Facebook as a Tool for Improving Student Outcomes - A Briefing Paper

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Facebook as a Tool for Improving Student Outcomes - A Briefing Paper …

Facebook as a Tool for Improving Student Outcomes - A Briefing Paper

This will be covered in the online event: Facing up to Facebook: Issues for the uses of Facebook with 16-19 year old Learners-A research based exploration

Bex Ferriday - Cornwall College

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  • 1. Facebook as a Tool for ImprovingStudent OutcomesA briefing paper
  • 2. IntroductionThe continuing growth of „the cyberspace era‟ has brought a consequence of their age without expressing some of thewith it a permanent change in the way that students interact reservations inherent in the research.and socialise. A major part of this change is the advent ofsocial networking sites on the Internet, which have evolved There is plenty of evidence to suggest that whilst they enjoy ato become virtual communities where people communicate, superficial familiarity and certainly manifest no fear in utilisingshare information and, importantly, build and maintain new technology, what The Joint Systems Informationongoing relationships. Online social networking communities Committee ( JISC) among others refers to as “The Googlesuch as Facebook have become part of the daily life of many Generation” are not necessarily inculcated with sufficientteenagers, with a potentially far-reaching impact on the way deeper level skills to utilise the web in a truly effective manner,that they study and learn. Indeed, as the South West Grid for or necessarily understand the implications of improper useLearning‟s (SWGfL) „Facebook Advice‟ document (2010) states: for both their own safety and/or future prospects. There is still a role and training requirement for 16-19 educators in this“Facebook is a global social networking site used by 10% of regard.the population on the planet. Its phenomenal popularityhas been defined by the opportunities it gives its users to The purpose of this briefing paper is to explore the benefitscommunicate, collaborate and share in a way that has never and address the concerns of using Facebook with studentsbeen possible before.” aged 16-19, to look at how Facebook pages and groups can be used within teaching and learning, to provide informationSWGfL go on to posit that today‟s young Facebook users regarding one particular „hot potato‟ – namely the befriendinghave grown up immersed in this technology and inhabit it of students - and to examine learners‟ attitudes towards usingin the same way as any other space in their lives. Teachers Facebook. Case studies featuring local examples of Facebookand tutors have embraced the self same technology and as a use will further contextualise the information contained inresult find themselves increasingly in the same space as the the briefing paper. An appendix has been added tochildren or young people with whom they work. There may provide leadership teams in schools, 6th Form Centresbe advantages for this in providing an additional educational and Further Education institutions with an exemplarenvironment, but there are also many pitfalls. For example, institutional policy for the use of Facebook with 16-19it would not be wise to assume that students in their teens learners, providing a starting point for their own policyautomatically have a handle on digital operations purely as which relates to their own circumstances.
  • 3. Benefits of Using Facebookin Teaching and LearningAccording to research carried out by Ashton Sixth Form and more in-class assignments involve students workingCollege (2010), there are many benefits to using Facebook together with technology in the classroom.with learners: Greenhow (2008), for example, claims that students using• It is their preferred method of communication social networking sites are actually practicing the kinds of• It is accessible from any Internet enabled computer 21st century skills teachers want them to develop to be• It is accessible from learners’ own mobile devices successful in today‟s digital world as well as developing• It is easy to use a positive attitude towards using technology systems,• Learners are familiar with the format; therefore there editing and customising content and thinking about are no training needs online design and layout. They are also sharing creative original work such as creative writing and film andThe college‟s research concentrated on the pedagogical practicing safe and responsible use of information andbenefits of using social networking software. However, technology. She goes on to state that the Internet offersthere are benefits to „soft‟ skills, including the broadening tremendous educational potential in more general terms.of learners‟ social circles and the honing of their socialskills. Facebook is already one of the places students Levinson (2009) gives a specific example of the successfulturn for real-time homework help, with school and use of Facebook, telling the story of one talented teachercollege students utilising Facebook‟s „chat‟ facility, along who cooked up an entire 20th-century China project onwith other real-time communication tools to work Facebook. Students went on to adopt the personalitiestogether on homework assignments and collaborative of Sun Yat-sen, Mao Zedong and Chiang Kai-shek andprojects. However, “working together” isn‟t something created and updated Facebook pages and profiles, repletethat is relegated just to homework help and after-school with photos and wall postings. In the words of the teacherprojects. in question: “This project changed the classroom. Students were so motivated and put far more hours into theirCollaboration is one of the cornerstones of the “21st research than they would have done with a traditionalCentury skills” that many schools are teaching, and more project.”
  • 4. Drawbacks to Using Facebookin Teaching and LearningAshton College does go on to point out the dangers of • What do I do if someone is harassing me on theusing social networking sites. These include issues such site or through my inbox?as the ability for staff and students‟ personal information • What do I do if someone is attacking me into be compromised, staff and students becoming Facebook chat?subjected to inappropriate behaviour from either party, • What do I do if someone is attacking me in athe possibility of students feeling that „their technology‟ public forumis being improperly used by teachers and concerns that • Where else can I report inappropriate or objectionableusing Facebook in teaching and learning could become actions that have been taken against children?time consuming when the time would be better spent on • What should I do if I am aware of abuse on Facebookmore productive activities. involving students?As long as personal and group or page settings have the Any member of staff wishing to use Facebook as part ofrelevant privacy levels set, there should be no reason for their practice must be aware of Facebook‟s habit ofinformation to be compromised. The official Facebook arbitrarily altering privacy and other defaults withoutSafety Centre‟s „Safety for Educators‟ page (2011) contains necessarily fully advising users of the ramifications.a wealth of advice and guidance pertaining to concerns Therefore factoring in some routine check of theseregarding inappropriate behaviour, and has pages relating permissions on the part of users (and particularlyspecifically to the following issues: Administrators), or ensuring someone has responsibility to keep a watching brief on this is probably an advisable• How can my students report abuse on Facebook? “fail-safe”.• If a student discloses abuse on Facebook to me, can I file a report on his or her behalf?• I’m receiving unwanted messages. What should I do?• I’m receiving unwanted wall posts. What should I do?• What can I tell my students about preventing or addressing cyber bullying?
  • 5. At this point is must also be noted that anything placed Environments (PLE): they are already „there‟ so they feelon Facebook (that is photos, documents and suchlike) comfortable with the technology and in many cases, theybelongs to Facebook , theoretically in perpetuity. don‟t need to remember separate account or separate logFacebook is a free service because it sells data about user in details for an institution-driven platform. Accessible,trends to advertisers and marketing groups. However, it is „hands-on‟ staff training gives teachers the skills andsurprising how many users do not realise that they do not knowledge they need to be able to make use of Facebookown the data within Facebook (which is retained even on to enhance their own practice (and personal IT skills),deletion) or how this data is sold and used by Facebook and this gaining of skills could, in many cases, depleteand its associates. In his article on popular website negative attitudes.“TechCrunch” (2009), Schonfeld quotes Facebook founderMark Zuckerberg, who states:“When you share your data with someone else, whetherit be an email or a photo, it becomes their data as well.You cannot normally rescind data you share with otherpeople in an e-mail. So why should a social network beany different?”Concerns regarding students‟ attitudes to teachers usingFacebook and teachers‟ own concerns about teachingand learning becoming time consuming both requiresomething of a mindset shift. If teachers are seen tomake „good‟ use of Facebook in the eyes of the students,and students school experience is improved as a directresult of using social networking in a school settingthen this shift can happen. It is heartening to knowthat the majority of learners are more than happy to letFacebook become a part of their Personalised Learning
  • 6. Facebook Pages andFacebook GroupsFacebook offers users the opportunity to set up pages closed by default but their settings can be changed so as tobased around local businesses, companies, organisations be public, thereby making both the membership list and theor institutions, brands or products, artists, bands or public contents of the group accessible to anyone.figures, entertainment or causes. Content cannot be amended,deleted or added to by anyone other than the administrator The content of closed groups is private but the membershipor administrators of the page. They make great „virtual notice list is public (thereby making it possible to search for). Groupboards‟ or „information posts‟ where teachers can, for example, settings can also be changed to make the group secret, sopost homework tasks, assignments, links to noteworthy the member list, the contents and the existence of the groupwebsites, relevant images or film clips or share presentations are secret to anyone other than the people in the group. Oneand notes with students. Links to existing Internet-based feature that can be utilised within groups but not pages is theapplications such as Slideshare and Prezi can point fans of the ability for members to participate in back-and-forth Instantpage to other web-based repositories of lesson content – and Message (IM) conversations with everyone in the group at thein the spirit of sharing best practice, allow others to benefit same time. As a result, many teachers have started holdingfrom peers‟ hard work! Anyone can become a fan of a page regular „office‟ hours on Facebook and making themselveson Facebook and people who choose to become a fan will available to answer students‟ questions. It is worth notingsee updates on their profile page. Pages are free, teachers can however, that within Facebook‟s Chat Log Instant Messagescontrol them through their Facebook profile and, importantly, cannot be archived (that is, saved as a chat log for laterthey keep teachers‟ profile separate from their learners. reference). The ability to do this is often an advantage in retrospectively identifying actions. Such archives may also beAs mentioned previously, social networking sites are a very valuable in the event of arguments or allegations arising fromgood way for communities to manage work or share ideas online discussions.to work on. Facebook groups make it easy for members ofa community to connect, share or collaborate on a given Facebook can also be used as a platform from which totopic or idea and provide a shared space where members find other teachers and exchange ideas, best practices,can participate in communal activities like group chat, email share educational information and join other, relevantlists, document sharing and group photo-tagging. Groups are educational groups.
  • 7. To Friend or not to Friend?An article written by Jane Wakefield (2011) for BBC The Official Facebook in Education group suggest on theirNews throws up an interesting argument. It has long Safety for Educators page that teachers create a group orbeen an „unwritten law‟ of sorts that teachers, under page specifically for interacting with students, parents orany circumstance, should refuse any friend requests colleagues and that the user creates friends lists to controlfrom students (particularly those under the age of 18). what parts of their profile students are able to access.However, Wakefield, quoting Professor Stephen Heppell, Friends lists create different privacy levels for differentwrites: groups of friends. This allows the user to selectively open more of their profile to selected friends. Jesse Dywer,“He (Heppell) thinks that teachers should also set up contributing to the official Facebook team‟s blog says:Facebook profiles, an account which should be quiteseparate from any personal Facebook pages. „ They can “You can sort your friends into lists, without them evencall themselves something related to the subject they knowing it. For instance, if you‟re a teacher, you can createteach such as „Geography Steve‟ or use another form of a Friend List called “students” and adjust your privacyMiss such as „Missy‟ as Facebook doesn‟t allow Mr or Mrs settings to control what people in that list see. You thentitles‟, he said. Although Facebook generally frowns on could allow students to see basic information about youusers creating two accounts, it has actively encouraged and maybe your photo albums from a recent trip youteachers who have wanted to do it, according to Prof took, but not photos in which you‟ve been tagged. YouHeppell. can create a named list to organize your relationships in whichever way works best for you: close friends, family,Teachers setting up Facebook accounts should not acquaintances, colleagues, students, among others. Justbefriend pupils, rather allow the children to take the select the “Create a List” link on the left-hand side of theinitiative, Prof Heppell advises. They should not read their home page or create a new list from your Friends Page.pupils‟ Facebook pages and should never chat via instant Each time you receive a friend request, you‟ll have themessage. But for giving children reminders about such option to add that person to the appropriate list as youthings as impending exams, offering a space for informal accept them.”chats outside of the traditional school environment andallowing parents and children to keep up with schoolnews at a time and place that suits them, Facebook isinvaluable, thinks Prof Heppell.”
  • 8. Dwyer goes on to urge teachers not to be afraid toseverely restrict what certain people can see. She offersthe following analogy: if you‟re a teacher, you may notinvite a student to a dinner party with friends and thesame goes for your boss or other people you don‟t interactwith in those types of social settings. She urges users touse their Facebook privacy settings to reflect the types ofrelationships they have. This would appear to be goodadvice for all users, regardless of profession – and certainlydoes give what was once a black and white notion - thatteachers should never befriend their students – severalshades of grey. Advice then is to discuss at an institutionallevel what you feel to be acceptable and make this anexplicit part of your guidelines for acceptable use.While popular social networking tools have clearlybecome intertwined with the personal and social livesof students, it is clear that many of the underlyingcapabilities behind these tools have a future role inlearning. Tools such as real-time access to instructionalmedia, the potential to share opinions and ratings, andthe ability to communicate interactively with peer groupsare likely to have a continued growing impact on theclassroom experience. More important, the use of thesetools is changing student attitudes towards learning itself,from a one-way transfer of knowledge to a much moreinteractive and group-orientated environment.
  • 9. Student Outcomes and Learners’Attitudes to using FacebookA case study produced by the JISC Regional Support first time the College has seen such a high success rate forCentre for the South West on behalf of the Excellence its music courses. All courses have now moved to aGateway (2010) examines how a team of music teachers grade 1 and 2 for Ofsted inspection results and their useat City of Bath College utilised Facebook (and other „Web of Web 2.0 applications (e.g. Google Docs, Facebook and2.0‟ applications such as YouTube) to enhance the learner YouTube) has enabled a real collaborative community,experience. The teaching team noticed that a whole which is constantly thriving and seeing real success.”communities of musicians existed on Facebook, and thatthese communities were networking extensively. They Comments from the teachers behind the case study arealso found that they had some difficulty contacting their wholly positive, with one member of staff claiming thatstudents using mobile phones and emails, and wanted to Facebook has drawn some students back into the musicfind another way to improve communications for their course after they had been withdrawn because of thestudents. As the case study goes on to say: supportive and collaborative environment the social networking site enabled. The same member of staff“The College decided to conduct usability research into goes on to mention how one of his students was givenstudent online trends focusing on the technology they a contract to help a company with their promotion ofliked to access and use. The study determined that around online events, highlighting the transferable and „soft‟ skills99% of their students used Facebook, with some 70% that use of Facebook - and other Web 2.0 technologies -using internet-enabled mobile devices. The research hones.results prompted the music team to try and facilitate thedevelopment of an online presence through Facebookand YouTube, which culminated in the music departmentrequesting a trial period at the College to evaluatewhether it would be embraced by students. This has hada direct and positive impact on e-learning and has beenso popular with the students that the College has seen a100% success rate for assignments completed. This is the
  • 10. ReferencesDwyer, J, (2009), Back to School: Levinson, M, (2009), Schools and Facebook: Moving TooTips for Teachers on Facebook, located at: Fast, or Not Fast Enough?,http://blog.facebook.com/blog.php?post=137948147130, located at: http://teachers.net/gazette/MAY09/levinson/,Accessed: 14/02/2011 Accessed: 11/02/2011Facebook, (2011), Safety for Educators, Schonfeld, E, (2009), Zuckerberg on who owns user Datalocated at:http://www.facebook.com/help/?safety#!/ on Facebook: it’s Complicated,help/?safety=educators, Accessed: 14/02/2011 located at: http://techcrunch.com/2009/02/16/zuckerberg-on- who-owns-user-data-on-facebook-its-complicated/, Accessed:Greenhow, C, (2008), Educational Benefits of Social 23/02/2011Networking Sites Uncovered,located at: http://www.sciencedaily.com/ South West Grid for Learning, (2010), SWGfLreleases/2008/06/080620133907.htm, Accessed: 11/02/2011 Facebook Advice, located at: http://www.swgfl.org.uk/Staying-Safe/For-Schools/JISC, (2007), Google Generation, Resources?page=4, Accessed: 14/02/2011located at: http://www.jisc.ac.uk/whatwedo/programmes/resourcediscovery/googlegen.aspx, Taylor, S, (2010), Ashton Sixth Form College Protocol for use ofAccessed 23/02/2011 Facebook Groups, Ashton CollegeJISCLegal (2010), Legal Guidance for ICT Use in Education, Wakefield, J, (2011), Profile Update: Your Teacher has nowResearch and External Engagement, joined Facebook,located at: http://www.jisclegal.ac.uk/ManageContent/ located at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-ViewDetail/tabid/243/ID/1751/Should-Colleges-and- 12193773?print=true, Accessed: 14/02/2011Universities-Use-Facebook.aspx, Accessed: 2/02/2011 Many thanks to the teaching staff who contributed to thisLearning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS), (2010), City document.of Bath College: Using YouTube and Facebook to DeliverExceptional E-learning for Music Students, Bex Ferridaylocated at: http://www.excellencegateway.org.uk/page. Cornwall College, March 2011aspx?o=299885, Accessed: 17/02/2011
  • 11. Case Study 1 - Sport and Public Servicesat Cornwall College St AustellKym O‟Mara, a Sport and Public Services lecturer based at Joshua Manfredi and Sam Bennetts are regular users of theCornwall College‟s St Austell campus is one of the page. They say:administrators of a page on Facebook set up specifically tocommunicate with learners. She says: “The Facebook page is a great thing to have. We can look at pictures from events and fixtures, check sports results,“The primary use of our Facebook fan page was to and as we spend a fair bit of time on Facebook anyway,communicate with Cornwall College students and in page updates instantly appear on our Facebook pages andparticular, sports students about sports fixtures and events. via RSS feeds. It‟s really easy to use and a good way to talkThe page is linked directly to our Sport Google site and to other course members and our tutors.”updates appear on the fan page via a social RSS feed. Thesecondary benefit is the updates appearing on the “NewsFeed Wall” of our fans, which friends of fans will see thisthen acts as a marketing tool.As we have created a „Fan Page‟ and not a group or anew profile we are not befriending students, giving themaccess to any of our personal profiles or displaying anyphotos other than those we have control over uploading.We monitor the page on a regular basis to oversee whatis being posted and by whom, anything inappropriate isimmediately deleted.We can assess through Google Analytics that the days ofpeak traffic for our website (Weds/Thurs) coincide withthe Facebook updates being posted with traffic beingredirected from the fan page to our website, thus provingit working for the purpose intended.”
  • 12. Case Study 2 - Animal Scienceat Cornwall College NewquayHazel Selley and Sarah Galley work at Cornwall College‟s When asked about the content Sarah says:Newquay campus and teach, among other things, AnimalScience, Diversity, Classification and Evolution and “This is a subject that is rapidly changing: new species areGenetics and Reproduction in Aquatic Organisms. They constantly being discovered, and we need to be „on topstarted using Facebook when they realised that their of this‟. The BBC films we upload to the page help keeplearners were far more likely to respond to them via the students up to date with the subject.”social networking site as opposed to via email, realisingthe need to go to where their learners were. Hazel and Regarding the impact the page has made on students,Sarah use the Cornwall College Diversity, Classification Sarah continues:and Evolution page on Facebook as a „virtual informationpoint‟ or notice board, posting information about room “Content and information from these BBC films has beenchanges, course changes, lecture dates, and any other referred to explicitly in students‟ essays and exam papers.”course-based reminders that, usually, would be emailed toher learners. They also add links to websites of interest andhave uploaded a wealth of films from the BBC that linkexplicitly to the page‟s subject area. Importantly, Hazeland Sarah also use the page to expand upon the contentcovered in lessons. Other members of the departmenthave signposted their own students to the page and haveexpressed an interest in setting up their own qualificationthemed areas on Facebook.
  • 13. Case Study 3 – Facebookat Mounts Bay School“When you are on a long plane journey, you turn off your As a result of their observations, Simon and Tony decidedphone - and, to an extent, switch off your life - for 8 hours. to set up a page for the school on Facebook. As Tony says,As soon as those hours are over and you have left theplane, you can switch your life back on again. For many “It felt like something we needed to do.” The page is usedchildren, school is the place where they turn their life off as a virtual notice board and a place to share the school‟sfor eight hours every day.” (Date and source unknown) successes, announcements and day-to-day images and information regarding „what‟s going on‟. The intendedThis quote, paraphrased from an American student, had audience are both students and, importantly, their parentsreal resonance for Tony Bird, Director of Communications who both Tony and Simon feel should be as informedand Simon Elliot, Director of Digital Technology from about the daily running of the school as the students andMount‟s Bay School in Penzance. Through a number of teachers.observations: amongst them that students have Facebookinstalled on their mobile phones, yet Internet access to the Mount‟s Bay School aren‟t using Facebook as a Virtualsocial networking site is blocked in many schools, and that Learning Environment, but as a way of breaking downyounger people just don‟t engage with email - so the need barriers between learning and interaction - makingis to communicate with and engage students “where they learning more of a two-way process. The school hasn‟tare at”, as opposed to assuming that they will come to carried out any formal research into the effectiveness ofyou. “Use the skills they already have - don‟t fight against the page as this is still very much the start of their journeythem”, says Simon. Tony echoes this sentiment: “Stop into using Facebook. However, anecdotal evidence doesbanning „stuff ‟ - we need to go to where the learners are!” more than suggest that there is in improvement in learner engagement. Finally, addressing fears of misuse, Tony asks the simple question: “How can you teach students the rules of IT appropriacy if you don’t let them experiment?”
  • 14. Case Study 4 – Facebook at Saltash.netCommunity SchoolDan Roberts is Deputy Headteacher at Saltash.net it really comes into its own at revision time, especiallyCommunity School in Cornwall; he believes the key to in the summer when the students are on study leave.using tools such as Facebook effectively is to encourage Laura ensures that her security settings are such thatchildren to work independently, giving them time to the students cannot actually access her profile and sheexplore and decide what would be appropriate. encourages the students to do the same. One of theHe realised that many students, whilst at home, may members of the leadership group is also a member of thebe chatting on Facebook, listening to and downloading group for safety and monitoring reasons.music on iTunes and browsing content on YouTube whilstcompleting two or three different pieces of homework at Its main purpose is for students to ask questions and getonce. He decided to explore how a school could embrace a rapid response (at revision time Laura checks the groupsuch technologies and use them to develop the learning at least daily). Students sometimes answer each other‟sthat takes place in school. questions and post links to useful revision websites or interesting ways of remembering things; this seems to “We gave them time to explore a range of Web 2.0 tools have engaged the students more effectively than theand decide what would be appropriate” he said. The uses discussion forums she has tried.they picked up included working collaboratively onlineand creating resources such as podcasts to help with Dan says the development stems from the philosophy thatrevision. Science proved to be a profitable area, with, for pupils should be responsible for their own learning. “Weexample, pupils using an animation program to illustrate produced a framework to keep them safe and we createdcell division. The use then quickly spread to the rest of the acceptable use policies,” he says. The school set up aschool. rigorous, effective E-safety policy, created by students, staff, parents and governors, which is both transparentOne of the courses making extensive use of Facebook and consistently applied.is Psychology. Subject co-ordinator Laura Wilkinsonhas run a Facebook group for students for severalyears (Psychology @ Saltash.net) and although someyear groups have chosen to use it more than others,
  • 15. Case Study 4 – Facebook at Saltash.netCommunity SchoolThe approach at Saltash.net has been that in economicallyunstable times schools, teachers and students mustbecome more creative in their approaches to learning.Dan Roberts‟ assertion is that schools should embrace theuse of new technologies such as social networking insteadof banning them as they are a free and valuable resourcethat can make a positive impact on the achievement andlife opportunities of students. “It is actually about givingpupils the opportunity to create their own curriculum.”
  • 16. These documentswere produced by Cornwall College and CornwallLearning as part of a Learning and Skills ImprovementService (LSIS) Improving Teaching and Learning ThroughTechnology project completed in Cornwall betweenJanuary and June 2011. The project set out to identify,promote and provide guidance on the safe and effectiveuse of Facebook as a tool for improving student outcomesin the 16 - 19 phase.