A Friend In Facebook

Facebook is the third (right behind Google and YouTube) most popular website on the internet (eBizMba, 2013), making it the most used social networking site. Should it become the world’s most popular educational social networking site?

As with blogging, educators are beginning to understand the potential that Facebook could bring to education. Collaborative learning is being considered an important factor in education. The realization has surfaced that social networking could have the ability to promote both active learning and collaboration (Maloney, 2007). According to Vygotsky (1978) students work much better in a group setting than when working individually. This is due to students being faced with different interpretations, explanations or answers about what they are studying and this forces them to rethink their own view points (Dooly, 2008).

Collaborative learning styles link in with Vygotsky’s Social Learning Theory (1978) based on the idea that learning is a naturally social act, in which students talk among themselves – it is through the talk that learning occurs (Gerlach, 1994). Social networking sites, such as Facebook can help students work in a collaborative style in a familiar setting. Teachers can create private ‘groups’ on Facebook where students can share text, links, photos and videos, creating a virtual community of learners (Cerda, 2011). These groups can act as a discussion platform where students and teachers share their ideas, teaching others new ways of thinking. The active engagement with each other is what creates collaborative learning, in a modern online approach.

Facebook is a tool that could positively encourage participation from students. Many students feel nervous and shy in the classroom setting and are unwilling to be openly involved in class discussions. The online groups could create a more comfortable environment for some students to share their ideas, student feel less pressured and have time to carefully construct their thoughts before writing them down.

These online Facebook groups reign in another positive element for learning. It is not only educators that create online groups, many professional people and businesses have groups, providing information and support. Students should be encouraged to engage with these groups broadening their understanding of businesses, work, future careers and pathways. Dunlevy and Milton (2009) asked students what their ideal school would be like one of the criteria the students stated was ‘connect with experts and expertise’. If learners engage inphysics, they want to talk with engineers in their field (Taylor, 2011). Facebook and others forms of social media can provide the connection needed to build up these relationships and could result in students have a better understanding of where they might be headed with their future plans.

As with all developing technologies for the classroom it is imperative to analyse the use, recognising the benefits and negatives. Discovering the negatives is just as important as discovering the benefits, once the negatives are identified there can be procedures put into place to help eliminate them. Studies have shown the positives that Facebook can bring to the classroom. Does the use of Facebook instantly strike fear into the minds of parents and teachers?

Image by OrchidBox

Cerda, F. (2011). Facebook’s Potential for Collaborative E-learning. Revista de Universidad y Sociedad del Conocimiento, 197-210.

Dooly, M. (2008). Constructing Knowledge Together. Telecollaborative Language Learning. A Guidebook to Moderating Intercultural Collaboration Online, 21 – 45.

Dunleavy, J. (2010). The Sreach for Competence in the 21st Century. Quest Journal, 2.

eBizMba. (2013, December 01). 15 Most Popular Websites. Retrieved December 17, 2013, from eBizMba: http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/most-popular-websites

Gerlach, J. (1994). Is This Collaboration? New Directions for Teaching and Learning, 5-14.

Maloney, E. (2007). What Web 2.0 Can Teach Us About Learning. Chronicle of Higher Education, 53.

Pollera, P. (2011). Social Networking and Education: Using Facebook as an Edusocial Space. Society for Information Technology & Teacher Education International Conference (pp. 3330-3338). Chesapeake: AACE.

Taylor, L. (2011). Imoroving Student Engagment. Retrieved Decemer 20, 2013, from Current Issues in Education: http://cie.asu.edu/ojs/index.php/cieatasu/article/viewFile/745/162

Vygotsky, L. (1978). Mind and Society: The Development of Higher Mental Processes. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.

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