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Guest Post: Using Facebook and Companion Tools in Teaching

Posted on June 5, 2014.

This summer the HPU Tech Blog will be featuring blog posts from professors at High Point University who are actively using technology tools in the classroom.  This is the fourth in the series, written by Daniel Hall.  Daniel Hall is an Assistant Professor of Economics.  Here is his post:

Using Facebook and Companion Tools in Teaching

What are some of the advantages of using Facebook in Teaching?

One important advantage is greater access to your students’ attention.  Students check Facebook more often than any other course companion because they use it socially and access it on multiple devices.  This means that students are more likely to respond to your announcements.  The multiple devices mean that you can clarify assignments or add announcements when you are away from your computer using your smartphone.

Another advantage is correspondence becomes a public good. Students can tutor other students by posting course-related content. Your answer to one student’s question informs the entire class and you also avoid having multiple students ask the same question via email.

Finally, Facebook makes online discussion assignments more social and easy to organize and search, which promotes student participation.

What kinds of content can I share on Facebook?

If you can link it, you can share it easily by pasting it in a general group post or a ask question post.

You can also upload photos or videos, and even upload photo albums (have a student up front photo your notes on the whiteboard).

You can upload files directly from your computer or from your Dropbox account once linked.  You may want to add a keyword or two so students can search for the file later within the group.

Companion Tools:

You may want to (but don’t but don’t always have to) shorten your link using TinyURL, https://bitly.com/, or http://ow.ly/url/shorten-url.

You should store your course files using a cloud-based storage system like Dropbox.  This will allow for you to create public links to your files, and students will always get the current version when they click the link.  No more re-uploading revisions!  A thumbnail is also created with the name of the file.

If you upload the file using your Dropbox account it will create a file that can be accessed from the “Files” tab of the group toolbar.  However, only the 20 most recently uploaded files will be displayed there.

What kinds of discussion/activities can I facilitate on Facebook?

The simple discussion post – Use the “Write Post” button to link some media content and ask a question about it for students to answer or reflect upon.

The survey/quizzing post – Use the “Ask Question” button to create a multiple choice question on content or survey to start a classroom debate.

Ask students to post media content to share inside or outside of class.

Let students coordinate study sessions or divide up tasks when working in a group.

When should I post on Facebook?

You should avoid posting too frequently on your Facebook group as you may start to lose their attention.

Also note that the most recent post goes on top, so avoid posting your announcement too early or students will have to scroll to find it.  You can pin the post to stay at the top, but the post is still not easily viewed on smartphones.

Companion Tools: 

You can sign up for a free Hootsuite account to link up to 4 Facebook groups.  You then can schedule your posts to appear right before class, when students are most likely to view them.  Also, if you are sending the same post to multiple classes you can do so from your Hootsuite dashboard.

How do I track a student’s participation on Facebook?

You can search for the student’s name in the search bar for your Facebook group.  Each time a student comments on a post or posts himself will appear.  Simple “like” and “Ask Question” responses will not appear when you search their name.  You can also see how many students have viewed your post, but this is no guarantee that they have read it as they could have simply refreshed their device or marked it as read.  This makes grading participation and extra credit easy.

Ok, I’m interested so how do I get setup?

Yes, you will need your own Facebook account.  You may want to beef up your privacy settings and consider a student Friend request policy.

Creating a Group

  1. In left panel of your Facebook page, click “Add Group”
  2. Add a group name
  3. Choose privacy options: Outside High Point, Closed or Secret
  4. You will have to add a friend to create “a group” but you can later remove them.
  5. Give students your group name and/or URL to join.

Main Facebook Toolbar

facebooktoolbar

From left to right…
“f” is for home
Search bar to quickly find your group
Friend Requests
Messages from Students
Notifications that students have “liked” or commented on a post
“Home” is also for home
“Daniel” is to go to your profile
Privacy Shortcuts
Your profile settings
(Below toolbar) “Add a cover photo” if you want to cover student profiles

Group Toolbar

grouptoolbar

From Left to Right

Message Board – where all posts and comments appear
List of Members – Use to “remove” or message individually
Events – Use to remind students of important assignments
Photos – upload photo or video
Files – create doc or upload file (use Dropbox)
Notifications – turn off during class or just turn the sound off
Settings button – (add description, edit posting permissions)
Search within group button – better than webpage search! It gives list of results by subject or post (so give posts a similar name in advance)

Posting Toolbar

postingtoolbar

From Left to Right

Write Post – best for making announcements, discussions, and posting videos on the fly
(hyperlinks auto-generate removable thumbnails)
Add Photo/Video – Upload Photos/Video OR Create Photo Album (unnecessary if you your video/photo is on the net)

Ask Question – Most difficult to use, great for MC and icebreakers for discussion
Add File – From Your Computer OR From Your Dropbox (if Desktop App Installed, makes it a public link so students always have the latest version)

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