In this blog I will give a description of several useful computer applications for the purpose of teaching English as a second language. I will also give useful sources which can be consulted for further and more detailed information on these applications. The first entry covers uses of the social media giant Facebook
Mr Mark Miller teaches a course in computer applications for pedagogical purposes at Laval University and greatly encourages Facebook for use with students. He is very clear in pointing out however that students must be aware of the security elements concerned and that they be familiar with the privacy settings. This obviously also applies to the teacher who must always give a professional image when using Facebook. The teacher therefore ‘friends’ a student on Facebook solely for professional teaching purposes and the teacher’s class Facebook page must rigorously reflect this. Finally, the school administration and parents must be aware of the students’ use of Facebook and be an active part in the use of this very useful tool.
Mr Miller explains that Facebook does not replace teaching but is a facilitator in that students are already there on Facebook. Students are already very accustomed to its use and are very often at the site, so simply for practical and convenience purposes Facebook has a huge advantage over other sites. Following along this train of thought, Facebook is also ‘fun’ for the students to use therefore when, for instance, homework assignments are posted, there is less reluctance for students to engage in the activity. The students are already exchanging ideas with friends and family so the same can be done with teachers and classmates in this closed environment which is very safe as long as the above mentioned security measures are taken.
The website Mashable.com covers social media news and gives interesting information about these technologies which can be very useful to teachers. An interesting entry, posted April 4 2013, entitled Mark Zuckerberg Moonlights as a Middle School Teacher caught my attention because it proves very relevant to our topic concerning Facebook as a pedagogical tool. It turns out that Mr Zuckerberg is married to a teacher, and this, along with inspiration from Bill Gates, has given him reason to become quite the philanthropist. Among the activities Mr Zuckerberg engages in is teaching a middle-school class once a week. Mashable.com quotes an interview Mr Zuckerberg had with Wired where he states: “Every Tuesday we go over one skill, and each group has a side project,” Zuckerberg told Wired. “When the class ends, they’ll come to Facebook and sell the products they’ve made, like they’re marketing them.” Mr Zuckerberg is quite obviously a very able businessman and he wants to promote the use of his own product, but if one thinks further than this simplistic view we see that Mr Zuckerberg is taking a chance with this project, in that it could prove to be a monumental disaster if there were some sort of a problem involving the students use of Facebook. Therefore, for our purposes, we can see that the founder, chairman and CEO of Facebook is confident in putting his company’s reputation at risk, in his use of Facebook as a pedagogical tool, so this is proof enough for most that Facebook, when used responsibly, is an efficient and safe application for use in schools.
The very reputable British newspaper The Guardian is always in the forefront of current issues and is willing to tackle ideas that may be controversial. On Wednesday June 25, 2008, The Guardian mentions the reluctance of schools in the UK to allow use of Facebook in the classrooms. The date should be taken into account because even here in 2014, six years later, schools around the world are still reluctant in many cases to allow its use. In other words, students are missing out on educational opportunities if they are denied the responsible use of Facebook in their school. The website EducationWorld offers an inspiring article for proponents of Facebook as a pedagogical tool entitled Social Networking Tips for Teachers. The article is written by Facebook Chief Security Officer Joe Sullivan who, like his boss Mark Zuckerberg, has a vested interest in promoting the product, however his advice is quite enticing, even to naysayers. Here are some ideas from Mr Sullivan, in italics, and as published in EducationWorld:
Create a Friend List: If you’re a teacher, you can create a Friend List called “Students” and adjust your privacy settings to control exactly what your students will see. For example, you might allow students to see your basic profile information, but not your tagged photos or wall posts.
Use Facebook Groups for Engagement: You can create a Facebook Group for a course you’re teaching or a specific class project, and invite all your students to join the group. That will provide a way for students and educators to discuss relevant topics on a platform students love. There also is a Discussion Board where students can share their thoughts.
Share Rich Content: Use the Wall on your Facebook Group page to share rich content, such as news clips, interesting articles, Web sites, videos, and so on. Invite students to do the same.
Discuss Online Safety: Teach students about appropriate online behavior, including keeping passwords private, never talking to strangers online, and treating others respectfully.
Know Your Resources: Get up-to-the-minute, dynamic content especially for teachers at the Facebook in Education page, and check out safety advice for teachers.
Check Your School’s Social Networking Policy: As an educator, you should make sure you’re in compliance with your school’s policies before opening a Facebook account. Additionally, it’s always a good idea to notify parents and receive their permission before asking students to join Facebook. Explain to parents exactly how the tool will be used in the classroom — and make sure all students are older than13.
Student Feedback: Ask students — the digital natives — if they have any creative ideas about ways in which Facebook can enrich their learning experience, both in the classroom and beyond.
Be a Safe Harbor: Make sure students know they can come to you with questions or concerns, or to discuss what to do in tricky situations they encounter online.
APPS FOR EDUCATORS ON FACEBOOK
Teachers also can leverage free technologies to engage with students on a platform they enjoy, and can use those tools to share presentations, notes, practice tests, and quizzes. Facebook has many apps.
I will finish here with this summary by Mr Sullivan, which lists numerous uses and gives a clear idea of the benefits of Facebook as a pedalogical tool. I agree with all the ideas presented by Mr Sullivan so there is no need to repeat them; but I should mention that he has not drawn attention to the multitude of Facebook users, who offer educational tools themselves, and which can be accessed by students through the site. For instance the ESL-Library.com is on Facebook and this tool, along with numerous others, can be accessed with ease through Facebook. Perhaps the word ‘ease’ mentioned in the last sentence is what makes Facebook a teacher’s ally in his or her pursuit to inspire students to work harder, more efficiently and in a more enjoyable manner.