While some teachers embrace social media in the classroom, some students do not

 

By Narges Attaie/NewsNetNebraska

Although most teachers do not condone the use of social media websites by students in the classroom, some see them as an effective academic tool outside the classroom.

When more than 150 million Americans use Facebook, according to Consumer Reports, social media is difficult for instructors to ignore.

“It’s where students are already,” said Amber Leichner, who teachers writing, literature and women’s studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

This is Leichner’s third time using Facebook’s group pages as part of her English class. A Facebook group is a place for small communication; users must be invited or request to join.  A user can create a page based on an interest, group or an association with people and things.

Leichner likes being part of a group on Facebook because it does not require all the members to be Facebook friends.

“It’s nice that it lets you do that, that way I don’t feel like I am invading my students’ privacy.”

Facebook v. Blackboard

For these several reasons, Leichner prefers Facebook to Blackboard, an education tool UNL uses for teachers to communicate with students:

  • Blackboard is not a website that is visited unless one has to.
  • The Blackboard discussion boards can be tricky to follow.
  • Students tend to be more formal and guarded on Blackboard discussions.
  • Facebook creates a more dynamic conversation.

Leichner is using Facebook for her “Women in Popular Culture” class. The group is meant to be used as a supplementary tool, where students can post articles, videos, blogs or continue discussions that were brought up in class. Joining the group is optional.

Another advantage of Facebook: it’s more moblie than Blackboard.  Most smart phones have an application for Facebook, so users can be connected throughout the day and away from their computers.  Leichner likes the idea that students can post on the classroom group page on-the-go from their phones when they come across real-life situations that were discussed in class.

“It means people are thinking about it outside of class,” Leichner said. “I think students are more comfortable commenting online than speaking out loud in a classroom.”

And, she said, “we get a sense of personality by what they post online.”

Thomas Winter, who teaches “World of Classical Greece” at UNL, also uses the group feature on Facebook, which he says is optional to join. Like Leichner, Winter prefers to use Facebook rather than Blackboard.

“The discussion boards on Blackboard can get messy,” Winter said. “It’s easier to follow threads on Facebook.”

Facebook good for Q & A

Winter posts reading assignments both on Facebook and Blackboard for those who are not a part of the group.

Winter encourages his students to use Facebook for any questions they may have, that way everyone in the group can see the question and the answer.

Senior Julia Didier waits in Andrews Hall, where she takes, "Women in Popular Culture," which has a Facebook component.

Julia Didier, a senior advertising and public relations major at UNL who is in Leichners’ class, likes that Leichners’ Facebook group is optional, even though she participates in it.

Didier’s past classes have required students to use Facebook and other social media, like Twitter for assignments and participation points. Didier believes that making students use social media is pointless. In her class, Didier was required to read what her peers posted and comment. Didier said some comments were not relevant to class and wasted her time.

“I think professors are trying to make it an educational tool, but it’s not working.”

Using Twitter for professional reasons

Didier says that some of her professors urge students to start using their personal Twitters for professional reasons and to make their profiles public. This would make it so that anyone and possible future employers could search and follow them.

“I don’t like how they tell us to use our social media accounts,” Didier said. “I want to keep my accounts private.”

Ironically, Facebook first began as a private networking service in 2004, when Harvard University student Mark Zuckerberg created it.  The website’s membership was initially limited to Harvard students but soon expanded to other colleges who could register with it their college e-mail accounts.  As the popularity of Facebook grew, it was open to more audiences. Today, anyone 13 and older can join Facebook.

 

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