Facebook in the classroom

You should see the looks of amazement when I tell students that they will be using Facebook in class. Facebook allowed in class! What the heck is going on?

A few years ago, I was at ECOO Conference in Niagara Falls. I went to a session titled Twitter as a tool to practice historical perspective by Lisa Unger (Upper Grand DSB). This presentation looked at how Ms Unger asked students to use Twitter to tweet from a historical perspective during the whole semester.

I was intrigued by this idea. However, as a teacher librarian, I don’t have my own class to test drive lessons. I joined with an history teacher in my school to try this out for a section of the Grade 10 History  (CHC2A) curriculum. We thought the 1920’s and 1930’s would be a good way for students to show their understanding of the events perspective of the time period.

The first time we tried this activity with Twitter. However, we had several problems with using Twitter. The first problem was with opening new accounts. Twitter allows a set number oftwitter-icon accounts to be made from a location at a time because of people making spam
accounts. The students who were slow signing up quickly became frustrated as they struggled to make an account. The second major problem was with actually following the conversations. Even though we asked for students to use hashtags, locating the tweets was difficult.

Overall, we weren’t completely happy with the way the activity went. The next semester we switched to a closed Facebook discussion.

There were still some minor problems with signing up new accounts but for the most part this is much easier with Facebook. This is a closed groupfb-art and students are invited to comment on different topics. The first is coming home from World War I. Each discussion has a limited time line to help students stay up to date with their posts. Students are expected to make at least 1 post on the topic and 2 comments that add to other student’s posts. Liking a post or one word comments are not considered adding to the conversation. Students are able to use the last few minutes of the class to make posts using their own device or one of the iPads in the classroom. There are approximately 10 topics for students to comment on during the unit.

We split the jobs for the assessment of this activity. One teacher reads and comments on the posts.  She also makes sure that the discussions are historically correct and appropriate for school. The other person reads and assesses the posts and makes sure students are regularly contributing to the topics. We usually switch jobs halfway through the unit.

Here are some posts from the Coming Home from World War I conversation:

My factory has now closed down to change back from making tanks and we are going to make cars again. Now I don’t have a job until the changes are made to the inside of the factory. On another note my son has returned but seems a little bit off, he isn’t himself… maybe he just needs to get back into routine of Canada again

My brother is just about to go to bed, he seems very exhausted.. More than usual. This Spanish flu that started in Spain seems to really be taking a tole on him. I thought that when he returned everything would have gone back to normal. Unfortunately he doesn’t have a job due to the 3 fingers that he lost, and the lack of ability to work because of his illness. My mother has had to work more often to be able to support both me, my brother and herself. So blessed to have a mother that will do everything and anything for her family.

I don’t get it, my Dad who just returned from protecting our country lost his right arm during the war.  Now that he is back,  he can’t find work due to the loss of his arm. Not only can he not go to work and support my mom and I. He was diagnosed with shell shock. If we even drop a pot by mistake he acts like he is back at war and it can be really scary at times.

This is the third time for this assignment. Each time we adjusted the instructions and expectations to improve the activity. Using Facebook in a history class seems to be a great way to engage students and demonstrate historical empathy.

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