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Using Social Media to Facilitate Class Community

In Inside Higher Ed, Jonathan Golding, a psychology professor at the University of Kentucky, recounts a successful experiment in using a Facebook group page as a kind of community hub for one of his larger classes. Though skeptical at first, Golding says he was impressed by how enthusiastically his students took to the page and, without much prompting, began using it to exchange ideas and help one another with the course material:

Although I wrote posts and comments, students wrote over 90 percent of the posts and over 80 percent of the comments. These included everything from asking for notes, getting clarification on points made in lecture, posting videos and images that pertained to class material, forming study groups, noting relevant events on campus, and congratulating class members on specific accomplishments. Sometimes these posts were made during class, right after I discussed something. I thought that this behavior would bother me, but it simply added to the value of the group and reinforced the spontaneity of interaction.

I know there's a lot of angst about using Facebook and other social media outlets in schools, but this seems like a pretty sensible and constructive idea that might have some applicability at the high school level at least. (Note that you don't need to become "friends" with students for them to join a group page—which negates one of the major apprehensions.)

What's interesting, I think, is the sense Golding conveys of his students almost instinctively gravitating to the page and having a better idea of what to do with it than he does. This is a no-brainer to them. It's practically to be expected. ...

And incidentally, if you're interested in this topic, keep your eye out for a webinar we will be hosting in late August (exact date not quite finalized) on effective uses of social media in the classroom. It should be a good one, so stay tuned. And if there are particular issues you'd like to see addressed, please let us know in the comments.

Update, 3:15: Of course, none of this is to suggest that there aren't entirely inappropriate uses of Facebook in an educational context as well.

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