Facebook for teaching: how to do it and why

facebook per la didattica

Using Facebook for teaching makes learning a bit more fun and interactive.

Many students and teachers today use the app for engaging in activities that are beneficial for or even a prerequisite to an educational course.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Before we take a look at how Facebook can be used in a classroom environment let’s define exactly what a social media platform is.

What are social media platforms

In simple words, a social media platform (or app) like Facebook or Twitter, is a digital “space” where people can follow friends, family members, favourite brands, celebrities or even news channels.

Once you connect with a user you can access their info, like, comment or share their pictures or videos, mention them (aka tagging) in your own posts.

Many people are attracted to Facebook because it gives them an outlet for sharing their opinions and world views.

At the same time, social media hinge on a very human need:

the need to know what others are doing and who they are doing it with.

Facebook personal Profiles

There are different ways in which people can interact on Facebook and the main ones are:

  • personal profiles
  • groups
  • pages

Personal profiles are what most people get when they first sign up.

To join you just need to provide a name, an email and a date of birth.

Once you create your profile you can choose to change your privacy settings so that only personal connections can “see” you.

You can also send private messages to the people you are friends with and choose who you want to “follow”, or whose posts you want to appear on your “wall” (the main feed).

Important: beware that your facebook profile is kind of your avatar in the digital world, you can use it to sign up for subscriptions, for registering to other sites, writing reviews o booking a flight.

Pages and Groups

Now moving onto pages and groups.

While pages are usually used by public figures or companies to keep in touch with their fan base, groups can be private/public “gatherings” of people who share a common interest.

The main difference is that:

  • In a page the owner controls the content and the followers can only comment or react to what is being posted (on most pages followers’ posts are not visible on the main feed).
  • In a group, the content is created and controlled by the members. This means that when you enter the group you will see different posts by different people.

Many groups have moderators who make sure all the posts are relevant to the topic and don’t contain offensive or inappropriate language.

How to use facebook for teaching

The most common way to use Facebook for teaching is by creating a private group where students can interact with the teacher and each other.

The fact that the group is private means that in order to join an admin has to let you in.

The reason is that the teacher or school staff might share info that is reserved for enrolled students only.

For example, they could:

  • post deadlines or homework;
  • make sure that everybody has a clear understanding of what to do;
  • clarify any doubts students might have.

The communication can happen in the form of written text, pictures, slides, audio or video (these can be uploaded directly to Facebook or via external link).

Having this wide range of possibilities, a teacher has the freedom to use the group for reinforcing a topic with extra material or starting a classroom discussion on any given topic.

Facebook Live Video

Facebook has a live-streaming video service called Facebook Live.

Basically you just need to click on the “live video” button under the create-post section of your home and start broadcasting a video to all your connections.

Needless to say that a tool like this could be super useful for teachers:

You could go live before a big exam to conduct a review session. Students watching will be able to ask you questions and get answers right away.

You could go live inside a Facebook group for parents to let them know what’s going on in your classroom, perhaps taking them on a little tour and explaining how they can support your work.

Messenger rooms

Another great feature that Facebook offers is the Messenger Rooms.

This is a video chat room where you can use link sharing to connect to people.

These group video calls could be easily used to coordinate project work or even to deliver an online lesson to all the members of a private group.

Main advantages of using Facebook for teaching

Here’s a list of other advantages of using Facebook groups for teaching:

  1. they make networking among students, and even team-building, easier;
  2. are very easily accessible anytime and from anywhere, especially if you have the app on your phone;
  3. provide a familiar environment, since most people are already used to being on Facebook;
  4. possibility to deliver material, sharing references in the form of links-pictures-videos;
  5. possibility to keep track of what it has been done or said;
  6. great way to connect with people without having to “friend” them and sharing personal info;
  7. particularly useful for those who are studying a new language and need to practice;
  8. great for making announcements and posting homework.

Disadvantages

Despite the obvious benefits, there are some disadvantages to using Facebook groups, the first one being the fact that many people see this platform as “frivolous” and don’t take its content very seriously.

Considering the staggering amount of information that circulates on social media, there is a risk of “watering down” the value of the content being posted.

Moreover, even when you post very well crafted content, some people might still not see it because most posts lose relevance – and visibility – with time.

In other words, it is difficult to convey the importance of something in a platform that provides billions of gigs of new information every day.

Practical Example of an educational strategy involving Facebook private groups

Some time ago a did an online course on social media marketing.

Our class “met” once a week for two hours.

During that time the instructor would cover the material scheduled for that particular day.

The students had the possibility to join the lesson live or watch the recording at another time but, even if they attended, there usually wasn’t enough time to answer everybody’s questions during the class.

So the school created a private group on Facebook where we could continue the discussion and eventually bring up real-life examples or practical doubts.

I found that the Facebook group was particularly useful because it gave me the possibility to connect with the teacher and to ask questions that didn’t come to mind until the lesson was over.

Public educational groups on Facebook

While private groups might work perfectly for small-sized classes where everyone is motivated to learn, public groups are a bit more “hit or miss”.

The reason is that the more people are in the group the more likely it is to find irrelevant content.

Some use bigger groups for self-promotion or to post links/pictures that have nothing to do with the topic.

Despite this you could still find very useful and educational material there.

To conclude our discussion, and give some practical examples, here is a list of 10 groups with various educational aims:

  1. Grammar (English) Learning on Facebook;
  2. Easy Activities, Arts & Crafts Ideas for Kids;
  3. Artificial Intelligence & Deep Learning;
  4. Digital Marketing Learning;
  5. Learn Spanish every day group;
  6. Learn English with Teachers;
  7. BBC Learning English Brazilian Portuguese group;
  8. Learn Social Skills – the costal shortcuts Facebook group;
  9. Data Analytics, Machine Learning, Big Data & AI;
  10. Learn Salsa.

References

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