Saturday, November 28, 2009

Leave Students Alone on Facebook

by Ann Abbott

Language instructors are curious about how to use social networking sites in their teaching, and there were many ACTFL sessions about Facebook and other technologies. Everyone wants to know what the possibilities are.

Maybe we should just let our students do what they are already doing.

Something I read recently in a parenting magazine caught my attention:

"Dr. [Christine] Greenhow [University of Minnesota in Minneapolis] recently studied how students use social networking sites (SNSs) as learning tools and found that students are developing 'twenty-first-century skills'--like competency in technology, creativity, communication and collaboration. Many use SNSs to discuss homework and school-related anxieties as well as to post their creative ventures like pieces of fiction writing, photographs and videos. In short, the sites are now part teen hangout, part study hall." (Judith Aquino, Working Mother August/September 2009)

That reminds me a lot of how I use Facebook!

My blog posts automatically import to my Facebook notes and sometimes generate neat discussions with my colleagues and friends. Darcy Lear and I use the chat function to work on our collaborative projects and simply to share and encourage each other. My friends often share their creative projects--whether lesson plans or other types of creative expression--which often, in turn, inspire me to try something new and different.

This also makes me think that I could explicitly encourage students to share their thoughts and creative products from the community service learning (CSL) courses that I teach. Instead of intruding on their already established SNSs, they could share in ways that they already use. But I do think I have a lot that I can teach them about other social media tools, and that is why I teach about them, not necessarily with them, in my Business Spanish class.

Many instructors create course-specific Ning sites work well for language learning activities, teamwork and blog publishing. I think that is great.

And of course, there are already many language-learning social network sites on the web that students can simply be encouraged to use on their own.

Are you using SNSs in your language and/or CSL courses? Did you attend an ACTFL session about SNSs? Leave a comment to share your ideas!

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