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A couple of years ago one of my student Stage Managers–a Junior in
college–created a Facebook Group for our Departmental Production in the
Theater Department. It was an eye opener for me and since then I have
moved much of my course management into Facebook. Logistically I operate
my entire Associates in Technical Theater Program from our Facebook
Group Page now. Each semester I ask my new students to join the group–
Now, when I come into the building I am often asked, have you checked
your Facebook lately? And even if I did right before I went to sleep
last night, there is usually new updates that the students expect me to
know about by 9 the next morning. There is no doubt FB has its
limitations as a LMS. But as a supplement to other tools it has
revolutionized the way I teach and interact with my students. Above all
it has helped create a learning community and sustains that community
far beyond any traditional class time structure. Slowly all my Alum’s
have friended me, each new discovery, Wow! you are on FB!
A couple of the lessons I have learned is not to Friend your students.
Let them come to you. This respects their privacy. They don’t need to
Friend you to participate in the Group. The Group feature is very
powerful and I use it aggressively and extensively to communicate,
coordinate and instruct. I post my docs on Google Docs as links either
on the Wall, or as discussions or as messages–or using all of these
resources.
One of the biggest challenges is to get them to take FB seriously as an
on-line persona, and the foundation for the development of their
professional ePortfolio for Life Long Learning. I remind them that they
should never put something on FB that their Grandmothers would object
to; that Google saves everything forever. More importantly I try and get
them to use it as a tool for their professional development and
portfolio. Pictures, documents and other links can be sorted into a
documentation of their activity and the development of competencies.
Visual artifacts verify their participation, attention to detail and
immersion. Pages can be created right in FB for an ePortfolio Page.

I love the ‘Assign Officer’ feature. The Department Heads take over the
administration of the Group for day to day communication and I try and
stay ahead with events. Leadership skills are quickly passed around when
you give them responsibility and roles in their Group. It becomes part
of their resume and the beginning of the digital story of their
professional journey. I have been trying to get a student business going
as a Group because the structure is so friendly to order a complex
activity like Production Management for example.

Self generating content, always new and fresh, updating status, updating
Officers, and especially events. In my area we live by events and
classes are intermingled as events them selves. I always try and keep
things global for serendipity or to link other people from outside the
specific network.

As I try and push FB into places I want it to go as a LMS, I come back
to the realization that the most useful phenomenon associated with a
web2.0 application–especially FB– is its ability to create and sustain a
community. In this way it is world starting, spinning off many Groups.
Some of this activity is predictable and some of it is emergent. Again,
the creation of being: 'onto emergent'–It is the emergent that I am most
interested in. And you?

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Comment by Sandra Nassali on January 10, 2011 at 2:57pm
Hello Jan, good one!!
Comment by isura silva on January 6, 2011 at 11:08am
Hi Jan, True. I believe there is a generation gap between every 4 years now. Guiding about children, they are ready to listen to us, if they talk their language. <social media>!
Comment by Jan Herder on January 5, 2011 at 11:00pm

Thank you isura! I find myself playing catch up with the students. And interestingly enough, my children ages 22-24 report how fast the younger ones --18--21 are compared to them at attaining computer skills.  How fast things are moving, and such an urgent need for us to try and guide them.

Jan

Comment by isura silva on January 5, 2011 at 2:01pm
Jan, A bold experiment, and touching results. I agree with your audacity. Keep up !
Comment by Jan Herder on January 4, 2011 at 10:20pm

Thank you so much for your comments Shipra.  Any kind of community building activity does require diligence, love and attention, as you mention.  But I think the Facebook phenomenon has even more disruptive value for communities and individuals emerging into the digital age.  The motivation that connecting to people provides is huge.  I think of it as a 'hook'. The desire to connect using Facebook exposes the neophyte to the full range of web 2.0 attributes. Think about it: you learn to create a profile, upload photos and videos, create a web page (FBpages), comment on posts, create posts yourself, create and interact with groups, learn to search, to confront your online privacy issues and manage them, reflect upon your work--and, as you mentioned in a Facebook status a couple of days back: get positive feedback and input instantaneously.  (excellent insight!) And then the final beauty of Facebook, to move beyond Facebook. This is very important. In my community the students are addicted--heavily to Facebook.  My radical side distrusts any monolithic structure and Facebook is hugely monolithic. As we know, power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely (Plato,The Republic)--Facebook has the same potential. So I endeavor to raise the awareness of my students to start using Facebook as a tool, not an end. Once the reflective instinct is awakened the students look outside the gilded walls of Facebook and begin to seek. And here I am touched by the comments of Myrna Padilla on the discussion of How Telecenters can implement Wo...

When she asks-- to teach people how to search.  This is it really.  Learn how to learn. And this is also what is so disruptive about user generated content and web 2.0--access to knowledge and reduction of isolation. 

For me, the very exciting aspect of web2.0--and Facebook in some ways define web 2.0--is that by participating you have crossed the "pedagogical divide". If you look at classic definitions of knowledge they are authoritarian, based on taxonomy, and monopolies of truth ( ie., the teacher has it and you pay the teacher to "get it' --the banking theory of knowledge). (See Chris Dede " a seismic shift in epistemology) This has been turned on its head by web 2.0.  Now knowledge is situational, dependent on the 'knower,' uses a folksonomy, and is process, not product or content. Indeed, knowledge is constructed through connecting (see connectivism) (synthesizing), creating and participating in networks. (reflecting quantum physics and more aligned to the theory of relativity).  So my point, that by using Facebook, the user unwittingly is participating in a radically different educational philosophy. What is glorious about this is that success is almost instantaneous for even the new user.

Comment by Shipra Sharma on January 4, 2011 at 8:18pm
Nice article Jan. You are right - Facebook has a lot of potentials. In fact, when I was assigned to write on Community Media for Telecentres, I referred to Facebook as the most useful among the social media tools for the telecentre networks. There are already a number of telecentre network pages and groups, which serve as important knowledge sharing forums. The only need is to maintain them dynamically with frequent updates. Otherwise, they become dead pages. I agree that Facebook can be utilised in a number of ways and telecentres can also derive the maximum benefits from them.
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