Friday, April 9, 2010

Facebook in the High School Classroom

Let me start this post out by saying that I love Facebook. I check and update Facebook daily. It has provided me with the opportunity to get in touch with people from high school, college, and law school that I otherwise would not have maintained relationships with due to our busy lives and families. But.... I have always been wary of keeping my personal Facebook life separate from my online professional life (like my Twitter page, my blog, my Podbean page, and email contact with parents and colleagues).

The Webinar

Well, I participated in a webinar yesterday that opened the door to the possiblity of using Facebook with my students in a safe, responsible, and efficient way. Click here to see my notes from the webinar.

Benefits of Using Facebook With Students

Why should we use Facebook to communicate with our students?

  • Students (who must be 13 or older according to Facebook's user policy) are already checking Facebook at least once per day. Although there are exceptions, they are less likely check Edline, Ning, or email unless we require it as part of an assignment. As proof of this, Facebook surpassed Yahoo in January and became the second most visited site on the Internet.

          • It is an easy way to share videos, pictures, and due date calendars with your students. AND, they can share them with each other.
          • The Group Page for your class can be a forum for students to post questions to you and to each other about assignments and projects. Click here for a video on how to create a Group Page for your class.
          • They can share research resoures with each other by posting links.
          • Facebook has lots of great learning apps, like "Mathematical Formulas" and "Flashcards" that aren't as well known as Farmville. You can learn about the top 20 in this video on YouTube.
          • Students can check you class Group on Facebook using mobile devices, not just on their computer. So, they are connected to what is going on in your class at all times!

          Concerns With Using Facebook With Students

          With all of the benefits, there are definitely also concerns:

          • To avoid putting yourself in a difficult position by seeing students personal pictures or updates on Facebook, ask them to create a limited profile. This way, only true "friends" can see their full profile while members of your class Group page will see the protected limited version.
          • If you are planning to post pictures of the students in the class doing work in school or on a field trip, be sure to get parent permission if you want to tag them.
          • You might want to create a Public Figure Page or a Profile that is exclusively for professional use, which is separate from your personal profile. Click here for a great video on how to create a profile.

          You can find out more about Facebook in education in this incredible article called 7 Things You Should Know About Facebook.

          Also, if you are already on Facebook, think about joining the Educators Using Facebook Group for more ideas and discussion from other teachers.

          My Thoughts and Plans

          It is a lot to digest and I want to think more about how I will use Facebook, what guidelines I will set for my students, and how I will inform parents of Facebook's role in my courses. I don't think I'm going to add Facebook to the Web 2.0 part of my class this year, but it will definitely be part of my students' experience in social studies class in 2010-2011!

          Thursday, April 1, 2010

          April Fools' Day & Media Literacy

          I was looking for something fun to do with my high school classes today. After a little searching, and some help from my PLN on Twitter, I found this:

          Yes, that's right, you are seeing a woman harvesting spaghetti from a tree! The BBC broadcasted this story on April 1, 1957 as a joke. The kicker is that spaghetti was not a commonly consumed dish in the UK at the time. It was rare and considered a delicacy, so many had never given thought to how it is created. As a result, people all over the UK were fooled into believing that spaghetti does, in fact, grow on trees.

          Click here to see the short video new story that BBC aired that night.

          Further reading an investigation of the web page revealed some first-hand accounts of people who were fooled by the ruse. Here are two of my favorites:

          I remember it well, I was five at the time, and watched this with my dear old Dad. Mum was out for the night. We were taken in totally.

          Very pleased with ourselves that we knew how spaghetti was produced, we told Mum when she got back in. We could not understand why she fell about laughing! I still have fond memories of Panorama in the old days.
          Sue Elsey, England

          When this was broadcast I was just eight years old and - of course - believed everything I was told or saw on the television.

          The TV was a bit of a novelty for my family in 1957 and I had no reason then to disbelieve this new and amazing media.

          My problem was that for years and years afterwards I believed that spaghetti grew on trees. It wasn't until many years later when I was in my late teens that I realised this was perhaps not the case and even now at 56 I'm hopeful of spotting one or two trees as I drive around the country and the continent.

          One of the great April Fools jokes and one I'll always cherish.
          Tony Frost, England

          While it seems somewhat unbelievable that so many could fall for such an obvious fallacy, I had a follow-up discussion with my students about the role historical context plays in gullibility. All of this also led into a discussion of media literacy. Our students laughed at the people in the UK who were taken by this April Fools' Day joke, but they admitted to having been fooled by the media in the past as well.

          Funny how an April Fools' Day joke can lead into a discussion of 21st Century Skills.

          Weaving With Web 2.0 in the History Classroom

          My graduate class and cohort are winding down. Our last in-class project was a reflection on the integration of Web 2.0 tools in our class and curriculum. This was a labor of love. I thought I would share my project with all of you.

          Part 1: My presentation began with a 4 and a half minute video I created using Photostory. It is a statement of my pedagogy now that I have taken this class. While I was primarily focused on content before (with blogging and research integrated into my curriculum) I now feel that my responsibilities go beyond the history itself. Web 2.0 skills have become an essential part of my classes.

          Part 2: I decided to aggregate some examples of student work into a single website. I pointed out a few of these projects as examples of the integration of a few Web 2.0 tools throughout the year.

          Part 3: Since I wanted the presentation itself to be an example of Web 2.0 technology, I added a feedback page. My hope is that some, or maybe even all, of you will write your questions and ideas about my work on the feedback page. Both encouraging and critical thoughts are welcomed.

          Reflections: Before concluding this post, I want to thank all of my fellow cohort members for inspiring and prodding me along through this journey. I feel like I have been a better teacher for my students as a result of all the time and effort put toward these projects. In addition, I have found a new passion for my job. While I loved being a teacher before, I can hardly stop talking about the latest project a student has turned in, or the latest free online tool I have discovered, or the latest blog I have read by another educator. Truly, my husband and family have heard about all of our adventures in "expanding our boundaries." Without all of them I would not have discovered this new passion. So thank you.