Technology in education: Is it just a waste of time?

 
Photo attributed to Jim Wilson, New York Times. Students using an interactive whiteboard, part of an ambitious technology plan in the Kyrene School District in Arizona.

The last  8 months I have been blogging about the use of technology in education and especially as a way to assist English Language Learning. I have not only been blogging but using it actively with my students. I mainly teach one to one lessons and my students are young. I had also the honor to present various workshops about the use of technology with students in my university (University of Athens), Paris (Tesol France) and online.

During this time period, I have heard my many objections about  the use of the internet in and outside the classroom for educational use that made me think again and again. Are we wasting precious lesson time using a Web 2.0 application in classroom? Is it just a waste of time asking students to keep a class blog, watch a youtube video, create a slideshow?

Here are some of the objections I have heard:

  • I have used once technology. I showed to my students ”Mrs Doubtfire”. It was such a waste of time. While we were watching the film I was thinking that the students were not learning anything. I preferred to use this time to practice grammar with my students.
  • Technology is very difficult for me to handle.In a school were I was teaching the classrooms were equipped with interactive white boards and projectors. I was loosing precious lesson time.

Today, I have heard a view that really made me think a lot and resulted in my blogging about this:

I have announced to one of my friends and colleague that I will be presenting at Tesol Greece Conference a workshop named ‘Web 2.0 World in the English Language Classroom”. He said to me without the intention to insult me that he is not attending my workshop because he finds the use of tech useless for the Greek reality. He pointed out that in Greek public schools the most classrooms do not  have heat and many of them even a blackboard. He could not imagine to put in action all these thinks I was talking about.

While he was expressing his opinions which are totally understandable, I was thinking how economic factors can discourage teachers from getting inspired and try to do the best for their students. My colleague and many other educators are not at all open to new ideas because their school lacks of proper facilities. But is this the answer to the problem?  Should we give up? A teacher should be the one who inspires the students and help them learn and get motivated to learn.

What is my point of view? We live in a society where the internet is a major part of it. Facebook, for example, has more than 800 million active users and more that 350 million user carry facebook wherever they go through their mobile devices. All my students, colleagues and friends have added me as a friend to facebook. I do not think that I know anyone without an account at any social network. What does this mean? Our students spend a lot of time online. They go home and they do not stop typing (and producing language online). Why not as teachers keep up with the times and adjust some technology in our teaching? If our classroom is not equipped with computers or internet access, our houses are. We can ask  our students to do something meaningful at the internet at home and send it to us via mail. We can practice writing through blogs, wikis, digital storytelling applications –  reading through reading breaking news online, interesting articles – listening through online videos, talks. You can motivate learning and keep students engaged to the lesson. I have seen so many students get motivated just because their teacher asked them to find some extra info online for a project.

I am not suggesting that  technology is the panacea in education. It should be used with intention and considering the students’ e-safety. However, we can not overlook its invaluable benefits.  Teachers should get informed about its advantages and how can be used in education. What is your opinion? Is it just a waste of lesson time or do you think that helps our students? I am really interested in listening  your views.

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We learn…95% of what we teach to someone else!

I was in Paris this weekend attending TESOL France International Conference and presenting a poster there. I attended many great workshops that gave me lot of motivation to start blogging and sharing again! I have so many ideas and thoughts to share thanks the inspiration of these great educators. I added a category named ELT Pics that I will share the most interesting pictures that can a help an EFL Teacher. This one comes from Arjana’s Blazic Presentation. She suggested that we should ask students write their own quizzes. This way the learning process will be more effective.  You can find the whole presentation here.

“Hot Spot” Interview — Report From Greece

These are some questions that I answered for Larry Ferlazzo about a month ago and I would like to post it on my blog as I am very happy that someone from abroad was particular interested of  Greece’s current situation from someone from inside! We are through some difficult times here in Greece and any support is welcome and appreciated. Again, thank you Larry!

So here it is:

I recently began a new regular interview series. There are always lots of “hot spots” around the world — places where there are natural disasters, political upheavals, etc. And English teachers can be found in most of those places. If you are an EFL/ESL teacher in one of those areas, please let me know.

Today, Elinda Gjondedaj from Greece has agreed to answer a few questions:

Can you tell us what led you to becoming an English teacher and where do you teach?

I remember my self from a very young age dreaming to become a teacher as I love kids and love to be around them. When I started to learn English I realized that the English language was just another love. As a matter of fact, I combined my love for kids and English. So, I had my Certificate of Proficiency in English and currently I am on the 4th year of studies in the faculty of English Language and Literature of University of Athens.

I teach in a private institution to young children (age: 8-12) who have their first steps in English language. I also have private lessons (1:1 lessons) to various levels. I am also making a research on how the new technologies can be engaged in the English classroom and I am making some workshops in the University of Athens to colleagues on this topic.

I read a lot about economic problems in Greece and lots of protests. Can you give us an overview of what has caused those problems and what is happening now?

Greece is facing many serious problems at the time being. The country’s debts are so high that the government is obliged to cut down many public expenditures from the salaries, educational domain, the health domain etc and to increase the taxes. As a consequence, the living conditions are becoming unbearable with lower wages and higher taxes and prices. Not to mention the unemployment rates that go higher and higher. As we say here in Greece, every family nowadays has its unemployed member.

What caused these problems? It’s difficult to say. Many people say that these problems have been accumulated in the last 35 years from the time that dictatorship changed to democracy. Of course, I am not supporting that democracy has brought the problems. The people who governed might have made wrong decisions. As it is reported, in this period of time, a large amount of money was used in inexplicable ways and the country was receiving loans from abroad.

Another reason that may caused the the current ‘maze’ is the common European currency, the Euro. From 2001 Greece shares a common unit with Europe. The problem is that the exchange from the previous unit,drachma, to euro was made in an unequal way. For example bare in mind that 500 DR = 1.5 E. If something previously cost 500 DR now it costs 2E or even more. So there is an unequal exchange against the consumers.

The Greeks were not aware of the economical situation and debts until recently that we joined the International Monetary Fund and suddenly money were cut down from their salaries and people started to lose their jobs. People are currently really disappointed with the political parties and the politicians. They are considered to be guilty for the economical situation as they were hiding for years the economical deficit from the population. Today, Greeks are protesting outside the parliament every day asking for better living conditions. What is commendable in these protests is that the protesters are not members of political parties,they protest in peace without violent episodes and they are common people who ask for what is deprived from them.

How have these economic issues affected you and your students?

I believe that the impact of this economical crisis is mainly psychological. I can see many depressed people. The younger children do not understand the situation due to their youth but the teenagers seem to be very skeptical. I feel that they are deprived of their dreams and youth. We force them (teachers and parents) to learn more, to engage with more activities in order to get a decent job. For instance, a 17 year old student should have a Certificate of Proficiency in English and in another foreign language and should be ready to take the exams to enter the university. But in spite of this huge effort of having excellent qualifications, the labor market is narrowing down and these kids face great difficulties in finding a job. As a matter of fact, I can see 16-17 year old students really unmotivated to chase their dreams, to be creative.

As far I am concerned, I am afraid of the future. I believe that at this chronological moment, many people fear of unemployment. Nevertheless, I am not losing hope and I always try to show to my close people and students that they should value other things in life than money.

What do you predict will happen in Greece over the next few years?

I cannot make a prediction. The things are so unstable here and the debts are huge. However, I wish the best for my country.

Is there anything else you’d like to share that I haven’t asked you about?

I don’t think so. Thank you Larry for your questions. I am very honored.

Thanks, Elinda!

Visit his wonderful blog: Larry Ferlazzo’s Websites of the Day… 

Not Digital ‘Natives’ & ‘Immigrants’ but ‘Visitors’ & ‘Residents’

I am sharing a very interesting research about how the students use the new technologies and more specifically the internet and the social media. The division between ‘Visitors’ and ‘Residents’ seems to be very useful in understanding the students’ behaviour in these social media. This research is adopted by the English Language Teaching Global Blog and published by Oxford University Press. It is written by David White who is a Technology-Assisted Lifelong Learning (TALL), an award-winning e-learning research and development group in the University of Oxford.

So here you may have a look at the main points of the research below:

We found that our students could not be usefully categorised as Digital Natives or Digital Immigrants – i.e. this distinction does not help guide the implementation of technologies, it simply provides the excuse that “some people ‘just don’t get it’ which is why your new approach has failed so badly…”

The ‘Resident’ 

The resident is an individual who lives a percentage of their life online. The web supports the projection of their identity and facilitates relationships. These are people who have a persona online which they regularly maintain. This persona is normally primarily in a social networking sites but it is also likely to be in evidence in blogs or comments, via image sharing services etc. The Resident will, of course, interact with all the practical services such as banking, information retrieval and shopping etc but they will also use the web to socialise and to express themselves. They are likely to see the web as a worthwhile place to put forward an opinion. They often use the web in all aspects of the of their lives; professionally, for study, and for recreation. In fact, the resident considers that a certain portion of their social life is lived out online. The web has become a crucial aspect of how they present themselves and how they remain part of networks of friends or colleagues.

The ‘Visitor’

The Visitor is an individual who uses the web as a tool in an organised manner whenever the need arises. They may book a holiday or research a specific subject. They may choose to use a voice chat tool, such as Skype, if they have friends or family abroad. Often the Visitor puts aside a specific time to go online rather than sitting down at a screen to maintain their presence at any point during the day. They always have an appropriate and focused need to use the web but don’t ‘reside’ there. They are sceptical of services that offer them the ability to put their identity online and don’t feel the need to express themselves by participating in online culture in the same manner as a Resident.

In effect, the Resident has a presence online which they are constantly developing while the Visitor logs on, performs a specific task and then logs off.

 

How is this different from Digital ‘Natives’ and ‘Immigrants’?

This is, of course, not a polar distinction. There is a spectrum of which the Resident and the Visitor represent two extremes. It is a useful distinction because it is not based on gender or age. While our data would indicate that the portion of the population over 55 is predominantly made up of Visitors, there are examples of Residents in this section of the demographic. Similarly, it is the case that not everyone younger than 25 is a Resident.

It is not always easy to spot who is in each category, as the level of sophistication with which a Visitor might use any single service might well be greater than that of a Resident. Again, this is not a skill-based distinction. In fact, I know of at least one ed-tech researcher who considers himself to be a Visitor out of choice.

The Resident is likely to have arranged some sort of system to manage the relationship between services and the flow of information through their browser but this does not mean that they will be any more effective at researching a specific topic than a Visitor. This is why data from a survey that simply asks what online services a group of students use is next to useless.

How does this distinction affect learners?

This Visitor-Resident distinction is useful when considering which technologies to provide for online learners.

For example, if your learners are mainly Visitors, they are unlikely to take advantage of any feed-based system (such as RSS feeds) for aggregated information you may put in place. They are also unlikely to blog or comment as part of a course. The Resident will expect to have the opportunity to offer opinions on topics and to socialise around a programme of study. In fact, they are likely to find ways of doing this even if they are not ‘officially’ provided. We offered membership of a Facebook group to our students as they left their online courses. The majority signed up without question, as they wanted to stay in touch with fellow students and continue discussions. The remainder saw the group as pointless and a possible invasion of privacy.

Both sides of this argument are correct… It’s a question of approach and motivation, hence Visitors and Residents.

This article was originally posted on the TALL blog and has only undergone minor changes for this blog. More information about Digital Visitors and Residents can be found in Visitors and Residents: The Video by David White.

 

 

 

Quick Start Tips for New Twitters

It’s easy to forget how intimidating Twitter can be to new users once you’ve used it for awhile. So here are some of quick tips to getting started using twitter.
Most important aspects of setting up your account are:


1. Use a twitter username that makes it easier for others to relate to you as a real person. e.g. Compare spwat3 with suewaters — which is easier?
2. Your username can be changed anytime without affecting your twitter account by changing your name in the username field in your account settings.
3. Make sure you complete your one line bio and add your blog URL (if applicable) in account settings because people use this information to decide whether they will add you to their account.


4. Make sure you upload your twitter avatar asap — important to fit in and not look like a new user. Upload it by clicking on picture tab in account settings.


5. Don’t ask start inviting people to follow you on twitter until you’ve updated i.e. start writing some tweets first!!! Why would anyone follow you if you haven’t even bothered to update?
6. Easiest way to find and add people to your twitter account is to ask an experienced twitter user to ask their twitter network to add you. Make sure when they do start adding them you add them back plus thank them for adding you to their account!!!

This article was found in suewaters.com. That’s why there is her name in the tips. I tried to create a summary but her article was so comprehensive that I preferred to share it without many moderations.

Nine great reasons why teachers should use Twitter

What’s the point of Twitter? Why should educators get involved? What difference does using Twitter
make? Here are some answers that you might like to share.

9. Together we’re better

Twitter can be like a virtual staffroom, which someone can step into when it suits for him/her: in the queue at
the supermarket or waiting for for the kettle to boil. I know that within seconds I can access a stream
of links, ideas, opinion and resources from a hand-picked selection of global professionals.

8. Global or local: you choose

Whilst some Twitter users will not tolerate many overtly egotistical self-publicisers (some celebrities
have come under fire for using the service just to broadcast banalities to their flocks of fans), there is
no doubt that Twitter users have the potential to reach very large international audiences. In
educational terms this is a real eye-opener. You may see, talk and collaborate educators from all over the world.

7. Self-awareness and reflective practice

Excellent teachers reflect on what they are doing in their schools and look at what is going well in order
to maintain and develop it, and what needs improvement in order to make it better. Teachers on
Twitter share these reflections and both support and challenge each other. Reading about other
educators’ experiences has made me question my own practice on a number of occasions, and whilst
the resulting changes may only be incremental they are nonetheless important steps in the journey to
improvement.

6. Ideas workshop and sounding board

Twitter is a great medium for sharing ideas and getting instant feedback. Its speed and instanteity
means you can gather a range of opinions and constructive criticism within minutes; which can help
enormously whether you are planning a learning experience, writing a policy or putting a job
application together.

5. Newsroom and innovation showcase

Sitting down with a newspaper is not a luxury I have the time to enjoy every day. Twitter helps me stay
up to date on news and current affairs, as well as on the latest developments in my areas of interest:
school leadership, technology and languages. By following leading individuals and organisations,
Twitter users can stay right at the bleeding edge of innovation and creativity, and literally be among
the first to know when a new product is launched, article is published or opinion is voiced.

4. Professional development and critical friends

One of the best things about training days is the break out time between sessions, when teachers can
get together to talk about what they are working on or struggling with. Twitter enables me to have that
kind of powerful networking capacity with me all the time. It’s just a matter of finding the right people
to follow. As @melaniemcbride said:
“Following smart people on Twitter is like a mental shot of expresso”

Since cash for cover is not always readily available, days out on expensive courses can’t be a regular
thing for most teachers. I love to have access to learning on tap through Twitter as it doesn’t require
large chunks of my day, or any financial outlay in order to have an impact. Twitter is also a source of
healthy debate, and I have learned that if I am going to make a point I can’t be halfhearted about it; as
there will be people who disagree! I have grown in confidence when it comes to my own convictions,
and now take that back with me into school.

3. Quality-assured searching

I trust the people I follow. I hone and develop the list of people whose insights I value. Drew Buddie
(@digitalmaverick) has mentioned several times that he believes his network to be more powerful than
Google, and I am beginning to see why. Once your Twitter network grows past a critical mass, you can
ask them detailed questions and get higher quality information back than a bog-standard Google search
would generally provide, with the inbuilt assurance that it is a respected member of your network
providing the information. On a broader scale, Twitter searching provides information about time-
linked trending topics that Google cannot.

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate

Expressing yourself in 140 characters is a great discipline. I have become better at saying what needs to be said in my professional communications with less waffle and padding. I previously read somewhere that every professional email could in theory be written in just five sentences. That seems luxuriously long!

1. Getting with the times has never been so easy!

There is no good reason why teachers shouldn’t stick with the times, engage with the technology and
keep up with the kids. We need to be able to speak the same language and inhabit the same
communities (both real and virtual) as our students in order to motivate them and relate to them.
Twitter is anything but complicated! You simply visit Twitter.com and create your account. A little light
searching using key words for your areas of interest will soon yield a list of interesting people to follow.
There are plenty of websites offering advice on getting started and how to avoid a few common
beginners’ faux-pas.
Remember, your experience on Twitter is only as high quality as the people who you follow and the
information you share.

Your biggest challenge is likely to be getting the twitter.com unblocked on your school network if your main usage will be at school. Personally I find that having Twitter on my iPhone is enough most of the time. I then forward interesting links to my email inbox to look at in detail later.

I hope this piece helps get more teachers involved in using Twitter. Do send it to your teams at school and all those people who don’t quite understand what it’s all about yet. I’m increasingly passionnate about it: Twitter is a very simple tool that allows me to connect with an amazingly clever, resourceful and innovative bunch of people who never fail to inspire and motivate me.

Want more?

You may find a detailed twitter handbook for teachers, written by Sue Waters, here.

 

 

 

 

Blogs vs Traditional Websites

In this blog I will describe in detail how to start blogging and the advantages of blogging. I know that this topic is elaborated in other, mostly foreign, blogs. However, I feel the need to write them in my own way.

The advantages of a blog over a traditional website are:

1) Blogging is Really Easy & Can be Set Up Quickly

All you have to do in order to start blogging is to set up an account in one free blogging service. For the very start you should decide your blog’s name. Then,the blogging software takes care of all of the scary stuff, like writing HTML and publishing your pages to the web. All you need to do is type your content.

2) Blogs are Search Engine Friendly

For the most part, blogs are pretty search engine friendly. What this means is that you won’t have to spend a lot of time worrying about SEO (Search Engine Optimization), because most blog software takes care of SEO basics for you.

Blogs automatically link all of your posts and pages together, which helps search engine spiders to find, crawl, and index your whole site. Blogs also use your relevant keywords in the Titles, Meta Tags, and URLs of every page, which also helps pages to rank higher in the search engines.

3) Blogs are Extremely Organized

One of the toughest thing about maintaining a traditional website is keeping pages organized. Blogs automatically organize your content by date, category, tags, and even include a built in search. This makes it much easier for people to navigate your blog and find what they are looking for.
4) A Blog is a Magnet for Readers

If you’re writing about something you are passionate about, there are bound to be others who are also passionate about that topic too. Hopefully, your blog will attract those readers / visitors, and if you write regularly, those readers will keep coming back for more.

5) A Blog is an Instant Online Community

Blogs have built in commenting systems, which allow your readers to comment and have discussions about various topics.

This promotes readership, and also generates unique relevant content.

Full Article: Badi Jones

What you should know about Interactive Whiteboards

written by Menelaos Aggatheris

INTERACTIVE WHITEBOARDS


A modern technological tool which is already available in some private and public schools in many countries (mostly in private ones!) is the interactive whiteboard. However, most of you do not know what an interactive whiteboard is and how it can be used in a classroom. I think it is high time for you to learn some things about an educational tool which, in my opinion, will be imported in most of the school in the next few years.

Let’s start our discussion by defining what an interactive whiteboard is, in general. It is a device that includes a large interactive screen/board sensitive to touch, that works via a computer and a projector. The projector projects the computer’s desktop on the sensitive surface of the screen/board. In this way, the whiteboard’s screen becomes a “live” computer desktop, which can be tapped to pull down menus, highlight, and move or open files by the users.

In order to make this device work you have to connect the interactive whiteboard with a computer through a wired medium such as a USB or a serial port cable, or via a wireless connection such as Bluetooth. A projector is connected to the computer’s video output and projects an image of the computer’s desktop on the board’s surface. But this is not enough. In order to make the whiteboard’s screen act as a Human Input Device (HID), which means as a mouse or a keyboard, you need to install to the computer a special device driver software. You can use either your finger or a stylus (digital pen) or an other form of token pen as a pointing device for the whiteboard.

 

Why to use interactive whiteboards in teaching?

After presenting you a general definition of what an interactive whiteboard is and how it works, I think that it is time to give you some reasons in order to understand why this device is so useful in the teaching process. Most of these reasons have been proposed by experts who have conducted a lot of research around this topic within the last years.

The reasons are:

  1. The interactive electronic whiteboard is great for demonstrations. The presenter’s ability to run the application from the board and to mark the important points on it by writing with the stylus or using one’s finger like a mouse brings on enthusiasm to students.

  2. The board can accommodate different learning styles. Tactile learners can benefit from touching and marking at the board, audio learners can hear the class discussion and visual learners can see what is taking place as it develops at the board.

  3. All ages of students respond favourably to board use. Researches have shown that the use of the interactive whiteboard in classes, in which the age of the students ranges from younger learners to graduates of the university, is always successful.

  4. One-computer classrooms can maximize the use of limited computer access by using the whiteboard.

  5. It can interface well with other peripherals. You can use any other type of peripheral device you may want to, in order to present some more material to your classroom.

  6. The board is great for meetings where the participants need printed copies of the proceedings. After the end of a particular exercise(e.g. brainstorming) or at the end of the lesson, you can print and give out handouts of the whole lesson to your students.

 

Let me now talk about the two main reasons why to use interactive whiteboards, in my opinion.

  1. It is an interactive device. Let us not forget that we talk about a device in which students can feel free to input their ideas on the board and the teacher can distinctively control them by sitting on their computer. In this way, students feel that they actively contribute in the teaching process and are more efficient than they used to be.

  2. It is a fact that interactive whiteboard is a kid magnet! In young learners’ classrooms, all the children are drawn to the board and they want to use it in every opportunity. Children’s participation in class is much larger than it used to be in the past and therefore their grades are greatly improved.

 

How to use interactive whiteboards in class?

 

This is going to be the last part of my presentation concerning the interactive whiteboards. I am going to supply you with a list of ideas of how to use the interactive whiteboard in your classrooms. Again, most of the points are based on researches which have been conducted on this issue.

 

Here are some suggestions of how you can use the interactive whiteboard:

  • Save lessons to present to students who were absent

  • Create video files to teach a software application, a lesson, or as a review to be posted to the server or web.

  • Use the built-in maps to teach continents, oceans, countries, or states and capitals.

  • Present presentations created by student or teacher

  • Have students create e-portofolios including samples of their work and narration

  • Digital storytelling

  • Teach whole class computer or keyboarding skills

  • Brainstorming

  • Take notes directly into PowerPoint presentations

  • Reinforce skills by using on-line interactive web sites

  • Creating a project calendar

  • Teach editing skills using editing marks

  • Use highlighter tool to highlight nouns, verbs, adjectives, etc.

  • Teaching students how to navigate the Internet

  • Illustrate and write a book as a class. Use the record feature to narrate the text.

  • Diagramming activities

  • Teaching vocabulary(Electronic Word Wall)

  • End each day by having students write one thing that they learned

 

This is a first presentation of some important features of interactive whiteboards. I hope you find them helpful. Do not hesitate to ask questions for things that you want a further analysis.

Final note: Always remember that, although it looks like a game to some people, interactive whiteboard is a powerful instructional tool and with proper planning, preparation, and training, it can be adapted for use with a wide range of subjects and ages!!!!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You may see an example of an interactive whiteboard below:

Using MySpace or Facebook Strengthens Communication

The generation of students that we currently teach has never known what it is like to be without a cell phone or computer. They are comfortable with technology and use it readily. Through integrating technology into your classroom, you are better able to relate to your students and captivate their attention. Using the popular social forums like MySpace or Facebook, teachers can strengthen the lines of communication with their students.

One must remember though, that if you wish to interact with students on MySpace or Facebook, you must exercise professionalism and maintain the same personal boundaries that you implement in your classroom. Your classroom MySpace or Facebook page should only relate to your classroom and nothing should be on that page that you would not proudly display to your principal or superintendent. With that in mind, the page created should be a digital representation of your class and curriculum, not a page that is strictly teacher-oriented.

For example, when you log on to MySpace or Facebook to create a classroom page, use the title “Mrs. Hart’s 6th Grade English Class”, not your first and last name. Use the school mascot or a favorite image as your profile picture to further professionalize your page and to make it more about your classroom and curriculum. Students can use your page to access homework information, or to create conversation topics about a book you are reading in class, or to discuss assignments that are interesting or difficult to them. Again, you should never use your page to discuss personal topics that do not relate to your curriculum.

There are several ways you can use your MySpace or Facebook classroom page. Both forums have features that allow you to post “bulletins” or “updates” that students will see immediately when they log onto their page. You can post information pertaining to homework, such as “Don’t forget that your thematic essay is due on Friday,” or clarify project directions, like “your book report should include three symbolic images, along with explanations”. Students can also message you to ask questions about homework and due dates through the email functions on both pages. The websites are great ways for students to ask questions outside of the classroom; students who would otherwise be too shy or uncomfortable to ask questions in the classroom setting.

Be sure that you include your MySpace and Facebook address in your syllabus or first-or-year letter home to parents, and explain what you will use these forums for, clearly and explicitly to parents. Parents need to be aware of your reasons for having both pages, since many adults are unaware or have biased opinions about social forums. If teachers maintain professionalism, and establish boundaries with their students, using both of these popular social forums can benefit both students and teachers.

30+1 Ways You Should Be Using Facebook in Your Classroom

Facebook isn’t just a great way for you to find old friends or learn about what’s happening this weekend, it is also an incredible learning tool. Teachers can utilize Facebook for class projects, for enhancing communication, and for engaging students in a manner that might not be entirely possible in traditional classroom settings. Read on to learn how you can be using Facebook in your classroom, no matter if you are a professor, student, working online, or showing up in person for class.

Class Projects

The following ideas are just a starting point for class projects that can be used with Facebook in the classroom.
1.Follow news feeds. Have students follow news feeds relevant to the course material in order to keep current information flowing through the class.
2.Share book reviews. Students can post their book reviews for the instructor to grade and other students to read. If it’s a peer-reviewed project, then students can more easily access each other’s papers online.
3.Knighthood. Playing this game promotes strong reading skills. This teacher explains how he used it with his ESL class.
4.Poll your class. Use polls as an interactive teaching tool in class or just to help facilitate getting to know one another with the Poll app for Facebook.
5.Practice a foreign language. Students learning a foreign language can connect with native speakers through groups or fan opportunities such as this one.
6.Create your own news source. A great way for journalism students to practice their craft, use the Facebook status update feed as a breaking news source for sports results, academic competition results, and other campus news.
7.Follow news stories. Keep up with news through Facebook on groups like World News Webcast that provides video clips of world news.
8.Keep up with politicians. Political science students can become fans of politicians in order to learn about their platforms and hear what they have to say first hand.
9.Create apps for Facebook. A class at Stanford started doing this in 2007 and still has a Facebook group profiling their work. A class at Berkeley also did the same.
10.Participate in a challenge. Look for challenges like the one held by Microsoft and Direct Marketing Educational Foundation that challenges undergrads and grad students to create usable products for Microsoft in return for experience and, in some cases, certification.
11.Bring literature to life. Create a Facebook representation of a work of literature like this class did.

Facilitate Communication

An excellent way to ensure students are more engaged in the learning experience is by strengthening the communication between students and student-to-teacher. These are just a few ideas to do just that.
12.Create groups. You can create groups for entire classes or for study groups with smaller subsets of students that allow for easy sharing of information and communication, without students even having to friend each other.
13.Schedule events. From beginning of semester mixers to after-finals celebrations, easily schedule events for the entire class using Facebook.
14.Send messages. From unexpected absences to rescheduling exams, it’s easy to send messages through Facebook.
15.Share multimedia. With the ability to post videos, photos, and more, you can share multimedia content easily with the entire class.
16.Post class notes. Post notes after each class period for students to have access for review or in case they were absent.
17.Provide direct communication with instructors. Instructors and students can contact each other through Facebook, providing an opportunity for better sharing of information and promoting better working relationships.
18.Allows shy students a way to communicate. Shy students who may not want to approach their teacher after class or during office hours can use Facebook to communicate.
19.Facilitate classmate connections. When students get to know each other more intimately, they become more involved in the learning experience. This is helpful in both large classes that wouldn’t normally promote such intimacy and in smaller settings that regularly depend on that connection.
20.Make announcements. Instructors can send out reminders about upcoming tests, upcoming due dates, or any classroom news.
21.Brainstorm. Students can have the ability to add their thoughts to the class any time they occur allows for more opportunities for brainstorming off each other.
Share interesting websites. Students and instructors alike can post interesting websites that add relevancy to the class.
22.Post homework. Posting homework through Facebook not only provides easy access for students, it also puts in writing specifically what is expected and when it is due.
23.Grassroots movements. Students at University of British Columbia learned that the weight room at their aquatic center was slated for closure, and through Facebook, won to keep it open.

Benefits

Why use Facebook with your class? Here are some of the benefits you may see when you decide to use Facebook as a learning tool.
24.Inviting atmosphere. Since Facebook isn’t exclusively the instructor’s any more than it is the students’, this offers students an opportunity for active participation on a level playing field.
25.Students are comfortable with Facebook. Most students are already users of Facebook, so implementing it into class provides a comfortable way for students to participate in class.
26.Informal. The informality inherent in Facebook’s connections lend to yet another reason students may be more willing to participate in class activities here.
27.Promotes collaboration. Facebook’s design promotes social interchange between participants, thereby increasing collaboration between students working on activities.
28.Keeps schools current. Mark Federman asserts that universities must move from a skills-centered approach to learning to one of connectivity to stay relevant to students.
29.Students engaged outside of class. When students are accessing the class content more often, that means they will be thinking about and engaging in the lessons more frequently.
30.Ambient awareness. Facebook provides an excellent opportunity for students and instructors to participate in ambient awareness, a way of getting to know those you follow on social networks in more meaningful ways.
31.Teach personal responsibility. Instructors can take this opportunity to teach students how to responsibly use Facebook and other social networking sites so it helps their future–not the opposite.