More and more, technology integrates itself into our daily lives. You’d be hard pressed to find people who have never used Facebook, Twitter, or any other social networking service. Students and teachers alike make wide use of these websites, but the classroom is often the final and most difficult frontier for their acceptance. Some schools embrace these digital methods of communication while others see them as a distraction.
As a student, I’ve seen school systems take both sides. My high school blocked almost every non-educational website under the sun, even Google images. I heard quite a few stories of students getting in trouble with the school because of things they posted on MySpace or Facebook. With policies this strict, there was definitely no way these websites could be used for class.
My college, however, is completely different. There are absolutely no blocks on any website, not even on the campus computers. Many faculty members here use Facebook and they “friend” students all the time. That sort of thing isn’t as strange as it used to be, but of course there’s always the risk of getting in trouble because of something you post online. On the students’ side, I would encourage you to not be an idiot on the internet. Any insults or rude complaints about a professor on your friends list could potentially land you in a heap of unnecessary trouble. As for professors, I’d say don’t go looking for reasons to get your students in trouble on Facebook. When they’re not in your classroom, they’re not really under your control. Facebook is a great way for you to get to know your students and have casual conversations with them, but just keep it at that.
Slowly, I’ve seen Facebook and other social networking websites being used in classes. Also, a number of the services provided at my college have their own Facebook page (dining services, library, careers and callings, etc). One class I know of has a Facebook group for discussions about the films they watch each week. When I took the class just last year, we had blogs.
I’m not sure how well Twitter would work for homework assignments, but Facebook’s ability to discussion groups certainly opens the door for educational discussions online. Instead of shunning social networking sites, perhaps schools should think of ways to embrace their positive aspects, making classroom material easier to connect with.