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Facebook Groups in School?

Facebook recently updated their Groups feature.  Allowing finer control over groups which you set up, who can join, who can post, who can share etc..   Their are also improvements to how you are notified about group updates and a new feature called ‘docs’ that provides a Google Docs-esque shared notepad / document. Group chat is also built in allowing you to talk to everyone in that group at once. For a demonstration head over to Mashable or watch this video:

So, the million dollar question… Could this be used in education? Could it be part of a VLEesque home-school link?
I’m picturing a group for each of my classes, resources could be shared, homework set as Events, questions could be answered, work could be collaborated on.  I fear we are constantly trying to compete with Facebook – why not get right inside it?
There is no need for members to ‘friend’ each other.  Joining the group allows communication within the four walls of that group between all parties.  But some questions still spring to mind:
  • Is it appropriate?
  • Should a teacher use a ‘work’ account rather than their personal Facebook profile?
  • Should parental permission be sought?
  • Use 2 members of staff for each group for safety’s sake?
  • Will pupils mix school with pleasure and be drawn in?

Our school has had some success in this area, the PE Department have a group for discussing after school teams and clubs and it is slowly growing, with news and sensible moderated discussion. I can see a Year 7 experiment here…..  Big VLE decisions are on the horizon at our school and part of me thinks a mix of free services like this and Google Docs and self hosted blogs may be the way forward.  Whatever decision is made, ease of use and extremely low barriers to entry are vital and Facebook ticks these boxes strongly. Opinions?

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  1. Complex subject.
    Facebook is not for school in that way IMO. No harm in the school putting stuff up there for ppl to read though. It is not sustainable – you are in there for the moment and whilst facebook allow it. It is beyond your control. Maybe not such a bad thing. FBK accounts are for 13+ so Y7 should not be using it. It would work though.

  2. Some more interesting reflections on it here: http://techcrunch.com/2010/10/07/facebook-groups-google-wave/

    I still think there is some legwork in this idea.  I hear you on the 13+ issue although they all have it of course!

  3. I think we are over-sceptical of Facebook’s desire to open things up for us then take them away. Fact is, VLEs come and ago every three or four years and, however good or bad they are, the financials of a school district/LA are the bit that gets in the way of any sense of continuity.

    So, given that the continuity and “will it be there in 3 years” argument is probably going to be WON by Facebook rather than a trad VLE, I’d say it’s more than worth a shot, bearing in mind all the questions you’re asking yourself.

  4. Hi Ewan,

    I’d agree with that – I have no doubt that Facebook will be here in many years time. And either way I’m not planning on using it for anything permanent – much more for the here and now of communication and engagement with pupils.

    My ‘Digital Leaders’ are getting signed permission from parents to start a little experiment so we’ll see how it goes….

  5. I’ve started a Facebook experiment with my top set y11 maths group.

    We have online discussion about homework and revision at set times every week.

    I use googledocs to post homework and I also post pictures and puzzles to get their mathematical juices flowing. I encourage the students to do the same.

    I did seek parental permission – it is a closed group and only students who have returned the slip can see or join.

    As a class, we decided on “rules” for the group.

    I created a teacher account for the purpose which has absolutely no link to the “real” me.

    So far it’s working really well. The discussions are productive, and they are enjoying talking about maths.

    I think it’s great!

    1. Set up right with clear expectations I think it’s a great tool that taps straight into our pupils day to day and minute by minute routine – which is key – glad it’s working well for you 🙂

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