Saturday, 28 April 2012

So students- how do you 'use' Facebook for learning?

facebook business
facebook business by Sean McEntee

I've been listening to a discussion about whether we need to get more social in learning in higher education. Cardiff University currently uses Blackboard as its VLE (virtual learning environment- we brand it as Learning Central- which is rather aspirational) and like every other VLE there is the potential to be social there. Staff and students can form their own groups and set up their own forums and blogs and wikis. But these social dimensions are not often used.

For staff the university is rolling out the use of an IBM product Connections to encourage us to work in more social ways. And there are some people wondering if there is a place for this to be rolled out to students as well to give them another place to collaborate.

In the past I have tried to integrate the use of web 2 tools into Blackboard- using screencasts social bookmarking - to enhance the functionality of the social tools in Blackboard. You can see a presentation I have about this here. Now, I no longer lead that part of the course and have moved on to thinking about how we can best use technology in the course in general.

But one thing we keep hearing is that students do most of their collaboration in Facebook. So I was wondering if you could tell me about how you use Facebook for learning? Does this really happen? Or is Facebook a place that you organise nights out, and then share the photos afterwards?

Do you feel pressure to participate in Facebook as a student? Or is it just something that is a natural part of your life- you don't even think about it.

Please do comment and share- it would help us all to learn from you.

EDIT: Initial comments are that the social aspects of Facebook, and the fact that it is somewhere that you are already, that make it a clear winner against the VLE. I know this is hypothetical but if the VLE could be like Facebook do you think that might catch on? Or is the fact that Facebook is 'your' space, and that your lecturers are not there, one of the big attractors?

EDIT 2: How would you feel if your lecturers set up a private Facebook group to support an aspect of your course? Would you think that was creepy? That your lecturers were trying to keep an eye on you? Or would you think it was useful?

EDIT 3: I've found this blog post by Cristina Costa saying that Facebook should not be used for teaching. One reason she gives is that we don't know how Facebook uses information so we should be very cautious about encouraging students to use it. She includes this YouTube in her post.


  1. There is a certain pressure to use facebook but it is mainly due to the fact that so many people use it and it's just a convenient and efficient way to share ideas.
    I'm a 2nd year Biomed student and organizing study groups is just so much easier when everyone can see what's going on via a facebook group. Facebook also allows you to share videos, pictures, links etc which I've found makes it easier to get group members to see what you're trying to get at. This is particularly important for group work with students from different biosci streams because more often than not our academic and personal schedules clash. One advantage that facebook has over blackboard is that facebook is so much more interactive than blackboard. Blackboard is just what the name suggests, a place where information is put up. On facebook you can comment, share, add in your own ideas which makes learning more dynamic and more interesting

    1. Have you even been even slightly tempted to set up your own group in Blackboard? Or maybe you don't have that facility or weren't aware?

  2. I'm a medical student at The University of Birmingham.

    I do most of my collaboration on Facebook and use the site in a number of ways:

    1. private messages to close friends who I think will know the answer to a question related to the course
    2. by posting and reading in peer-run academic content facebook groups - used especially by all at revision time. People ask questions and then anyone in the group answers them - often getting many answers to get the overall picture. These groups might have 200-300 students in, at least, and there is one major one for all years, and then several minor ones more for older years.
    3. private message threads with multiple people are often used to collaborate when doing group presentations, eg each person will paste their bit into the message when it's ready, then one person will bring it all together in word document and send to everyone. Another advantage of this private message system is that you can share files, so often word notes, pdfs of useful papers etc are shared.
    4. several useful medical revision pages on facebook, emedicine, bmj learning, medrevise

    Facebook is also the place for talking about nights out/pics...more so, but also key role in supporting academic work.

    I'd say there is some pressure to use it because it's likely you would miss out on useful resources, notes, explanations, exam tips, shared in the groups if you weren't.

    Finally, I think the reason facebook is used more than WebCT fora etc is that facebook is something so many students automatically check anyway - it's not yet another thing we have to log on to, it's also our own space and we can do what and ask what we like with it without being monitored by staff, and the fact that it's not a purely academic medium (and you can browse some fun stuff at the same time) can make doing work more palatable.

    1. Many thanks Philip for your very clear response. Do you know any students who refuse to be on Facebook or who are really worried about privacy etc? We talk about this scenario quite a lot but I'm not sure how many of these students exist.

    2. I don't know any students in my year who refuse to be on FB or worry about privacy. Sometimes people get unnecessarily worried sharing notes en masse in some of the groups because they think the Dean will see it and kick them out, but these are of course false worries, as collaboration and students supporting each other is encouraged, and even if you have all the notes you still have to learn them!

      If there are students who are not on FB, I don't think they miss out as long as they have one friend in that year who is on FB - word gets around quickly, and that friend will be able to download whatever is useful from FB and email it to the friend that doesn't.

    3. Thanks Philip- the point about students worrying about the institution's attitude to sharing also came up in this research work by @daveowhite

    4. Philip, I know a recent Maths grad from Birmingham uni, and she told me at some point that the Uni used FB to communicate with the students. At my institution, we don't generally do that, and I know we have a number of students who don't use Facebook (or, indeed, other social media) because of privacy concerns. They do work with others, often through other media (IM for instance), but I haven't been able to assess whether 'standing apart from the crowd' impinges on their learning opportunities.

  3. Hi Anon, thanks for your insight! How would you feel about the uni having it's own "social" space, that matched the ease of use and connectedness of facebook but also had more sophisticated tools for collaboration (like google docs). How would you feel about lecturers/academics being in this space?

  4. My questions go to you too Philip, sorry didn't see your post till now! Would you check a university social/collaboration space (see post above) instead if you had full ownership and privacy control? (i.e. tag in academics if necessary but otherwise private, or some shared spaces, some closed etc)

    1. I think a university social/academic collaboration space is a good idea and yes it must be more user friendly than what the current iVLEs offer.

      I think the success on this would depend quite a lot on the effort put in by the academics and the amounts of useful content, speed of replying to questions etc. Maybe the idea of there being yet another way that students can ask questions on top of university email, might make some academics shudder. So if such a platform were to exist, I would promote it as the primary way that academic queries are addressed to staff, and that queries can be posted to individual people, or open and ready to be answered by an entire group of staff and students.

      The platform will definitely need to have good file sharing capabilities.

    2. Absolutely agreed. It would have to be worked somehow into policy, practice, support and curriculum. What other features do you think would be useful? I think things like google docs (google drive now I think) and mendeley integration would be great..

    3. Last post or my dissertation will remain unfinished :)

      Yes to google docs and mendeley.

      Links to google scholar, pubmed, univeristy's elibrary (or equivalent page), some relevant academic channels on youtube, nice organised AND UP TO DATE WITH NO BROKEN LINKS folders of different related to different parts of the course.

      It needs to be updated regularly.

      I would also allow a space for students to advertise their extra-curricular, but academic-related events, for example a surgery society careers event etc

      be able to share a file to a whole group of people, not just one person

      the university twitter feed maybe?

      list of all the academics/other staff who would be checking the page, who they are, what they do, and what particularly they would like to help with

      Maybe more later, when I've put more numbers into tables for my project.

    4. haha nice one, crack on :)

  5. Advantages of Facebook over VLE for me:
    - Privacy: private messages/accounts/groups are not overseen by the university, so you don't have to worry about a staff member looking at something.
    - Accessibility: two clicks to anything on FB, five and up for resources on VLE. Also no auto-logout on FB - I bookmark something on FB on my home computer and I don't have to login every time I want to see it.

    I can't think of any advantage of the VLE beyond "that's where the powerpoints and timetables are kept"!

    1. I agree about accessibility - this is definitely one of the issues. It is such a chore to log on to the VLE - often slow loading and have to log in several times!

  6. I was recently involved in a project involving 8 students. We set up a private group to message each other and organise the project. It was extremely useful for this purpose.

    Documents could be posted with key information, messages to the whole group could be sent easily and the group featured on every member's side bar and everyone was notified every time something new was posted or documents edited. Everyone was kept up to date and connected - even more important as the group was separated by the length and breadth of Wales for the majority of the project.

    Having said that, one student decided to leave Facebook during the process and it proved frustrating and difficult to keep her in the loop of the project (via emails or text messages). Whilst it was a not a huge problem, it did highlight just how much we have come to rely on social networks like Facebook for communicating and sharing, not just for social organisation.

    I was also pleasantly surprised when a member of the group made use of Window's Live Skydrive (a cross between drop-box, or google docs), which was a useful asset for the project - I think students are becoming much better at using web-tools in their learning.

    I agree with Philip, Facebook is something most people have and is regularly checked and updated anyway - so making use of it for educational purposes is convenient.

    One issue - mentioned in the comments above - is one of privacy. The group set up in this example had the highest level of privacy possible - i.e. "a secret group" viewable only by members of the group. Although this was made clear from the outset it was double checked by one of the members when an email address was posted within the group. I think students, particularly medical students are increasingly aware of their online presence, particularly on Facebook where many seem to keep privacy settings at the highest levels.

    I do sometimes wonder about some students on Twitter however, as many medical students that post do not seem to be aware of the large presence of the medical community there, so security settings are low or tongues are looser.

    1. Thanks Natalie. That's really useful. My audit group set up a Facebook group. I suggested at our first meeting that I joined but they didn't take me up on that:) But I did set up a Dropbox folder and I think that was helpful. I used to think that when we set up collaborative tasks for students we should do a lot more to support them but your comment suggests that the sophistication is there already.

  7. I'm a 1st year Biomed at Manchester,

    The main way I use FB to collaborate is actually through smaller groups,I created a FB group for the 6 people in my tutorial and a separate 'pass' group. Pass is a system set up where we meet once a week with a couple second year students for help and direction. The reason it's useful on this scale is if a problem is posted its always relevant to those in the group. People regularly check it, they get a notification whenever they use FB as a non-academic resource and response time is therefore generally pretty quick.

    Another really useful way to use FB is the IM attached. If I have a problem while working, I go on-line and ask for help from peers ect and receive an instant response and discussion is easy. Often problems aren't solved as simply as question, answer. A bit of discussion really helps ideas flow and is interactive.

    On blackboard we have plenty of resources set up surrounding group work, a group blog and discussion board, but its not received a SINGLE post. Its unapproachable and without initiation its left untouched. I certainly feel if I asked a question on there, it would be as useful as talking to a brick wall as there's no one else on there! Also the case of logging on to both FB and this alternative resource feels like unnecessary hassle. If it doesn't provide anything FB can't already do, why would I use both?

    However there is potential here! I think if academic tutors where involved then their observations and advice might be worth adding to discussion. A brilliant idea, which has seen a lot of activity is a system is a modular discussion board. Lecturers observe and contribute, they get a better understanding of where and why we have difficulty and we get our issues resolved! Also its an obvious place to ask a question relating a specific module where course mates you don't already know can contribute too! This system however isn't very user friendly and is far from aesthetically pleasing! It seems arbitrary but I think it would see a lot more use if this was improved.

    Blackboard has NO IM. Why? This would be a brilliant resource! If there where a way you could log in, see who's on-line on your course, on your module, your tutorial group, everyone who is doing a specific task then it would be extremely useful!!! If I was stuck on something on a module there is maybe 10-25 course mates I could ask on FB. My course has around 170 students, each module can have way more! Even if there was a course FB group, it is extremely unlikely I would message people who aren't already FB friends. Also I wouldn't even want around 600+ students from all my modules trying to IM me whenever I go on FB for non-academic purposes! If it was on Blackboard, I would know they are signed on for academic purposes and would happily message people I didn't already know.

    Finally, is there a plausible way that learning to use social networking could be incorporated to our modules? I have an online module as part of tutorial where I go through learning to use Excel, SPSS, ect. Why not social networking too? I doubt everyone uses there respective choice for social networking to its full academic potential. This doesn't even have to pointless to those who already know how to use FB well and blackboard or equivalent. It could consist of creating social groups, establishing connection's with peers and could be done alongside other tutorial projects (presentations, an essay ect). Therefore those without the skills learn them, those who already use something else feel that Blackboard (or whatever) is established and it gets set up by students who will then be more likely to develop it. Also recognition for contact of this nature would be vital as establishing a dynamic social on-line system is time consuming!

    1. Thanks Ben-Orli,

      You've made many fantastic points. It seems that there is a Blackboard IM plug-in but I don't know anyone who is using this so haven't heard any feedback.

      Next, I'd love to see social media/network tools better integrated into the VLE. It would be great if there was better support within the VLE for this... and then there is the question of convincing the staff running the modules that it is a good idea:)

      But watch this space!

  8. My course has had a bit of a rocky relationship with Blackboard.

    In my first couple of years, everything was on Blackboard. Lecture powerpoints and assignment word documents / study guides were all uploaded onto a calendar and inter-linked according to system block and 'core clinical problems'. It was a bit of a maze to navigate, and there were usually about three ways to access any one resource, but everything was on there. We also had tutorial groups on Blackboard, which we did use occasionally (especially as not all my tutorial group were on Facebook), and there was a central discussion board which was used quite regularly - often by students asking where a Powerpoint was, if it had not yet been uploaded. Importantly, the central discussion board was regularly checked by the Blackboard administrators, who would respond and seek out missing resources, and occasionally by lecturers who might reply to questions about the course content.

    However, there was a major upgrade of Blackboard across the university a year or two ago, and all of the above seemed to break! Now our course has (mostly) migrated over to a system of Wordpress blogs, one for each system block. I think this has worked better for the years below me, who have entered the course with this system in place, but those in the upper years are still split between a winding-down Blackboard and a set of not-quite-complete blogs.

    The main component missing from these blogs is a central discussion board. There is still one on Blackboard, but no one checks it any more (I posted a while back to confirm this. No response).

    Now if students have a question, about course admin or a clinical question, there is no one place where they can post it and everyone else can see if it has been answered.

    In place of this, a private (secret) Facebook group has been created by my yeargroup, which a good proportion of my year have joined. Because we are now on placements, and each do them at different points in the year, if you ask a question there is usually someone who has already done that placement who can help you out. If you ask a question - about how to get accommodation for an out-block, or when an assignment is due in, or where to go on the first day of a block - you will usually get a response very rapidly - and, importantly, usually at 10pm on a Sunday night, when all your friends are on Facebook, but when none of your course organisers will reply to an email.

    I think the big advantages are only having to log into one website (most people check Facebook daily anyway), and the ease with which people can respond (as someone commented above, it takes two clicks to reply to a question, as opposed to several to get to a post on the Blackboard discussion board). The new blogs system in theory should allow comments, but these could be anywhere on countless pages across multiple blogs, and even if a course organiser responds, it is unlikely that any other student will stumble across it - so has little benefit over directly emailing.

    Of course, that's all my opinion. It may be working much better for the other years, or for other students in my year. But the Facebook group (for all that I resent Facebook having so much access to our data!) has been a life-saver this year.

    1. Great feedback Benedict- and I know your views on Facebook:)

      So how would you feel about members of staff being part of that Facebook group? I can see that it could be a bit of a win for both staff and students but I imagine that students (and possibly staff) would also be a little fearful. Is this something that we need to think about?

    2. Oh and another query. Did/do you make much use of Dundee PRN?

    3. As Benedict says our new Wordpress-based learning portal doesn't have a central discussion Board and it's something other students have identified as a lack and so it's something we're going to address. The discussion boards in Blackboard weren't really used very much, we'd see quite a bit of disussion with 1st years and then there would be a steady decrease in year 2 to almost negiligible discussion by Year 4.
      Each of our year groups have set up their own Facebook pages/groups and many of the the small group teaching groups have set up their own FB groups to support group work. There's a lot of peer learning happening in these FB spaces and I've heard there have been some really creative things happening during the revision period before recent exams. We talked about pushing all our announcments to FB, but got a mixed response from students particularly those in year 3 and upwards who did not idetify themselves as medical students on FB and so would only want to follow the Medical School if we made it a private page.
      An elearning survey by the University highlighted a 50-50 split between students who wanted lecturers to use FB and those that most definitely didn't. I think Facebook is a personal space for students, medical schools should focus on developing more user-friendly online learning environments that meet the needs of teachers and students.

    4. That's great to hear that's something that is looking to be added in the future, Natalie!

      Re: staff joining the facebook group - I personally wouldn't have a problem with it (other than, as others have mentioned, implicitly endorsing Facebook as a platform - I feel that the university has a duty to provide a platform that all students may use should they choose not to use Facebook). However, I'm not sure many other students in my year would be happy having staff in the group. I am usually quite happy to speak my mind to my tutors / lecturers, which seems to be unusual amongst medical students. As I said in my comment on your more recent blog, I feel that the separation of our 'personal' and 'professional' identities is itself unprofessional - if we behave 'professionally' (read: deferentially) to our seniors' faces, but complain about the course or their teaching behind their back, I personally see this as quite childish and unprofessional. Unfortunately, it seems to be part of the culture of the profession as a whole.

      Re: Dundee PRN - I did use it a little (tentatively) when it first appeared, and I think it could have been a fantastic resource, if it had gathered sufficient traction. I think it overcame a lot of the problems that you've identified, Anne Marie, in that it was largely student-run and student-owned, but was a separate space to both the formal educational environment (Blackboard) and students' personal spaces (facebook et al) - and also had lecturer/tutor involvement.

      Sadly, that, too, seems to have been wound-down, with a replacement Wordpress version (which doesn't quite fulfil the same role as the wiki it had originally been set up to be - becoming more of a space owned by the medical school) that has yet to become fully functional.

  9. "Staff and students can form their own groups and set up their own forums and blogs and wikis."

    Can they? Staff can. But are the following things possible on the VLE? On FB?
    - A group of students decide to set up their own online discussion forum limiting membership
    - A student sets up a group that anyone can join to collaborate with her
    - A group of students create a collaborative document
    - A student decides to set up his own reflective journal so that he alone can decide who sees it
    - A student comes across a peer or an instructor whose writing she finds interesting, and subscribes to their activity feed

    While our (Cardiff) VLE contains collaborative tools, some of which include the capability for commenting or even some limited networking, this is entirely dependent on being enabled by an instructor for a defined group. There is very little control or ownership allowed for the students. And while FB does allow this, if there is a missed opportunity here I think it is in harnessing the networking potential of easily accessing peers on your programme or module alongside a more personalised online network. That's one of the reasons I'm a fan of your web2.0/BB integrations. Stepping stones to take you beyond the walled garden, if I may mix my metaphors ;-)

    1. Hi Simon,

      Mark Robson came up to visit us in Medic and I discovered that students can certainly set up their own groups - though I'm not sure of they are always given those permissions. Here is a screencast of a module I'm enrolled on.

      With regards to the personal journal, that could certainly be done- in a very workaround way- by allowing only one person to sign up to the group!


    2. But I have to say... for all that people say about how mysterious Facebook privacy settings are, I have NO idea who can see that group or associated blog..... #fail

    3. I learned something there! Thanks, I will show people that.

      So you can do the second thing on my list in the VLE. But that doesn't really alter my point which is that as instructor I can set up blogs, wikis, spaces, get very granular control over the permissions in some cases and very little of this is available to students. It's not because it's technically difficult we don't offer this to students - I think it's because of different perspectives on who should own and control these learning spaces. I guess it could be argued that FB et. al. are available anyway to students who want these things while lecturer engagement is in the VLE (the space they own), but does it matter if the the online learning space is polarised in this way?

    4. " does it matter if the the online learning space is polarised in this way" - that is the key question. I can see some advantages to staff being in the FB spaces... but it would seem to need more trust than we currently have from both staff and students it seems.

      And this brings me back to the discussion I often have with Joe (Nicholls) about whether or not staff should be in these spaces to allow development of digital literacy. I'm not sure what your thoughts are about this. Personally I feel that we need to work on developing literacy in staff! I feel that I can develop digital literacy through interaction with the staff and students in my network.

    5. "lecturer engagement is in the VLE" ...not from my experience! :P

    6. @Jon if you don't see lecturer engagement in the VLE you have to ask why. Is it because they don't have time? Or closely related don't see the value? Or because they don't like the platform?

      Changing platform only solves one of these issues.

    7. @AM Agree, digital literacy and trust are pre-requisites. I'm reminded of a conversation I had with Cath Camps about staff and students negotiating these things together. Confidence is required, and a willingness to explore, and of course as ever time comes into it!

      FB in particular seems to prompt a strong emotional reaction. While this has been a fascinating thread revealing a range of attitudes towards FB and its use for learning, the very particular feelings about this one platform can sometimes eclipse the more general question around whether educators should engage in social spaces beyond the institutional boundaries. But I'm coming to appreciate the importance of the emotional investment people have in platforms and recognising that this needs to be addressed and negotiated respectfully.

  10. Anne Marie,
    Re your tweet: Should lecturers in Meded be using facebook? I know of a few who use it, I have my former PBL tutor as a friend. It seems a different relationship between university student and tutor, compared to that between school student and teacher. There are tutors on there that i wouldn't want to be facebook friends with, as our relationship isn't the same.
    For me, I don't think it contravenes any rules or regulations. Tutors are free to have a life outside of the medical school. All of those I know, their privacy is pretty stringent.
    My personal facebook privacy settings are as strict as they can be. I even modify settings for certain groups of friends. I tend to judge the information available to them compared to whether I'd give them my mobile number.

    1. Hi Ben,
      I know that lecturers have Facebook accounts- of course they do! My query wasn't about that. And I wasn't asking about being 'friends' with students either. I think that many students and tutors wouldn't be comfortable with this.
      My query is about whether the use of Facebook for learning that Philip, Natalie, Benedict and Ben-Orli describe above, be enhanced if lecturers were also participating in these groups? Or is Facebook just a place for students to self-organise away from their lecturers gaze? And how would students feel about a lecturer setting up a private Facebook group to support learning? What do you think?

    2. I want to keep my professional life and personal life separate, is that too much to ask? Blackboard works well enough. The facebook platform isn't made for learning, it would spoil it for me.
      The 4 points Phillip mentions can all be done in a more formal way through email etc. The only way facebook is related to medicine for me is for sports and extra-curricular groups.
      Our blackboard is well maintained, and very easy to get in contact with people if links are broken.

    3. No, not too much at all. It's good to hear your side. It sounds as if Facebook is being used less by students at your university than many others.

    4. I feel that's due to the benefit of being at a small medical school. You're able to get hold of people much more easy. Out blackboard forums are used by both students and tutors and I feel work efficiently.

    5. That's really useful. Size is undoubtedly an important aspect. Do you set up groups in Blackboard for PBL is this done already for you? In many universities/courses students don't seem to have many possibilities to set up groups themselves and this lack of control is possibly a factor that drives them to Facebook. You might be interested in this Google + thread by @ajcann discussing this post.
      Thanks for posting here. It's really useful.

  11. We used BB in my MSc at Dundee - discussion forum was monitored and contributed to by course staff, even at silly o'clock, which was very supportive. I use the BB app as easy access - no-one suggested FB as there was a 'cafe' area which was not monitored by lecturers. In discussion forum and cafe students could begin individual threads of conversation depending on need.

    As it was distance learning BB was invaluable support during the dark hours, of which there were a few.

    I was very happy to keep academic life and other areas separate.

    1. Thank you for this. If you are a distance student then your socail life is pretty certain to be separate from your academic life. Not so if you are an under-grad student. That might be one reason for the difference in attitude to the use of Facebook.

  12. Hi everyone. Thanks for the thoughtful discussion. I'm a physiotherapy lecturer interested in the use of emerging technologies in teaching and learning practices. While I believe that clinical education is most effective when it includes social components that more authentically reflect "real-world" experiences, I don't think that all "social" spaces must also be "teaching" spaces (note that I'm drawing a distinction between "teaching" and "learning").

    From my perspective, Facebook is a social space that students can use for their own self-directed learning experiences, or to manage their learning contexts (for example by sharing resources, coordinating study groups, etc.). However, I worry that we might be tempted to use that personal and social space for our own purposes, merely because students are already "there". I've heard that argument so many times..."students are already there, so why not", that it strikes me almost as being a bit lazy on our part. We don't control the space, we don't control the content and we don't control the flow of information, or the connections. And by "we" I don't mean educators, I mean both teachers and learners.

    Facebook certainly encourages any engagement that is possible because they make money by analysing our connections and relationships and then marketing to us with targeted ads). But the creation of private groups doesn't necessarily make it value-free. Facebook is not anyone's space but Facebook's, and we should remember that when/if we use it. If you don't know what the product is, then you're the product. I'm wary of using spaces that we can't control for the development of teaching and learning practices. And I'm not even going to discuss the issues of privacy.

    Anyway, those are just a few of my thoughts on using Facebook for teaching and learning. Note that I use a social network (a Wordpress / Buddypress installation on a private server) in my teaching and research. I believe that there is a space for social components in technology-mediated teaching and learning, but I don't believe that Facebook is that space.

    1. Thanks Michael. I'm glad you responded as I saw you share or comment on Cristina's comment. I think it is wrong to characterise the use of Facebook by a lecturer as lazy.( I've just set up my own group on Facebook and I couldn't possibly think of myself as lazy!) Going where people are and offering support- rather than mandating that parts of the course are carried out there- seems sensible to me.
      The first thing I did was post the YouTube above about how suspicious we should be of Facebook. I will look forward to the discussions with students and see what we learn together about digital literacy and other topics.

    2. I'm a medical student at St George's and Michael I can understand where you are coming from and to date, it is only the self directed style learning/teaching that I have seen on Facebook. I think Facebook is invaluable for this style of thing, for example here are a selection of the most recent posts on a private Facebook group used by my year:

      Student 1:"anyone know where the FLOBs are?" [final year learning objectives]

      Student 2: "Hey, the NHS Bursary team told me they will be contacting us in May/June about reapplying for next year, they shouldn't have contacted by now as it says in the email."

      Student 3: "Just a reminder to get nominating for SU Awards - closing date May 18 5pm!!"

      Student 4: "Just to clear up for anyone who hasn't done the LD presentation yet, you don't have to do the health passport."

      Student 4: "Found this free medical dictionary download for MS word a few days ago, been really helpful, stops any word document being covered in red squiggly lines." [link: ]

      Student 5: "I heard that we need to write a reflective piece for this as well as for GPL. I'm content to write a piece based on rumour but written proof would be preferred / a link to a uni page. Many thanks"

      Student 6: "Anyone on surgery at George's: I'm on-call this Sunday 9-5... anyone willing to swap with me?"

      As you can see, there was some social stuff, some admin style stuff, some educational stuff. Generally that's how our Facebook group is used, the notifications always spike near a deadline or exams. We [talking as students here] use Facebook because we already use it, I'm fairly sure there is a space for such comments on our university's website but we don't check that nearly as much as we check Facebook.

      So onto the question at hand, should tutors/lecturers/teachers/university staff be on Facebook? I don't know. But if I had to give an answer (and speaking as a student), I don't think we need you. We're doing just fine by ourselves. The risks of something going wrong are huge, a drunken comment on the wrong group, a picture posted with the wrong settings, an angry status about a lecturer... I dread to think of the repercussions.

      But on the other hand, in private groups you need to be friends with everyone. Our year group one has 251 members, I don't know everyone in our year so I'm not Facebook friends with everyone in our year. So perhaps the danger and damage could be mitigated.

      I'll end by saying that I am totally against is the idea that Facebook can not be used for education at all. It can and it is.

      Pre-Publish Edit: While writing this another post came into the private Facebook group:

      "Revision Lecture: Heart Sounds - Don't mumble your way through a murmur!

      When: Wednesday 9th May. 3pm - 4pm

      Where: LTF

      Hey all, revision lecture on how to Auscultate and Describe Normal and Common Pathological Heart Sounds with Diagnosis. Of course, everyone is invited to please repost."

    3. Thanks Jon. Your description of how FB is used within your group fits with some of the earlier examples and it is nice to have some concrete examples. There is no doubt that Facebook is being used by students as a social learning platform. The bigger question is do educators have a role in supporting social learning.
      I'm writing a follow-up post now, but what your comment highlights is that some of the features which make Facebook so good to use- the accessibility in particular- are also the features which make it feel more risky. There just doesn't seem to be the trust there that if a mistake was made and a drunken photo ended up where it was not intended to be, that educators would be sensible and realise that this was unlikely to be a disciplinary matter.
      For the last few years all we have heard about Facebook is that it is a dangerous space! There be dragons! But the reality is that most of us are using it pretty sensibly. And maybe, just maybe, we could be using it more.

    4. Another point Jon- you don't have to be friends with people in private groups. I've just set up a private group. I sent the link to some students. They asked to join and I approved. I have no intention of becoming friends with them!

    5. You are correct, I missed out a very crucial "don't" there.

  13. A great post Anne Marie. I have been using social media with my students for 3 years now with great success. Some related blog posts can be found here………/

    More recently we have looked at the possibilities of Facebook and Google + in and out of the classroom

    I originally chose Twitter as this was what my 6th formers were beginning to use on a regular basis and was not blocked like Facebook in school. I have expanded this out so that all my KS4 and 5 classes have school accounts which i follow and they follow me @MrAicttwits. I use this account to communicate with them and tweet relevant articles linked to what were are covering in class at the time. I considered using my own account but decided not too as i tweet about a number of different topics which may not be related to class content.

    In terms of Facebook i have discussed this at great length with my students. Half of them didn't want to use Facebook as they preferred to keep that "private" but did like the possibilities it could have.

    I now have a Google + school account which i intend to use and link to @MrAicttwits for Hangouts with outside speakers etc.

    I think my audience may be different from yours but do they we need to embrace Social Media in order to engage with students.

    Hope that makes sense ;)

    1. Hello,
      No that all makes sense! I hope that Facebook will remain private too... that is one of the things that I want to explore.
      I'm delighted that someone from a different sector has found this post. Your viewpoint is really useful and I look forward to following your blog.
      PS This might have been even better posted to the follow-up post

  14. I do not believe Facebook has any place whatsoever in an educational context. There are more students than you would think who choose not to be apart of the network. By forming separate groups on the site they will feel ostracized. Blackboard works well enough, and email is available. You need to consider all students and all work should be done through the tools provided by the university, nothing external. I have many students young and old who do not have facebook accounts and do not wish to. Twitter is a good means of providing updates, because the users do not require accounts to view the messages and it is less interactive. But Facebook, definitely not.

    1. Dear Anonymous,
      Thank you for your comment. It's a pity that you don't give some more information about where you are working or what subject you are teaching as it would help give more context to your view.

      You are concerned about students feeling ostracized. Does this mean that we should advise students not to set up the groups that they already are using? What can we do to help the students who feel left out already? Surely we need to talk to the students who are self-organising in Facebook to understand their motivation?

      I'm very interested in your comment that we shouldn't use any external tools. Why is this? Do you mean not to use YouTube, Vimeo, Slideshare. Mindmeister, Diigo, Delicious, Screenr etc?

      Do you think that Twitter is a non-interactive tool? I think it can work that way but I'm not sure of the value.

      Thanks again

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