Techy teaching: Professors use Facebook to promote discussion, interaction

By Pauline Kennedy

Kansas State Collegian, Kansas State U. via UWIRE

Pen and paper used to be the go-to supplies for any classroom. Now, it is never uncommon to need a computer for schoolwork, be it to check e-mail from a teacher, to post notes or to take on online quiz.

With the rise in popularity of social networking sites, Kansas State U. professors are beginning to see them as yet another tool to connect with students in the classroom.

“I felt it was important to bring more closeness into the classroom,” said Thelma del Castillo, graduate student in language acquisition.

Castillo, who started teaching Spanish at K-State two and a half years ago, used Facebook to give students the opportunity to use Spanish without the worry of constantly being graded on language errors.

Castillo had students join a Facebook page, asking them to post interests and talk with other students using Spanish.

“I had fun using it,” she said.

Castillo said not only was it useful for her classroom, but it allowed students to connect with each other and stay connected even after the semester was over.

Another professor who has found Facebook as an important tool to use in the classroom is Mick Charney, associate professor of architecture.

Charney has used Facebook for about a year as a way for students to work with other classmates and interact outside of the classroom.

“I really enjoyed it as a project,” Charney said.

Charney said when he first got on Facebook, he realized what a wonderful medium it could be for the exchange of information. He said he wanted to use it not just as a social networking site, but a way to pursue one common scholarly goal.

For his classes, Charney had his architecture students create a Facebook page specifically for his class. The students took on the persona of an acquaintance of Frank Lloyd Wright, a well-known architect. They used Facebook to connect with each other, trying to gather information about Wright’s life through the different acquaintances.

While many professors are catching on to the social network idea, and incorporating it into the curriculum, students have mixed views on including it in the class.

“I think it’s a little tacky,” said Santana Talbert, graduate student in accounting. “It’s not very professional; it’s a social network.”

Talbert said she thinks networks like Facebook should only be for social use, and said there are other websites, like LinkedIn, a social website used for professional networking, that professors can use in the classroom.

Other students do not see a problem with letting social networks be a part of their school schedule.

“It wouldn’t really bother me that much because we already use K-State Online,” said Nick Yoder, junior in biology.

He said he would not mind teachers having access to his Facebook page either, because he would not post something he did not want to be seen.

Castillo and Charney both said they took precautions when they decided to use the social network in the classroom.

Castillo said she told students up-front that she would not be looking at their Facebook profiles, and would only be paying attention to the information posted on the class page. She also told her students she would delete them as a friend once the semester was over.

Charney said he was sure to have a closed network, with students in the class being the only ones who could share information. He said he told his students the page was not to be used for personal information and said they were not suppose to post anything about themselves.

Using Facebook for student projects is only the first step in this new era of technology.

For Charney, student interaction was only one use for the website. He said he is now using Facebook to help start conversation and encourage interaction between faculty and staff.

Faculty Exchange for Teaching Excellence, or FETE, a committee of faculty under the Center for Advancement of Teaching and Learning, is now on Facebook as well.

The committee, started in the late 90s, was organized to help sponsor teaching retreats as well as exchange ideas and information regarding education.

Charney said FETE has now transitioned onto Facebook to promote on-going discussion between faculty. He said they have around 20 members right now, but they hope to spread the word and get more educators involved.

Read more here: http://www.kstatecollegian.com/news/techy-teaching-1.2313235
Copyright 2014 Kansas State Collegian

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