 PM  
Blogger Maria D'Angelo said...

Hi All - i have read yr thoughts and im excited about using social media for delivery. I've been facilitating online courses for over 10 years now and like to keep up-to-date with new trends - particularly ones that learners are using.

I want to use social media as a delivery tool because as some of the posts have mentioned – people log onto FB several times a day and it’s more readily available than the LMS that their course may be included.

I joined this group to get more ideas on how to use social media (and in particularly FB) – to find out the pitfalls and ways around them. I see it as a tool that will help my learners learn, interact with other learners, generate group discussions and more importantly “connect” learners.

One comment that reappears often in my years of online delivery is about the human side of online delivery – many learners fear this will disappear with online delivery. Of course delivering online is all about facilitation (same as in f2f situations) – if the facilitator is dynamic, creative, innovative and inclusive, then online delivery works well!

So if any of you are using FB to delivery please please share any tips!!
Maria

12:41 AM  
Blogger Maria D'Angelo said...

Hi All - i have read yr thoughts and im excited about using social media for delivery. I've been facilitating online courses for over 10 years now and like to keep up-to-date with new trends - particularly ones that learners are using.

I want to use social media as a delivery tool because as some of the posts have mentioned – people log onto FB several times a day and it’s more readily available than the LMS that their course may be included.

I joined this group to get more ideas on how to use social media (and in particularly FB) – to find out the pitfalls and ways around them. I see it as a tool that will help my learners learn, interact with other learners, generate group discussions and more importantly “connect” learners.

One comment that reappears often in my years of online delivery is about the human side of online delivery – many learners fear this will disappear with online delivery. Of course delivering online is all about facilitation (same as in f2f situations) – if the facilitator is dynamic, creative, innovative and inclusive, then online delivery works well!

So if any of you are using FB to delivery please please share any tips!!
Maria

12:42 AM  
Blogger BlazenShelby said...

I don't know how many of you are in the United States, but here here are FERPA laws that protect students' rights to privacy. Requiring students to participate in Facebook does have some legal implications, as one gives up many rights to privacy on FB. Just food for thought.

9:50 PM  
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