The following conversation was held between Garrett J. Bates, Hillary Mercier and Erinn Flory. It is a conversation on whether or not Facebook should or should not be used within the classroom. The conversation was recorded and is transcribed below.
Erinn: I am Erinn and I am taking pro-Facebook in the classroom.
Hillary: I am Hillary and I am also doing pro-Facebook in the classroom.
Garrett: I’m Garrett and I am anti-Facebook in the classroom. So we can just start by sort of saying our personal experiences with Facebook, like, when did you guys get on Facebook? How old were you/what grade were you in?
Erinn: I didn’t get any type of social media, including Facebook, until first year university, so I had never used Facebook in the classroom or in high school.
Hillary: I got my own personal Facebook account in grade ten I want to say. But yeah none of my high school teachers used it in the classroom or anything like that, so I’ve only ever known it as like a personal platform.
Garrett: I remember I got Facebook when I was in grade five. It had just come out and all my friends were talking about it. We all got on it at the same time. There are pictures of me, on Facebook, when I was in grade five. So I’ve had it for over ten years now.
Erinn: Yeah it’s definitely more of a personal platform than a communal platform.
Garrett: So why don’t we just jump right into it. What’s uhh, why is it good to have in the classroom?
Erinn: Well I’m thinking that it’s great for creating a class community. So teachers can create private pages that have privacy settings on them that only their class members can join. It’s just a great way for the class to interact with each other, I feel at least. What about you Hillary?
Hillary: Yeah I agree and the article I read talked a lot about how it’s heavily used by everybody. It’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have it, so it’s very easy to connect and it’s available 24/7. You can reach out to these people and it will ding in their pocket and they’ll look at it almost immediately, so it’s not like you’re waiting for emails where it could take a day for them to respond. People respond to Facebook quite often.
Garrett: People kind of treat it like texting almost, to a certain degree… Why Facebook instead of something else, is my big thing. Why Facebook instead of something like Google classroom? Or anything else that’s more private and can’t be seen from the outside right? Cause after looking into Facebook in general, especially the link I sent you guys, the Guardian article said that 50 million users data was breached. So even just being on Facebook in general is kind of…
Erinn: I think it kind comes with what Hillary said, like everybody, or almost everybody, would have Facebook so I think it’s something that students would already know how to use. You wouldn’t really need to teach them much on how to use Facebook, and I think that when they’re scrolling through their news feed they can just click on their classroom page and just see what’s going on.
Hillary: Yeah, and also to add onto that I don’t think it’s such a question of why Facebook over other things, I think it’s more: why not use Facebook in addition to Google classroom? Using all these different types of technologies in your classroom. Because, for instance we use Twitter in our Ed Tech class and I’m still not a huge fan of Twitter, so it’s kind of nice that if like students had multiple things they could go to, and like one better than the other kind of thing.
Garrett: Okay yeah, so you guys are advocating for multiple things, not just a Facebook strictly, it’s an addition to multiple things.
Erinn: Yeah, like a why not? Instead of a why, a why not?
Garrett: Okay yeah, I guess for me it all comes down to privacy, especially for my students, and depending on what grade I’m teaching too, like, if it’s a grade 9, 10, 11, 12, if I do get into high school then privacy isn’t much of an issue, but I’m more thinking of elementary level. Definitely not. Would you guys say that you would only use it in high school and not in elementary? Or would you use it wherever, in anyway?
Hillary: In my personal classroom, I would only use it in high school, just because I only got Facebook in high school, and any earlier I probably would’ve been so confused. I don’t think little children need to be on that type of media at that age.
Erinn: I agree, I think it is a high school thing. I think you need to have a maturity to understand how to properly use it, and wouldn’t advocate for it to be used in an elementary classroom. I think that’s just not something that should be done.
Garrett: Okay, well, just to go further on that point, would you say that when you start your class right at the beginning of the semester, or the school year, kids walk in, teenagers I guess. Would you say: “Okay we’re gonna have a Facebook group, so I want everyone to join that.” Or would you have a big lesson on digital citizenship and all that privacy stuff? Would you say you’d start with that and then move into using Facebook, or would it just be strictly a “This is our group. Join it. Go home and join this.”?
Erinn: I think they coincide with each other. I think you’d get them to join the Facebook group and through that you would teach them and they would learn through, like, hands on learning that would be digital citizenship and privacy. I think that learning how to interact with others online is a huge part of it, and I think they don’t really understand that until they actually have to interact with others online.
Hillary: And there’s like that big collaboration piece we touched on a little bit, and how important it is that they can reach out or talk to these people right at their finger tips whenever they need to and whenever they want to. That kind of takes that class dynamic out of the classroom.
Garrett: So what I’m kind of gathering here is that it’s not so much a substitute for anything else, it’s not really for like assignments or what not, it’s more just to foster a community within the classroom, right?
Erinn: It’s another tool that’s already familiar to the students.
Hillary: It could be used for assignments I think, but I think generally it would be really good for group work, or like journal questions that you want to send out over Facebook every night or something. I don’t know what you’d want to do, but there’s ways to do it as an assignment.
Erinn: I mean yeah, creating fake Facebook profiles for characters in books, when you have to write: “What is their bio? What is their job?” Things like that, just making it a real life personal thing.
Hillary: We did that in internship. I had them make Facebook profiles and they really liked it. It was awesome for me to like, go through them and find all the different pathways, like “What are you interested in? What are your hobbies?” And all that stuff. I thought it was a really cool assignment.
Garrett: Is it possible that could be extended into, not just assignments, but maybe that you tell students to create a new Facebook account. Use a pseudonym and that will be like, you in this classroom. That way you can post assignments and opinions and stuff without having to worry about it coming back to you necessarily. If you know what I mean?
Erinn: Yeah! Like making a separate account for like, not one that you would have all your friends on, but one that would be more your professional one?
Erinn: For sure, but I think as well in that, if you’re going to have students do that, you still need to ask them to evaluate their friends’ profiles a bit, like their profile for their friends and say: “Are you having good digital citizenship? If somebody you didn’t know looked at this, what would they think of you?” I think it just comes along with really good lessons about how you’re presenting yourself in the digital world.
Garrett: Definitely. What subjects do you think this would be the best for?
Hillary: I teach English and it worked awesome, like I said we do the character profiles and everything like that, so I’d recommend it for that.
Erinn: I can see it being really good with social studies as well. Group projects, even finding current events, things like that.
Garrett: Speaking of current events, with the advent of “Fake news”, do you think the kids are susceptible, teenagers I guess, to seeing fake news? Like seeing things like that isn’t necessarily true, and then internalizing that. Really believing that. That’s one of the big problems, apparently anyways, with Facebook that spreads a lot of misinformation. So should we be wary of that if we introduce Facebook into the classroom?
Erinn: I think that goes along with teaching them what is a credible news source. You know? Like, if you’re looking online, maybe the Buzzfeed articles are not necessarily the most credible, but what about the CBC, the CTV, and The National, and things like that. I think teaching them what are good sources and teaching them kind of what you can invest your own belief in.
Hillary: I agree.
Garrett: Is digital literacy, digital citizenship, is that an English curricular thing? Or is there even one? Is it health?
Hillary: Not as far as I know is it in the curriculum.
Garrett: Do you guys think it should be introduced to the curriculum?
Hillary: Probably. At this point, in 2019, I feel like it probably should be in there. I think that especially with all the different platforms and social media’s there are, I think how bad some people’s posts are, I think we could definitely learn a lesson from that and educate our students on that.
Hillary: So a question for you then Garrett: what is your counter? Why would you not want to use this in the classroom?
Garrett: I have a lot of, like.. With Facebook doesn’t just come a classroom element, it comes with the big idea called FOMO. Don’t know if you guys have every heard of it, it’s F. O. M. O. It’s the “Fear Of Missing Out”.
Garrett: So, yeah we can use Facebook in the classroom, and it’s all good and well, and we can use it for assignments and what not, but at the same time, students are still on Facebook. I try to totally avoid it. The reason being that it, in my opinion, fosters two different things: anxiety big time, and the fear of missing out. So FOMO is basically that you see all your friends, they are, it looks like they’re having fun. They’re going to parties, they’re doing all these things that you’re not doing, right? So when students see that, anyone see’s that, it triggers something in them that’s like “Aw that hurts. I wish I was there too. Like why isn’t my life as fun? Why isn’t my life like that? Why aren’t I as cool?” Right? So it just breeds comparison, which is unhealthy for for our students especially. You could say that they’re going to be on it no matter what, but in my opinion, the less social media, anybody’s on really, the healthier mentally they are. So that’s why I am very hesitant to bring it into a classroom setting instead of something like Google classroom where there’s no actual social media element to it.
Erinn: I can understand that yep.
Garrett: So that’s why. I just think it’s like unhealthy mentally, but that’s obviously a personal opinion. I don’t know if the studies are still out on that, cause social media is a new-ish phenomenon.
Hillar: No, I’ve heard all that before. I think the only thing that I could say, is that, if we use it in the classroom it wouldn’t really be a personal level like we had talked about. Maybe like changing your name, like what we did for our Twitter’s, we put our teacher names, kind of thing. And that that Facebook would be specifically for school, so you wouldn’t be like posting pictures of you having a good night out kind of thing.
Hillary: In the school setting, I think, I get that it might still cause anxiety for people but I think that it would be a lot more of like, a community place and not a “look what I’m doing and you’re not doing” kind of thing.
Garrett: I can definitely get on board with it if there’s two separate accounts. You have, like, your private account that’s like your life, and then you have a public account that’s like, your public life essentially. I can get on board with it that way. But if you’re supposed to use your Facebook account, like the one I’ve had for the last ten years, there’s no way I’d be comfortable with doing that. Especially cause like, even as teachers, going back and like scrubbing our social media accounts of anything stupid that we did when we were kids. Especially me because I have like, you know like grade 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12. I had to go back and make sure through all that time I didn’t say anything dumb or offensive or anything. So yeah, I could get on board as long as there’s two.
Erinn: I mean yeah I definitely see both sides of the argument. Like I can understand why, especially people would be hesitant to do it. I think it’s something that people should be open to. But I think it also just goes with your classroom climate. Like, judge “who are your students? Do they get along well? Do you think they can grasp the concept of a positive digital citizenship?” I think you have to evaluate who you are as a teacher . Like, will you be able to keep up with doing the online stuff? Will you be open to other options? Will you be able to work with students? Do you think you can adequately put things online for it in a way that everybody might understand? I can see both sides of the argument for sure.
We ended the conversation there after reaching a pleasant middle point. Thank you for reading.