Looking inside Facebook

We’ve just had the opportunity to look inside Facebook (a phenomenally successful social networking site), thanks to Ellen our 19-year old guide. She began using it as an easy way to keep in contact with overseas friends. And the emphasis does seem to be on easy and fun, for this age group anyway, a bit like sitting in the pub catching up with your mates. You create your online identify with personal details and other interesting / quirky features, like your strippers name and quick contacts, for instance, friends may choose to lick, kiss or poke you!, as well as sharing what’s going on with your life, your photos, etc. And the user has control over who can access their site and what information they share.

But there seems to be a darker side to all this fun. Over the past month social networking sites have been in the media with stories of cyber bullying, gangs using them to recruit members, police surfing them for information about crimes, identity theft, and the ease of misrepresenting oneself for dubious purposes. There’s also the concern with Facebook owning all the information posted (does this include original art work or your own photos?), and how they may then use this information.

All this negative stuff aside, how might Facebook be used for education purposes? The following excerpts from Educause Learning Initiative (May, 2007) hint at its potential.

The current concerns …

that the actions and activities on the site may lack substance. Keeping in touch with a circle of friends and colleagues is fine, but if Facebook enables trite, superficial interaction, there is little educational value.

But there are possibilities it may develop into something more significant …

The interesting question is whether expanded access and a growing number of functions will lead users into more substantive activities on the site. Face­book may become a channel for dialogue and a destination for people interested in learning about or sharing information on current issues.

It could be used as a campus marketing and communication tool …

a campus can advertise jobs, a campus election, or other activities to students at that institution or perhaps also at nearby institutions.

And to forge more meaningful relationships between campus students and teachers in an informal social setting …

a central part of the college years is “learning to be”—experiment­ing with different personas, engaging with a variety of groups, and developing a set of core values. By allowing users a range of tools to negotiate and inhabit online networks, Facebook and sites like it can be an important part of this developmental process.

From this very brief introduction to Facebook I couldn’t see any immediate use for it in my teaching (or personal life), so I haven’t signed up. But people probably said that about blogs and youTube, so who knows, it might be worth keeping an eye on it.


  1. Sarah Stewart said...

    Ellens signed me up for Facebook but I haven't had the time to do anything with it yet.

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