I’m really excited and fortunate to be involved in a whole lot of stuff at Algonquin College these days. In addition to teaching part time in the Interactive Multimedia Developer program, I’m also teaching online courses in Digital Communication and Social Media in Business, and Jester Creative is working with the college to produce a LipDub video which is going to be shot early next year.

All of these great projects have given me the opportunity to explore and experiment with the role social media is playing in post secondary education.

I just finished giving a short talk on Facebook in the Classroom at the first ever Innovation Case Jam, an event focused on bringing college faculty and administration together to share ideas and come up with new and innovative ways to enhance the college experience for students, teachers and administration. I had to duck out of the event early to get back to my class, but I wanted to summarize some of the thoughts from my talk here to continue the conversation.

The Secret to Success

By far the biggest issue with Facebook in the classroom is the whole privacy question. A lot of teachers are hesitant to engage with students on Facebook as it’s often seen as more of a “personal” space. We use it to interact with our friends and family, and don’t always want to cross the personal/professional boundary with students. Conversely, students are also hesitant to link up with teachers, for many of the same reasons – do teachers really need to see the photos from last weekend’s kegger?

I believe I’ve found a solution to some of these issues. I think there’s a lot of value in having a class Facebook Group. It’s a great, interactive space where students and teachers can share relevant links, videos, posts, events and so on. It’s a wonderful supplementary learning tool, and Facebook Groups can be made not only private, but secret, so the group can be locked down to outside participants and won’t show up in searches.

The problem is, in order to invite people to a group, the administrators must be Facebook friends with the people they are inviting. This brings us back to the whole issue of privacy.

Here’s how we solve it – make Facebook Group administration a student-driven effort. One way you could approach it is to assign class reps with the creation of the Group, and have them invite their classmates – your students are already connected with each other on Facebook anyway, right? Take yourself out of the mix.

Not only that, but by handing Facebook over to the people that know it best – your students – you’re giving them ownership of the community. Now, you’re not having to do all the posting and explaining – rather, your students are free to share and explore and connect on their own.

You should still be part of the group, for sure – but rather than run the conversation, just guide it.

One example of how this is working really well is with Algonquin’s LipDub project. Though this is a Facebook page – a more public community than a group – it’s similar, because it is totally administered by the students – they are responsible for updates and for managing everything that goes on the page. We monitor and address any issues (there haven’t been any to speak of). The community is starting to thrive and as the project continues it will be a source of motivation, buzz creation and information. Perfect!

How about you? What are your experiences with Facebook in the classroom? Do you have questions? Let’s discuss in the comments below.

Photo credit: anna-b on Flickr