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Using Facebook in the Classroom

This discussion of using Facebook and other social media in the classroom
took place on WMST-L in May 2010.  A number of concerns were raised,
including privacy, equity, increase in work load, and the advisibility of
friending students, among others.  For more WMST-L files available on the
Web, see the WMST-L File Collection.
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 11:20:04 -0400
From: Monica Melton <mmelton07 AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Social media and the classroom
Does anyone use facebook for their class? I would like to set up a page (or
something) for my 3 courses instead of using blackboard/webct to post
assignments, talk to students, have them submit their papers etc.
fb goes directly into their cell phones and blackboard/webct doesn't. I
think it might improve my communication with students if I use a method that
they like. Has anyone used it? I'd like to get your feedback on your
experiences with fb (social media) and the classroom. This may be a
discussion that everyone would like to read, if not please feel free to
respond privately.
mmelton07  AT  gmail.com
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 11:46:42 -0400
From: Melanie Beaudette <melanie.beaudette AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Hi all! I'd like to share my experiences with facebook, social media, and
the university. I'm a graduate student instructor in Women's Studies at Ohio
State, and teach a class on gender, race, and sexuality in pop culture. I
now use wordpress.com to blog with my students; here are my thoughts on

I had a facebook group for alums of my pop culture class at one point, but
facebook is VERY tricky, and I believe using it for class is against my
particular institution's GA/student relationship policies (or at the least
it's a taboo that my department is very worried about). While it is my
opinion that people's personal subject positions, with all the messiness
that these might entail, needn't be separate from their identity as
teachers, the university I teach at is quite opposed to this, which I
understand, acknowledge, uphold, and politely personally dissent. I take my
somewhat radical point of view primarily from bell hooks' argument in *Teaching
to Transgress,* wherein the scholar explains that even college instructors
have sexual/personal subjectivities, although we often pretend they don't in
order to maintain the hierarchical power structure of the traditional

The major issue with using fb for student contact is that this site not an
academic space but rather a social networking space where lines between what
is expected regarding academic rigor and "fml! wtf! *expletive!*" might
become too blurry or too difficult to regulate regarding decorum, grades,
and objectivity. I have, as a rule, stuck to only becoming friends with my
students on facebook after they have completed my class and received their
final grades - I also don't pursue students on facebook, but rather will
accept their friendship at the end of the term, if they are so inclined to
friend me. I really enjoy maintaining a relationship with my former students
on facebook, and it has been an excellent tool for staying in contact
regarding events, activities, recommendations, and keeping in touch
regarding the the jobs they end up getting.

Another thing I will say regarding my experience with facebook and students
is that if you do use fb to keep in touch with your students, you may be
criticized by more traditional scholars/peers/superiors. Even though, as I
said, I only am friends with former students, because I often refer to them
perpetually as "my student so-and-so," some colleagues were under the
impression that these people were my current students, and I was recently
approached by faculty (who cannot actually see my fb page!) about* my* level
of personal decorum regarding what my "students" see. In my opinion, once
people are no longer my students, it shouldn't matter at all what I think of
Lynyrd Skynyrd or if I post a picture of my new tattoo, etc. However, I can
see and acknowledge how this would be a fine line, considering that my
university doesn't want grad student instructors to have contact with
current students on facebook - again, the confusion between "current" and
"former" students. Basically, it's just really tricky.

I recommend checking your university rules regarding fb. I agree that fb
would be a radical (and in my opinion, welcomed) intervention into teaching,
communication, and sociality regarding student/instructor relationships. I
believe speaking in the students' own language is the best way to truly
reach them - and in my experience as a pop culture teacher, they have been
much more willing to engage the class material and actively learn since we
started blogging. We currently blog on wordpress.com, which is more neutral
than facebook, and where I have posted academic guidelines that my students
must follow when they complete their assignments. This ensures a level of
academic integrity that would likely be more difficult to regulate on fb,
with all the other social interactions that take place there simultaneously.
For now, I will fb to keep in touch with former students, but that's all.

Hope this is helpful! Sorry it is rather longwinded. I find this topic very
interesting and worthy of inquiry.

Melanie Beaudette

Melanie Beaudette, MA, ABD
Doctoral Candidate
Graduate Teaching Associate
Department of Women's Studies
Ohio State University
337-i University Hall
230 N. Oval Mall
Columbus, OH 43202
beaudette.2  AT  osu.edu
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 12:02:35 -0400
From: Wendy BurnsArdolino <WendyBurnsArdolino AT MAIL.CLAYTON.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
I agree - I only fb with former students not current students.


Dr. Wendy A. Burns-Ardolino
Assistant Professor & Director,
Master of Arts in Liberal Studies
Office of Interdisciplinary Studies
Clayton State University
2000 Clayton State Boulevard
Morrow, GA 30260
Arts & Sciences 210-A
wburnsar  AT  clayton.edu
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 09:20:21 -0700
From: JANNI ARAGON <jannilaragon AT SHAW.CA>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Dear All: I have used FB groups for both my Women's Studies and
Political Science courses and have been quite happy with the site. I
used my "work" FB account to set up the groups. Students were
encouraged to use monikers to protect their privacy.

I found that the level of discussion/participation on the FB group
site was great. It worked better than the forums on WebCT. And,
students posted links to articles and videos that were related to our
in class discussion. I also saw that quiet students participated more
on the FB group. The students commented that they were already on FB,
so talking about course materials on the site didn't really feel like

The one disadvantage is sometimes the third party applications like
Box.net didn't work for all the students, when I would upload files.

During the two + years that I used FB groups, I'd say that about 1
person in every other class would opt out and would write a short
reflection about a reading for this "participation" score. On my
evals, the majority of the students commented that they preferred FB
for class discussion. And, I only had one student who noted on an eval
that FB was unprofessional.

Now I use Moodle, but the attempt at the forum discussions have not
been as successful. Instead, I find students will send me a tweet
(Twitter), post on my work FB wall, or direct message me via FB. If
the information hasn't already been discussed in class or emailed to
me, then I will post that info on Moodle. I have a few students
inquire why I don't use FB anymore. I've explained that Box.net and
other third party applications aren't reliable. And, frankly, I
appreciate that Moodle allows me to verify a time/date stamp for
student uploads of papers, etc.

This Summer, I will use a Twitter group in my Gender and Politics class. 

Janni (jan/eye)
jaragon  AT  uvic.ca
Prof. Aragon on FB
janniaragon on Twitter
Department of Political Science
University of Victoria
British Columbia, BC
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 17:27:10 +0100
From: Victoria Watts <victoriajanewatts AT MAC.COM>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
It's also worth taking a moment to get familiar with the privacy
features on FB.  There are countless permutations possible in terms of
who see what, who can post what, who can comment on what.  It is quite
possible to distinguish a 'professional self' from a 'personal self '
and control access to each accordingly should that be
desirable/necessary.  Of course, that professional/personal
bifurcation opens up a whole realm of juicy debates...

Vicki Watts 
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 12:29:06 -0400
From: "Averett, Paige" <AVERETTP AT ECU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
My concern with using Facebook as a teaching platform would be that
many students are intentionally not on FB and don't want to be. While
Blackboard is an "agreed upon and understood" tool of universities and
can be required of students, I am not sure that I would want to put
the same requirement of them being on a social site such as
Facebook. Your class would require them to have a page and be on FB
and along the lines of Melanie's previous post, you are then forcing
them to cross a social/academic boundary that while you maybe
comfortable with, some of them may not be. Blackboard does provide
many degrees of privacy that FB does not and can not, even with
monikers and privacy settings.

However....on the other hand, I AM friends with my current
students. Our university, my specific college & dept all have their
own FB sites, as well as our student organizations all have one, and
if you are on FB then you are also then interacting with students
constantly, even if you tried not to be friends. In the two years of
being on FB I have never had an issue professionally or personally -
however, it does sound like my uni is much more comfortable with it as
a whole. And I do feel FB has enhanced my relationships with current
and former and future students (we have undergrads who graduate, work
2 years and then come back for their masters - so even if I waited
till they graduated, chances are high that soon they would be my
student again). However, we do have faculty who are not on FB and like
I am describing above, will not be, so they do not have to think so
intentionally about it. While other faculty have joined just because
of the students and the increased access and level of interaction it
provides with current students. I think you have to consider the
culture of your school/college/uni as it depends on your students and
admins use of it.

Paige Averett, PhD
Assistant Professor
School of Social Work
College of Human Ecology
222 Rivers Building
East Carolina University
Greenville, NC 27858
averettp  AT  ecu.edu
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 11:42:43 -0500
From: "jecdrc1 AT earthlink.net" <jecdrc1 AT earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Just this morning a friend and I were discussing the way we use email
is very different from the way traditional-student-aged people use
message media. They tend to want to use very brief text messages, not
long-form email.  It made me wonder how the use of social media as a
teaching platform affects the in-person class experience and the
totality of the educational experience.  I'm not sure that moving a
lot of the class experience to social media or even the on-line
Blackboard/ICON software adopted by so many institutions is a totally
positive trend, though I'm not sure I could articulate my unease very
clearly.  I guess it is a kind of question about the generally
unexamined aspects of the switch from the "wet world" to the internet
for so much of daily life.  I feel a certain resistance to this, which
perhaps is just a function of age!  
JoAnn Castagna
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 12:00:40 -0500
From: "Brothers, Deborah J" <Deborah.Brothers AT LLCC.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
A very important discussion, I think. 

I also have a wordpress blog for each of my courses and am only FB
"friends" with former students.  I am even re-thinking this policy for
myself, though, and am about to transition to a "wait until you
graduate" policy.  What has happened this year is a few students who
took me for one course and that I befriended have since signed up for
another course.  It's difficult to explain why it's okay for those
students to be "friends" but not others.

As for using FB for a course, while I do understand there is a certain
convenience in "immediacy," I also like the idea that our course can
have a more formal (as formal as I get, anyway) academic breathing
space, via the course blog.


Deborah Brothers, Ph.D.
Professor of English
Lincoln Land Community College
Springfield, IL  62796
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 15:09:29 -0400
From: Liz McMahon <mcmahone AT LAFAYETTE.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Hello, all

Deborah's comment is why I don't friend with anyone until they graduate.  So
far, I've had a couple of former students who haven't yet graduated ask, and
when I tell them my policy, they are fine with it.  One even said it was
more reason to look forward to graduation. 
I'm a mentor for one of the Posses on our campus (if you don't know what
that means, http://www.possefoundation.org/ - it's one of the organizations
that got some of Obama's Nobel money), and I tried to set up a page for the
group, but there is one who got off FB and doesn't want back on, and I
respect that.   So now I can't really use the page for anything.  So, I
don't use FB much except for personal stuff. 
I do find that many of my "friends" don't have much to say (except for
Farmville), but I do still love hearing from graduated students.  So I'll
stay on.

:) Liz

% Elizabeth McMahon, Department of Mathematics
% Lafayette College, Easton, PA 18042-1781
% mcmahone  AT  lafayette.edu
% Where are we going?  And what's with this handbasket?
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 16:13:04 -0400
From: Aimee Sands <amsproductions AT EARTHLINK.NET>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
I'm a Second Wave feminist, and I'm not connected up to Facebook yet.  What
strikes me as I read everyone's comments is that using Facebook means you
have to work more.  Prepping, teaching, and grading papers already take so
much of my time - at the notoriously low adjunct pay rate - there's no way
I'd have time to give more to my students via Facebook.
AimTe Sands
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 13:30:32 -0400
From: Miriam Brown Spiers <miriam27 AT UGA.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
As a grad student/teaching assistant, I feel like I'm kind of on
middle ground here.  I had never thought about setting up a
professional vs. private profile on Facebook, and I don't think most
of my students would consider it, either.  In fact, many of them don't
even seem to have considered the Privacy options available to them.
The result might be that you learn information you didn't want to know
about your students, even if the instructor is totally appropriate.

For instance, I once had a student fail to email me a paper on time
because her computer wasn't working, but she had made several Facebook
updates during the time that she was supposedly unable to access the
internet (either to send me the paper or just to let me know what the
problem was).  It's an awkward situation, because you don't want to
start using social networking against your students, but you also
can't ignore being lied to.  Similar things have happened to other
instructors in my department, too.  (Frequently, students will say
that they have been ill or had family emergencies, and then promptly
post pictures from their weekend getaways, for instance.)

Anyway, it would be possible to avoid all that, but you might spend a
lot of your time walking students through setting up new accounts,
fixing privacy settings, and basically acting as tech support.

Miriam Brown Spiers
PhD Student
University of Georgia
Miriam27  AT  uga.edu
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 16:59:08 -0400
From: Joan Korenman <jskor AT GL.UMBC.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
This discussion about using social media like Facebook in courses has raised
some very interesting and important issues.  One that hasn't received as
much attention as I had expected is privacy, or, increasingly, lack of
privacy, on Facebook. Over the past few months, Facebook has been eroding
users' privacy by making heretofore private sections/resources open to the
public.  Information you may have thought only your "friends" could see may
now be open to the world.  Here are a few of the many recent articles that
have discussed this issue:


The first two articles focus on Facebook's erosion of privacy; the second
two discuss how to restore your privacy.  The two links that use
"tinyurl.com" URLs are simply shortened forms of very long URLs that would
have stretched over more than one line and been difficult for many people to

These articles have resulted in my spending some time recently reviewing my
Facebook account's settings.  I thought about killing off my account, but I
decided to keep it, at least for now, but to make almost NO information
available to anyone but me.  That's easy for me, since I don't really use
Facebook.  I haven't trusted it for years, ever since several people I know
had their accounts hacked, resulting in my getting phony invitations,
supposedly from them, to view their photos.  Had I clicked on the links, I
would probably have infected my computer.  Fortunately, I was sufficiently
skeptical that I instead wrote to them (NOT via Facebook) and asked them
whether they had sent the message.  Several informed me that they had not
and that their Facebook accounts had somehow been hacked.

As some of you know, I have retired from teaching, so I don't have to decide
whether to use social media in my classes.  However, for the reasons I've
expressed above, as well as some that others have raised, I would be wary
about using Facebook in a course.


Joan Korenman, WMST-L Co-Manager
WMST-L-request  AT  listserv.umd.edu (for WMST-L help)
jskor AT umbc.edu
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 15:24:04 -0700
From: Betty J Glass <glass AT UNR.EDU>
Subject: current FB glitch RE: Social media and the classroom
From the CNN Web page today, a story about a FaceBook privacy glitch
they are currently fixing:


Betty J. Glass, Special Collections Librarian
Special Collections & Archives Dept.
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center/0322
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0322
glass  AT  unr.edu
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 19:50:50 -0400
From: Monica Melton <mmelton07 AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Thanks to everyone that responded to my query! I have a personal and a work
fb page but it seems like privacy issues could be a problem. Given the
influence of social media in today's society, a classroom social media
software tool must be just around the next corner-right?
Thanks again
mmelton07  AT  gmail.com
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 21:22:44 -0500
From: Laura Sells <laura AT VOXYGEN.NET>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Monica, I'm not sure what you mean when you say you have a personal and work
fb page. A page is different than an account. When you have an account, you
have a wall and a profile. A page is something that you "fan" (or, actually
after the latest tweak, you "like"). I have a work account and a personal
account. I set up pages for all my classes with my work persona as the
administrator. The benefit of using pages is that students do not need an
account to see the information I post. The benefit of being a fan, though,
is that they will get my postings in their news stream. There is some
content that non-fans won't have access to -- stuff like project videos
loaded up by other students who have turned on privacy settings. Also,
non-fans (and therefore people w/o accounts) can't post on the wall or add
to the discussion -- but they can read it. I would say that 75 percent of my
students have fanned the pages. I have a link on blackboard directly to the
facebook page.

There was a big discussion about social media on the POD (professional and
organizational development network -- the people who run teaching
enhancement centers) listserv recently, which is where I learned the trick
of setting up a FB page for students. There are some studies that show FB
does create immediacy (as someone pointed out here) and that students like
it as long as the instructor maintains a somewhat professional demeanor.

As for extra work, if you're on FB a lot, it's not really extra work.

Also, in my experience with my students, there are traditional age students
who don't want to be on FB and non-traditional age students who are addicted
to it, so I don't think age is a factor, especially since many marketing
sites are saying that the boomers are the fastest growing age group on FB.

Laura Sells
Date: Wed, 5 May 2010 19:24:08 -0700
From: Jessica Nathanson <janathanson AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
I want to second Joan's comment about privacy concerns and to add that
one of the problems with FB is that it's easy to forget who you are
friends with, which then makes it easy to share information with
people whom you would have preferred not to share it (even something
as innocuous as a comment about a t.v. show: maybe you don't want your
colleagues to know that you watch that show, or maybe you don't want
your students to know that you were watching that show instead of
grading their papers.).

If I can channel Ms. Mentor for a minute, there's another problem with
FB that I'd like to point out. I've seen a number of instructors quote
their students' poorly-written papers on FB or make other comments
about their students that could be perceived as disparaging.  I think
this is a dangerous practice.  What if you decide to friend a student
who has graduated and they poke around your FB pages and find a quote
from their paper or from a paper by someone they know?  Or, what if
one of your FB friends ends up on the hiring committee of the job that
you apply for and perceives what you see as harmless venting as making
fun of your students in a public forum?  Neither of these
possibilities seems unlikely, and in this case, you run a huge
professional risk.

Finally - I do friend current students, only because I was new to FB
the first time students asked to friend me and I hadn't yet
established a policy.  If I had it to do over again, I think I might
have a policy of not friending current students.  But one alternative
is to accept friend requests but set my privacy settings so that some
of all of my information is hidden from certain individuals on my
friends list (I can also hide their posts so that I don't see them).
Bottom line - I'm learning not to post anything that I don't want
everyone to see (I'm already thinking about what will happen if this
message becomes part of the WMST-L File Collection and comes up with a
Google search of my name).  Jessica

Jessica Nathanson
Director, Women's Resource Center and Women's Studies Program
Augsburg College
Minneapolis, MN
nathanso  AT  augsburg.edu
Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 08:22:20 -0400
From: Monica Melton <mmelton07 AT GMAIL.COM>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
I have a personal account that I open to real friends only. I also have a
work account that I use for work only (including former students). I haven't
been that active on my work account but I set it up so that I don't have any
of the concerns mentioned by others in previous posts.
Laura, thanks for sharing how to set up a work account with "pages" and
"fans" and the different ways they can be used effectively in the classroom.
I'm at a school with traditional students and I can barely get them off
their cell phones during our class sessions. I've been thinking lately if I
can't beat them maybe I should join them. Thanks to everyone for sharing
your insight and experience with social media and the classroom.
mmelton07  AT  gmail.com
Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 09:01:21 -0500
From: "jecdrc1 AT earthlink.net" <jecdrc1 AT earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Monica Melton wrote: "I'm at a school with traditional students and I
can barely get them off their cell phones during our class sessions."

I know this kind of statement is (at least for the moment still)
hyperbole, but I'm interested in other's thoughts -- what is the
appropriate role for educators?  Will individuals intermediation of
real life by a screen existence simply become the general experience?
Or, will students "outgrow" this behavior at some point? Or, does a
liberal arts education include examination of the differences between
mediated and unmediated experience and encouragement to place a higher
valuation on immediate, unmediated experiences? Does feminism, in
particular, support either point of view?  
JoAnn Castagna
Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 08:57:53 -0700
From: Betty J Glass <glass AT UNR.EDU>
Subject: Privacy - Social media and the classroom
This is the first "Choose Privacy Week," and the American Library
Association provides a link to a video, "Choose Privacy," which may be
of interest.

Here's the article, with the video link below:


"Choose Privacy" video:


Betty J. Glass, Special Collections Librarian
Special Collections & Archives Dept.
Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center/0322
University of Nevada, Reno
Reno, NV 89557-0322
Date: Fri, 7 May 2010 08:22:07 -0700
From: Jessica Nathanson <janathanson AT YAHOO.COM>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
Another thought re. using FB as a site for class discussion - it may
violate the privacy laws that colleges are bound by.  FB exists to
sell information, and all information is retained by both FB and those
to whom it sells information.  Since colleges and universities are not
allowed to share student information - including student class
participation comments - using FB as a site for course
information/interaction could violate this and make you and your
institution liable.  Privacy settings don't really help - deleting FB
accounts and pages does not mean that FB does not retain the
information, and I don't know that you can make pages private if the
user accounts are not also set to private...even if you can, as we've
been seeing every 6 months or so, FB is determined for its users to
share information and keeps finding ways to make this happen.  Jessica

Jessica Nathanson
Director, Women's Resource Center and Women's Studies Program
Augsburg College
Minneapolis, MN
nathanso  AT  augsburg.edu
Date: Sat, 8 May 2010 20:08:19 -0400
From: Nicole Garner <ngarner10 AT JCU.EDU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
I had a good experience using Facebook in an ethics class this spring.
My students used the Causes application to do projects and they also
made groups for people to protest the treatment of circus animals. I
made a page just for our class and we shared the username/password so
no one had to use their private account unless they chose to
(includign myself). We also only linked to pages related to class,
like the AIDS Taskforce and Jane Goodall so we were also not linked to
any personal pages at all. I was really proud of some of the pages my
students made. They left them up for other people to link to and get
information from. I think it would be interesting to put together the
different kinds of things classes have done. My thesis advisor wants
to teach a class com[pletely on Facebook, I think that may be going a
bit overbaord though.

Nicole Garner, M.A.
Adjunct Professor of Philosophy
Historian for the Society for Women in Philosophy, Eastern Division
Notre Dame College
Office- Administration Building Rm. 445
4545 College Road
South Euclid, Ohio 44121-4293
email Ngarner10  AT  jcu.edu
      ngarner  AT  ndc.edu
Date: Sun, 9 May 2010 10:28:39 +1000
From: Bronwyn Winter <bronwyn.winter AT SYDNEY.EDU.AU>
Subject: Re: Social media and the classroom
hello all

I agree with all the concerns to date concerning privacy, duty of care to
students and indeed, excaberation of staff workloads as more and more is
expected of us in these areas : 24/7 availability!

re nicole's thesis advisor:

On 9/05/10 10:08 AM, "Nicole Garner" <ngarner10  AT  JCU.EDU> wrote:
My thesis advisor wants to teach a class com[pletely on Facebook, I think
that may be going a bit overbaord though.

This further raises the issue of intellectual property.  If the teacher
wishes to post all materials via Facebook, then Facebook can claim ownership
of those materials.  This may not only breach your University's intellectual
property rule in relation to teaching materials but also prevent you from
continuing to have shared intellectual property rights in those materials.
In Australia at least, universities typically claim intellectual property
over our teacher-authored materials but then give us unlimited license to
re-use those materials in any other context we wish (but so can they if we
leave the university - this does not, however, extend to removing our moral
rights over materials we author, as these rights are inalienable.)

anyway, it seems that there are both ethical and legal dilemmas here,
including those related to one's contract of employment with the university.


Dept of French Studies
School of Languages and Cultures | Faculty of Arts

Room 747 Brennan MacCallum Building A18
The University of Sydney | NSW | 2006 | Australia

E  bronwyn.winter  AT  sydney.edu.au
W http://sydney.edu.au/arts/french/staff/bronwyn_winter.shtml

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