Tiffany Della Vedova


New York, NY

Interests: 21st century learning,...

  • Posted 7 Years ago
  • 11k

Let There Be Facebook! Our plunge into using FB for summer reading and other learning adventures

If there has been one supreme divisive factor among our otherwise united classroom forces, Facebook is it. Block it! Ban it! Take their computers! Oh, the drama you have brought to us, dear Facebook, and yet I do believe we have given you too much credit for our frustrations and perhaps not enough for your potential.

As school administrators, my Head of School and I use Facebook to keep up with our many learning communities beyond our school walls. What better way to tap into the latest release from ASCD, FCIS, NAIS, and a slew of other rich resources? Last year, because we wanted to access Facebook ourselves and to build a school presence within the FB network, we opened access to it on our network...gasp! I do not think we anticipated the level of outcry we would get from a large part of our teacher base who felt frustrated with student disengagement, and for whom Facebook became the scapegoat for a number of class environment issues. It was, in fact, the one resounding request from teachers in the midyear survey--Block Facebook Please! Students need to pay attention. They need to concentrate on learning.   

So began our long will it take for students to navigate around the firewalls we put up? (a nanosecond) How many creative ways will they invent to do so? (multitudinous) How many firewalls are necessary to ensure complete FB  blackout? (too many to put up) Who will become more frustrated in the process, the students or the teachers/administrators? (the teachers) Will even effective blockage of FB lead to higher student engagement? (hardly, um...hello Google Chat, Skype, AIM, and the multitudinous other computer-related distractions; besides, we all know technology isn't really the issue with student engagement, at least not the only culprit) What is a teacher to do?

One answer, and certainly not an original one...take what they are obsessed with and use it as a way to engage them. Some would call this an “if you can’t beat em, join em” answer, and I guess in some ways it is, but that is only if one chooses to see the tool, whether it be Facebook or another disruptive element, as the adversary rather than the ally. This summer, we are embracing Facebook as a learning tool. We’ve created a private group for summer reading discussions, and only two weeks in we are seeing positive results. After many years of frustrating summer reading outcomes during which we struggled to find the balance between enjoyment and accountability, we are seeing not only a higher level of student engagement but also an increased excitement about reading in general. The discussions of paired titles on family addiction have led students and teachers to share other suggested reading, and students are jumping in. One rising senior who planned to read an additional title based on another member’s suggestion posted yesterday, “A senior reading a book for fun over the summer...what?” We are equally (and pleasantly) surprised. We are starting to see similar interaction and shared enjoyment of our suggested (okay, required) teacher reading within our FB Faculty Beach Reads group where our teachers are not only sharing fun stories from their summer adventures but also discussing titles such as Chen’s Education Nation, Vatterott’s Rethinking Homework, and Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion.

“But Facebook can be so dangerous,” say some. No, not really, at least not any more dangerous than a field trip, and even more important, teaching students to safely navigate the risks of social networking must comprise part of our redefined role as 21st Century educators. But what about personal boundaries...should teachers and students really be interacting with each other in this way? With proper adherence to respectful and professional interaction, and with the understanding that our personal and professional cyber presence cannot really be altogether separate and based on different standards...yes! Yes, we should! Who better to teach students how to develop online identities aligned with the same character education standards modeled in “real” life? Who better to guide them on what is acceptable interaction? I believe this is a wonderful opportunity for mentoring young students, and for the most part, we are currently opting out.

I anticipate and hope that we will see more use of Facebook and other medias already widely used by students in the classroom next year. Sure, there are great social media sites being developed for educational purposes specifically, and some schools may be restricted to those for now by fear-based policies, but there is no question that that the two worlds of social media and educational media will ultimately merge. There is great power in this partnership, and it’s time we harness it.


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29 Aug 11, 11:01 AM

Thank you Gytis. I watched the video and it looks very interesting! I've been using FB as a learning platform for my English IV class with seniors. Two other teachers are using it for high school classes. So far, it's been great. Here are a couple things I would say would be helpful in a learning platform.
-The ability to rearrange the posts so that the teacher can be sure that they are in the proper order. Right now, the most recently updated is always at the top which means the teacher's priority post might not be the first thing the students see.
-The ability to assign and piece of work with a turn-in option, even if it is just the students indicating they have turned it in. This is a feature of edmodo and I think it's great.
-It would be wonderful if FB had a blogging platform so that students could enter a blogging space to engage in that type of more elaborate discussion. Maybe there is an existing feature which I'm not quite tapping into, but for now, I've been using Collaborize Classroom to accomplish this. Thank you for reading the post and for working on this project!

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29 Aug 11, 06:19 AM

Dear TIiffany, nice post. We think the same, so we're building Facebook application for e-learning. It will be available from 1st of September with over 30,000 learning objects for math and other sciences. Please find video here:
What do you think about it? Your opinion is very important for us.

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28 Jun 11, 01:37 PM

Tiffany, you are exactly right! Why not use what the students are infatuated with in order to engage them? It is with this in mind that I put all of the "Common Core State Standards" on Facebook. If you visit this link you will find the CCSS, organized by subject (when you hit the "wall" tab of the fan page.) Once you visit one of the subject fan pages (and hit the "wall" tab), you will find the subject organized by grade level. Go to one of the grade levels (and hit the "wall" tab, and you will find free resources kids can access that will teach them the standards! These resources are in the form of videos, links to cool websites, curriculum maps, lesson plans, and much more. Please take a tour, Tiffany, and let me know what you think! Hit "Like" for any one of the fan pages and receive updates to YOUR Facebook wall any time a teacher posts a cool new resource to teach the standards.
Talk to you soon

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23 Jun 11, 04:36 PM

I love this post. The summer idea is great, and you point that "that the two worlds of social media and educational media will ultimately merge" is well taken. The New York Public Library just initiated a social networked catalog (Bibliocommons) that is being piloted also with NYC public schools.

What is needed is a clear policy/terms of service/use regarding social networked softwares that reach the general public.

Large urban school systems may be wary about allowing Facebook, per se, because of the liability issues and lack of control, but integrating the new "Bibliocommons" into school activities is a way to start.

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23 Jun 11, 04:23 PM

Thank you for the comments! John, I would be really interested in any literature from that presentation. Sounds very aligned with the goal. Amanda, I agree with you completely. Advocating the use of Facebook does not equate to a free-for-all open access policy. In fact, I am more interested in using it exactly TO TEACH digital citizenship and other standards not to enable disrespect or further distraction in the class. I think this is often misconstrued.

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23 Jun 11, 04:14 PM

I agree that we should try to use what students are using to engage them in learning. We recently presented a paper at the 2011 Pennsylvania Economics Conference advocating the use of social media in economics education entitled, "Friending Facebook, Timely Tweets: Using Web 2.0 in Economics Education". Once we get students motivated, the learning that takes place can be amazing!

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23 Jun 11, 03:50 PM

As you stated "teaching students to safely navigate the risks of social networking must comprise part of our redefined role as 21st Century educators". Responsible education must include social networking, otherwise greater harm can come to students who "explore" without structured guidelines!

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22 Jun 11, 01:25 PM

Here here! I just logged on the the FB Reading site at our school that Tiffany mentions - I loved hearing the student feedback. Such a useful way to connect in meaningful ways :)

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22 Jun 11, 10:45 AM

That's a great post, Tiffany. I would agree it's time that educators stop of thinking of ways to "stop" technology and harness it and use it to their advantage. Change is hard but Facebook isn't the culprit, as you said.

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