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What Does Research Say?
Facebook has the potential to increase subjective well-being by increasing feelings of connectedness with active usage, whereas it can also be a significant cause of distress, when it elicits social comparisons and envy due to passive usage (Verduyn et al, 2016). Without the caution and advice of adults, it falls on teachers to “help students enact legal, ethical, responsible, safe and advantageous online community practices” (Greenhow & Robelia, 2009, p. 136). It is prudent to tackle these sensitive issues within the safety of the classroom.
Positives of Facebook in Education
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- Easy adoption. Compared to most platforms for online discussion, Facebook is easier to pick up since its interface is already familiar with teenagers.
- Keeping in touch with friends and making new friends
- Real-time news and information discovery. An added bonus is that they can customise their news updates by choosing to follow exactly what they want.
- Expressing themselves through status updates.
- Satisfying to see likes show up on their posts, and it’s convenient to be able to see exactly what their friends are up to without having to ask them directly.
- More active discussions. With most comment threads, students respond to each other and not just to the teacher.
- Simple interface for uploading and viewing videos. The easy video sharing tools allows teachers to quickly record and post videos for students using a webcam.
- More frequent comments and posts. Students are notified of new page activity whenever they log into Facebook each day, and that has helped maintain their engagement. One study, which was carried out by researchers from the University of Science & Technology of China and the City University of Hong Kong, found that social networking sites can help students to become academically and socially integrated, and may even improve learning outcomes.
- Findings, published in Computers & Education, showed that the longer the duration of Facebook membership, the better the test scores in working memory, verbal IQ, and spelling. Users who had been members of Facebook for longer than a year had better test scores than peers who had been members for less than a year.
- Ability to connect to other people all over the world.
The educational benefits of social networking sites have also been documented in another study conducted by researchers from the University of Minnesota. The study, which collected data from students aged between 16 and 18 over a period of six months, found that social networking sites helped students to practice their technology skills, develop creativity and communication skills, and be more open to diverse views. Christine Greenhow stated:
“As educators, we always want to know where our students are coming from and what they’re interested in so we can build on that in our teaching. By understanding how students may be positively using these networking technologies in their daily lives and where the as yet unrecognized educational opportunities are, we can help make schools even more relevant, connected and meaningful to kids” (Christine Greenhow).
Negatives of Facebook in Education
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- Privacy issues. Sharing too much can open up all sorts of problems that sometimes can’t ever be undone.
- Information overwhelm. Students tend to rack up a lot of friends which that can lead to bloated news feeds.
- Ruined relationships. It can build up jealousy, which causes tension in relationships.
- Facebook Depression. Facebook is a cause for insecurities due to the fact that it makes people compare themselves to others.
- Social peer pressure and cyber bullying. For teenagers struggling to fit in with their peers, the pressure to do certain things or act a certain way can be even worse on social media than it is at school or any other offline setting.
- Online interaction substitution for offline interaction. Some people argue that social media actually promotes antisocial human behaviour.
- Uneven engagement. While almost all students may have signed up for the group, some may not participate in discussions.
- Poor archiving. Facebook’s interface buries old discussions and makes it cumbersome to find previous posts.
- Advertising clutter. While Facebook groups are private, students still see the same barrage of targeted ads, distracting from the learning environment.
- Greater impulsivity, less patience, less tenacity and weaker critical thinking skills. The need to rapidly shift attention from object to object online can weaken a student’s ability to control their focus.
- Procrastination. Students turn to it in order to avoid certain tasks or responsibilities. Critics of Facebook claim that it is a worldwide distraction where student’s become addicted.
- Sedentary lifestyle habits and sleep disruption. The artificial light from a computer or phone screen at night can negatively affect a student’s ability to get a proper night’s sleep.
My attitude is taken from Pamela Rutledge who states:
“The sensible thing is to educate the students in digital citizenship-not just by trying to put the fear of God in them about bullying or sexting-but to discuss the positives and negatives of the whole evolving landscape” (Pamela Rutledge).
I’m for Facebook in the classroom. How about you?
Greenhow, C., Robelia, B. (2009). Informal learning and identity formation in online social networks. Learning, Media and Technology, 34(2), 119-140.
Verduyn, P., Ybarra, O., Resibois, M., Jonides, J., & Kross, E. (2017). Do social networks sites enhance or undermine subjective well-being? A critical review. Social Issues and Policy Review, 11(1), 274-302.