I am a Facebook user. I use it to keep up to date and connected with my friends. I often hear people say, why not use Facebook in the classroom? The students already use it and it would be a great way to send out assignments (basically a replacement for LMS like Blackboard). Here are a few thoughts I have about Facebook and why I like the idea of using Facebook in the classroom but why I think it’s the wrong tool.
I use Facebook as a social device and I like to keep it private. A lot of people that use this site do as well. They share things, stories, videos, pictures, etc. They share very personal things with their friends. Now some students would feel that their privacy would be invaded (even though you can set privacy settings on Facebook). Some faculty may feel the same way. It has a lot of applications that can be used for education, but the most popular ones on Facebook do not have much to do with academics (like Mafia Wars and Which Muppet are You? Quizzes). This is the appeal of Facebook. Would students or faculty like to share that kind of information with one another? Usually no (and this also depends on education level and age).
There is also the assumption that all students are on Facebook. Not so true. Some are on MySpace and some non-traditional students may have never signed up for either a Facebook account or a MySpace account. So as with all technology, there is a learning curve. There is also that fear that once you joining Facebook, people not related to your class (family members, etc), will be asking you to friend them, which runs along the same lines with the privacy issue.
I would like to see a Facebook alternative for the classroom. One that is kind of structured like Blackboard, but has more appeal and social aspects like Facebook. Blogs come to mind to achieve this, but what if the students and teachers want to make the class private (just like viewing a profile on Facebook)? Social interaction apps like the ones Facebook has would make learning a lot more fun and memorable and features like wall messages cold be used for assignment posting and announcements and having a private or group messaging system tied into your email like Facebook has would be great for teacher and students to get in touch about group or individual projects. We need a service that is a clone of Facebook but acts like a online classroom supplement (or distance learning course like Blackboard, Moodle or Sakai). Maybe we can call it FaceClass or Classbook. 😉