The big Facebook experiment

We’re interested in making use of the social networks in school and have been trying a few little projects this year. From this half term we are running a few more to see what impact we can have. Things are happening on Twitter and YouTube that I’ll blog later, but it’s hard to try anything in this area without taking on Facebook. Facebook in school has been a very popular topic on the net for a while, lots of people unsure how to make best use of it and many more scared of the bad things could happen. We wanted to trial something because:

  • Not only are most of our students active users, at the last audit 63% of our parents also had a profile.
  • There is a fairly large potential for issues for eSafety within the network and we wanted to measure any potential impact on learning against these risks.
  • Relevant case studies in the area will really help schools to firm up policy on the site, and support our current AUP on web 2.0.

For about a year now we have had a Facebook page for our community set up here, and this has proved popular (it gets as many views during a week as the community website itself but has the advantage of pushing content to users profiles). The next stage is to start thinking about teacher-student interaction.

Our initial thinking around this has come up with a set of options on how we use it with students. These are listed below, in decreasing order of safety (or increasing personal connection with students). Obviously this can be seen in a positive or negative way depending on circumstance/opinion/personal bias.

  • The teacher running the project sets up a new profile using their school email account, no personal links/information on it. Students do the same. A page (or group) is created for the project and they all sign up to that.
  • Teachers and students set up new accounts, add each other as friends.
  • Teacher creates a new account, students use existing but all communication still goes through a page or group.
  • Teacher creates a new account, students use existing to become friends with the teacher.
  • Teacher and student use existing accounts, create a page or group for the project to interact on.
  • Teacher and students use existing accounts, and using limited profile settings become friends.

Having created this list we have started to think about projects around it. For now I’m writing off the first and the last- they are listed above to provide a complete picture but I don’t feel either would work well enough to justify the time.

So, starting at where we feel the safest option is project one is working with MFL- creating all new accounts and linking them together. Lead by one of our Spanish team, @javiera1974, a group of year 10 students will visit Facebook, switch the site into Spanish and create themselves a new profile in that language. They’ll friend the teachers new profile and then interact only in Spanish. For the sake of the case study we monitor amount of use, quality of the content, etc, etc.

The obvious benefit of this set up is there is no link to the more private profiles of both teacher and student, but the concern linked to this is about usage. Because students will have to log in as somebody else will they choose to do this at home? Would we do better to let them use their own profiles? We’ll finish this example and then look to the next to measure this.

2 responses to “The big Facebook experiment”

  1. Aaron Parker says:

    I hate to rain on your parade however there is an issue with kids setting up a seperate Facebook account than their normal personal one. It is not allowed by the terms and conditions – http://www.facebook.com/#!/terms.php – Point 4.2 Which states that you can only create 1 account. Now you would think that this would be okay because you are using your school email (presumably) however I have just heard from a student that their ‘student’ account has been deactivated after they tried to put their class name / set in their profile name to make them easier to find. Facebook have now emailed them informing them that they will have their other account deactivated if they do this again :(This means that to do this permission will have to be gained from Facebook… 🙁

  2. Tim Dalton says:

    Thanks Aaron…Not entirely surprising to be honest, and I think I would prefer users to be using the real accounts wherever possible anyway. They are far more likely to actually do this out of school hours if it’s in the same place as their other social networking.

    Takes us down to the lower options on the list, we’ll look at modifying our trials to take this on board.

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