Steve Wheeler posted in his blog. He asks: Should we try to use social networking services such as Facebook and Myspace as serious educational tools, or should they remain the domain of informal chat and backstage antics? Great question.
Here is a research paper on Facebook.
With these themes in mind, the paper concludes that rather than necessarily enhancing or eroding students’ ‘front-stage’ engagement with their formal studies, Facebook use must be seen as being situated within the ‘identity politics’ of being a student. In particular, Facebook appears to provide a ready space where the ‘role conflict’ that students often experience in their relationships with university work, teaching staff, academic conventions and expectations can be worked through in a relatively closed ‘backstage’ area.
I think it could be a huge challenge for educators to use social networking service such as Facebook as a serious educational tool or a formal education media.
First, as reported in past papers, learners won’t find it comfortable to learn with their teachers over their shoulders, too much “control” as the learners might sense. Besides, this could be perceived as an “intrusion” of the learners’ private space. Learner autonomy always comes first, especially in online learning in higher education.
Second, people go to Facebook for totally different reasons from formal education. People (with learners alike) like socialising, sharing of feelings and emotions, or sharing of some interesting sites or links on Youtube, personal likes and dislikes, or articles. Some may even prefer online dating, or just chatting with friends in an informal manner.
Third, educators could be more readily able to exploit Facebook when sharing with other educators, but would find it difficult to interact with learners. For educators in Facebook, when it comes to communicating and interacting with peers or closed friends, there could be many taboos, as no one wants to be “gossiping” around other educators’ back – that is just not professional. Besides, this could be viewed by students and other colleagues, and thus creating tensions. Even counselling or mentoring might better be done in private, via messaging, rather than in an open public space.
Finally, Facebook is designed more on a private “family” sharing basis – with photos, short messages, links to great sites like Ted.com or YouTubes, blogs, or news etc. So a light tone of socialising and networking would be more appropriate in the interaction and communication amongst friends. Education with fun, or exciting news would be welcomed by the friends and family members. And that may be the boundary that most people would draw IMHO.
Here is “Viewing American class division through Facebook and My Space” by Danah Boyd.
Facebook has 250 million users, amazing! It has now got more than 500 million users (as at 28 Oct 10)
How do you use Facebook?
Postscript: More information from this 10 ways Universities Share Information Using Social Media.
This paper on Facebook provides a useful summary. Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction. That sounds good for people who want to socialize but may be too shy to do so in a face-to-face manners. Also, this may help in boosting life satisfaction, by sharing views and experience with friends or classmates over FB.
Regression analyses conducted on results from a survey of undergraduate students (N = 286) suggest a strong association between use of Facebook and the three types of social capital, with the strongest relationship being to bridging social capital. In addition, Facebook usage was found to interact with measures of psychological well-being, suggesting that it might provide greater benefits for users experiencing low self-esteem and low life satisfaction.
Postscript: This post provides a good overview about How much Facebook knows about your life.
A post on Why do people use Facebook on 17 Feb 2012.