Friday, July 8, 2011

Using Facebook for Learning - Point Counter Point with Nancy Willard

In response to my Using Facebook in Learning Post, Nancy Willard said...
Trying to prepare students for their future without interactive Web 2.0 technologies in school would be like trying to teach a child to swim without a swimming pool. However, it is exceptionally important for schools to carefully consider what technologies they will embrace.
She encourages readers to review materials posted by Rita Oates and goes on to explain reasons Facebook should not be used for classroom instructional interactions. Not surprisingly, I disagree.  To follow are Nancy’s reasons Facebook should not be used followed by my responses explaining why I disagree. 

7 Reasons Facebook SHOULD/SHOULD NOT be used for classroom instruction

1. Facebook does not respect personal privacy. Educators have a legal obligation to protect student privacy. Keep FERPA in mind.
  • FERPA is about schools not releasing student education records.  It is not about students choosing to celebrate their work.  There are no FERPA violations as long as test scores, report cards, and other data  aren’t posted.  To learn more read “The World’s Simplest Online Safety Policy.”  
2. Facebook is focused on profiling and marketing and to the best degree possible, we should keep these activities out of the educational environment.
  • We should keep in education what we use in life. I have used Facebook in powerful ways.  It has never used me.  We use social media to run for office.  We use it to start a revolution.  We use it to connect. We need to teach students to use real-world social media (not be used by it) as well.
3. Facebook is only appropriate for high school age students. Schools need to establish a Web 2.0 environment that will support all student learning, as well as a vibrant environment for staff.
  • There are many babies, preteens etc. with Facebook pages.  Social media is appropriate for parents, teachers, and students. It is the job of educators and parents to help those who choose to use it, to do so responsibly. To see how one primary school teacher has done this read
    8 Real Ways Facebook Enriched Ms. Schoening’s 1st Grade Class
4. Facebook is used by students and staff for socializing and therefore it would be more difficult to focus student attention on instructional activities.
  • Facebook, like your mouth, your email, your text, your instant message, etc. can used for whatever purpose the user chooses.  Sometimes young people will want to focus on learning and other times on socializing.  Both are good and we should empower young people to do both responsibly.
5. There are no easy mechanisms within Facebook to ensure effective oversight of instructional activities by administrators.
  • Innovative educators and responsible parents like to empower youth with the power of the oversight tool between the ears of young people.  This is also known as their minds.  Empower folks to do that and adults can be in their worlds like they are on a playground or mall. The result is responsible and safe users.
6. Facebook does not have the tools to effectively support the kind of high quality instruction necessary in an educational web 2.0 environment - such as wikis and blogs.
  • Paper, audio, pens, etc. do not have the tools to effectively support high quality instruction. People use tools. People have power.  Facebook and other social media are tools that can be used powerfully depending on the purpose of the user.  It is for the user to decide which tool works best and for the adult to help guide and empower young people.
7. There would be a conflict over what policies govern activities - school policies or Facebook's policies.
  • Responsible use should be tool and device independent.  It doesn’t matter whether you use your mouth, your phone, social media or your fists.  Policies and responsibility should be tool agnostic.


  1. I agree that the earlier we can teach kids about web 2.0 the better. The issue I think is that people look at Web 2.0 as technology and it's not. The technology is the tool, like a whiteboard or a pencil. Web 2.0 is social interaction and should be taught as early as kindergarten just as we teach "keep your hands to yourself", and play nicely with your friends.

  2. "Innovative educators and responsible parents like to empower youth with the power of the oversight tool between the ears of young people. This is also known as their minds."

    This is a very important statement. Far too often, we forget that two of the most important lessons children and teens need to learn are self-control and self-regulation. These important skills are not being developed in too many schools and classrooms today. As a result, young adults are entering colleges and the workforce ill-prepared for life. The more opportunities that students have to develop these skills in the early years, the less difficulty they will have as they move into the adult world, where these skills are expected.