For education to be an open and inclusive experience, it is necessary to create schools and learning spaces where students and teachers can engage and dialogue with knowledge and information. Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr serve as some of the tools integrated reflexively into all parts of life to help students make sense of the rushing torrent of information engulfing the 21st Century.
While teachers are already proactively utilising these tools in classrooms, only a smattering of research exists around on the true educational impact of options like Facebook on learning. To that gap, Julie Prescott, a lecturer in psychology at the University of Bolton published the excellent report, Teaching style and attitudes towards Facebook as an educational tool earlier this year. While focusing on the attitudes of university staff, Prescott’s research and findings can offer key insights for educators at the primary and secondary level.
In a response to whether laptops should be removed from the collegiate classroom,Prescott argues at the Conversation (and subsequently reposted at the Washington Post), professors (and teachers) have the choice whether to engage with their students where they converse and spend time, or to leave those digital space unexplored.
“Perhaps weary lecturers should be looking at the problem from a different angle and asking whether social networking sites such as Facebook can actually become a good place to teach. Or at least communicate with their students,” writes Prescott.
As we detailed in our Facebook Guide for Educators, the platform offers key opportunities for teachers to facilitate formal learning, drive non-formal and out of school hours of learning, and opens the door to numerous other applications. Prescott touches on these uses by highlighting a range of international research and noting,
My recent research has investigated the attitudes of university teachers to the use of Facebook in the classroom. I found they do not tend to use such tools in their teaching, but would like more guidelines about online professionalism and how to use Facebook for educational purposes.
Those teachers who do use Facebook in their teaching found more positives than negatives, suggesting it enhances communication between lecturer and student. Facebook was viewed as beneficial because it increased and enhanced the student experience through class discussions outside of the classroom.
Regardless of level, teachers should be prepared to use social media effectively when they enter the classroom. The Guardian’s Teacher Network creates a useful hub for informal preparation and development. Prescott’s research adds important data and colour to the conversation, but more is needed.
This is the social generation of students. Connected learning that truly sees serving the needs of the student as the first job of teachers requires integrating formal and informal learning experiences, in-person and digital dialogue together.
As Prescott closes,
More should be done to encourage and support the use of social media within teaching and learning. Increasing ways to engage students and encourage students to learn outside of the classroom environment is valuable to everyone. It’s either that, or find that half the class is playing Candy Crush instead.