This week, I sat down in a Hangout with Deborah Lemon to learn about how she uses a private Facebook group to teach spanish fully online and in a blended format. I must say, I was impressed and inspired! I've found myself thinking long and hard about some of the examples she shared in the Hangout. Deborah's point, to me, is that Facebook allows for her to seamlessly and fluidly interact with her students but also, and perhaps more importantly, the students can spontaneously stream their lives and experiences through their feed updates, functioning as authentic assessments.
As Deborah explained to me, this type of fluid connection to students is essential when teaching a foreign language. For example, (you'll see this in the video) Deborah showed a video of a student who set up her smartphone phone and recorded herself interacting with customers at her place of employment -- using the spanish skills she had just learned in class. Deborah likens the video clips that the students share in the Facebook microblog feed to an ePortfolio. Nearly all college students are on Facebook already so having them shift to a private FB group to share their spanish skills with their phones makes a lot more sense than requiring them to get to a computer and log into Blackboard or Moodle.
To me, I had always been a bit stand offish about microblogging because it's so fragmented but Deborah demonstrated how the Facebook Group function provides a simple way to sort the contributions made by each student. This gives a comprehensive view of the students' activities in one place. Deborah covers a lot of other important topics including dealing with reluctant Facebook users (which is very rare, she says) and archiving content.
I find myself thinking about how using social technologies push us, as teachers, into new and unexpected territory. We might start using a social technology for one particular reason but what blossoms from there is the exciting and unimaginable part -- that's the piece that we need to be cultivating and that's the piece that will not happen in traditional course management systems.
Finally, Deborah invites you all to join her Facebook Group "Using Groups for Teaching." In this group, you'll find lots of tips and resources for learning about how to teach with Facebook, as well as the chance to interact with other like-minded educators. To check it out, go to Facebook.com, sign in, search for "Using Groups for Teaching" using the search box at the top, and click "Join group."
Enjoy the video!