I'm doing something new and exciting (well, for me, at least) with my summer school students this year. I've set up a Facebook page for both my courses, and I'm requiring my students to "friend" me so they can have access to the links and discussion pages I'm posting in order to supplement the course material.
So far, reading through my students' updates is kind of like stepping into another country--one where everyone speaks another language. I'm used to my own Facebook friends and their grammatically correct, succinct, and often poetic status updates but really, the language used by the average college freshman to write updates and wall postings is not...English. It's something else. Something a little scary.
I'm experiencing culture shock, and feeling old.
I've been wanting to incorporate Facebook into my courses for some time now. There's a saying out there about putting on your walking shoes and hoofing it yourself to the mountain, if you can't get it to come to you. I know a few parents of teens who use Facebook to keep in touch with what's going on in their children's lives--what's big out there, and what's not; what they can learn about to better reach their children, and better communicate with them. The reality is that most young people--college students in particular--spend a massive amount of time on Facebook. I got tired of posting links on the campus portal only to have students completely disregard them. They don't respond to their campus e-mail, and their personal mail in-boxes are so flooded with messages that a well-intentioned one from their teacher often gets lost.
When I told my students about the Facebook page yesterday they laughed, and gasped, and thought it all pretty crazy. Did the teacher really just ask me to friend her? One student was a little dismayed: he didn't want me to see his updates on his FB page, so he planned to create a separate account--just for this summer. Another student thought it was the best.idea.ever. She's on Facebook all the time! This way she can always find out what's going on! By the time I returned to my office after class I already had six friend requests from students, and two engaged me in a back and forth discussion of one of the clips I had only just posted. This was promising!
I don't know how my venture into using Facebook to supplement my college courses will work out this summer, but it seems a good--maybe even a necessary--experiment to try. I'm hoping that at the least it will gently encourage my students to think a little more carefully about what they post on Facebook, and how they phrase their updates. Maybe they'll see the greater potential behind social networking sites and realize that they could have professional uses as well. Maybe they'll become more engaged in the course material, more ready to respond to it, more willing to share their own ideas. Or maybe they won't. But I'm excited at the possibilities, and I hope they are, too.
I'll keep you posted on how it goes!