Facebook is a wonderful tool for companies to make easy marketing, for celebrities to stay in touch with their fans or for normal people to meet new friends, but can it be an educational tool for teachers? There are many pros and cons of using Facebook in school, but I think overall it is a good tool for teachers, but it must be done in partnership with parents.
If you create a private group on Facebook only for the purpose of having discussions about various topics, Facebook can be enriching. First, as a teacher, you have to make sure that the teenagers in your class become better students, but also better citizens. Almost all the teenagers nowadays are on Facebook, but few of those watch the news. So, if you post articles about the news of the day on your Facebook group, it will improve their general knowledge. Maybe it will awaken a passion for politics for some of your students, who knows? Do you really think that people would have been known that Obama was re-elected that fast without Twitter or Facebook? Hell no! People, especially the teenagers, don’t watch the news on TV or read the newspaper anymore, they now go on Facebook or Twitter. By posting political or cultural news, you make sure that they get aware of important things, not only the new date of Justin Bieber or the new single of One Direction.
Secondly, Facebook can be used as a way the students can improve their writing skills. If you begin a debate on Facebook, they will write about their point of view and that is exactly what you want as a teacher. They will have to communicate in a written format that may not be perfect writing, but at least they write something and their writing skills will improve. Andrew Simmons, a journalist for The Atlantic and an English teacher, even says that social networks transformed his students writing for the better. He says that “for younger high school boys particularly, social networking has actually improved writing – not the product or the process, but the sensitivity and inward focus required to even begin to produce a draft that will eventually be worth editing.”(1)
Thirdly, it can improve the social interpersonal skills of the students. For example, the shyest students of your class could begin to open themselves to the other students of your class by interacting with them on the private group of your class because it is easier to write something online than in real life. It is not like a real conversation face to face, but at least they interact and that could be the first step that will lead to real life interactions with their classmates who they would never have talked without the social networks. Like a 2006 study of University of Sydney, Australia, states, “Internet may be used as a forum for expanding social networks and consequently enhancing the change of meaningful relationships, self-confidence, social abilities and social support,” (2)
Finally, nothing is perfect about Facebook. Who never heard about bullying on the social networks? Nobody. Stories such as the one of Amy Louise Paul in Peterborough happen every day. She said that “when I was 13 I had a disagreement with one of my friends at school and I thought it was all sorted. Then one of my other friends said she’s made a Facebook group about you for all the people who wish I was dead already.” (3) She said that she also considered killing herself. I really think that it is a sad story and that it should make people think about the use of social networks. Those stories show that teenagers still don’t know how to use social networks properly. If the teachers would use Facebook in their classroom, they could also educate their students about what is permitted on Internet and what is not. Maybe if the people who intimidated Amy Louise would have been educated about the possible consequences of various actions on the social networks, they would have thought twice before doing that kind of thing. Furthermore, as a teacher, you have to explain to the parents the purpose of using Facebook for the class and to tell them to watch the actions of their kids online, because every kid needs to be supervised when using social networks.
A lot of people feel that Facebook is only good for attracting problems, but when used correctly and for pedagogical uses, Facebook can have multiple positive consequences on your students. Almost every teenager is on Facebook now, so if you want to do something that they will pay attention to, you have to go through the process of creating things on those social networks because otherwise they won’t really care.