Follow-up: Do we want Facebook in the classroom?

geek-hierarchyIt has been almost two months since I wrote this post on introducing Facebook into my classroom.

Well, to put it bluntly – I have been blown away by the reception that the experiment has received from students.

To re-cap, I created a ‘professional’ Facebook identity that did away with most of the personal, social and family aspects of a Facebook page. There is very little personal information about me other than my gender and my name. I did this because I have concerns with the amount of personal information that I let into the public domain.

The aim of this experiment was to determine if students would be interested in using Facebook as a means of communicating, collaborating and discussing topics that were solely school-based. I hypothesized that students would be reluctant to accept this type of interaction as I believe that students see Facebook as primarily a social tool. They use it to interact with their friends and to explore their developing characters – not to share ideas with their teachers.

What I love most about the scientific method is that being wrong isn’t a bad thing! In fact, being wrong is where the best learning happens…

and boy was I wrong!

Starting with the Student Leadership Group – I joined a pre-existing group started by one of the College Captains. This space is used to share ideas and information. I have been able to create evolving Agendas via Google Docs that each Captain can update and add to in their own time. This has helped make sure that our meetings are concise and relevant. The feedback from the Captains has been overwhelmingly positive and they have accepted my presence of FB without a problem.

Taking a leap of faith, I set-up a group for my Year 11 Physics class and this too has become an invaluable area to share information. That was followed by the Year 10 Science group. And then the Peer Supporter group..

The results have brushed aside any concerns that I originally had about using FB in the classroom. Students that are wary of their privacy are free to not join the groups; they can still access the information through the usual channels (email, intranet, etc)

There have been a few roadblocks that I have noticed that are worth sharing:

  • Some parents are concerned that their child is at a disadvantage because they are not permitted on FB.
  • Particular colleagues are wary of my reasons for being in contact with students via FB – am I permitting an attitude of all-the-time, any-time in my students?
  • Having no access to FB at school hinders the conversation

For me – this experiment has been a monumental success. I look forward to involving my students more in discussions about how we can best utilize technology in our interactions.

One last thing, I am also keeping a more open mind to the technologies that students are using in their lives. I missed FB for so long, I wonder what other opportunities might be out there for us?

Do we want Facebook in the classroom?

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

It has been said (by me, at least!) that a sure fire way to get a student to leave an area is to go and stand close to them. I call it ‘Simpson’s Zone of Proximal Awkwardness’.

Try it next time you are in the yard on duty and you want a student to move back to class. Stand next to them – they’ll leave very quickly.

Using Facebook is borderline ubiquitous now. With over 500 million active users, it would make sense to tap into such a vast collection of people/ideas/groups in order to generate teachable moments. Wouldn’t it?

My gut says; “I don’t think so”. Here’s why:

  • Students perceive Facebook (FB) as their ‘private’ (oh, the irony – I know!) space for sharing information with their friends and family – not with their teachers.
  • The students have access to the Ultranet at school and home. They won’t see the value in sacrificing their FB privacy when they can achieve similar outcomes in a sanitized area such as the Ultranet.
  • Teenagers are exploring their personalities and their characters, in the online society of FB – this opportunity is important in their self-discovery. They may prefer to keep it separate from their school life.
  • The security precautions required to conduct school tasks on FB is incompatible with the wants & needs of the students & staff.

This is not an exhaustive list, nor are my reasons particularly robust – but my gut tells me that, at least with my own students, using FB as a tool for online collaboration would not work.

So, like any good scientist, I am going to conduct an experiment to test these thoughts:

  1. I have created a Facebook account – using my real name – but with a vast majority of the privacy setting changed to ‘friends only’.
  2. I am going to allow students that I teach to ‘friend’ request me. I will not ‘friend’ request them (they have to want to participate)
  3. I will not upload personal photos or ‘friend’ individuals from outside my immediate school community.
  4. I will keep all status updates, posts or the like purely school-based in nature & content.

What I want to see is, if in the absence of private information (gossip material, in other words!) from me, students are still willing to allow me to be their FB ‘friend’ and to use the platform to conduct school-related collaboration.

I’d love to hear what other educators think of Facebook and its potential in the classroom.

Leave a comment!

Lost your children pages on the Ultranet?

I logged on to the Ultranet a few days ago to find that all of the Children pages that I had put onto my Collaborative spaces were inaccessible!

Frustrated – and mildly panicky! – I emailed the Helpdesk and got the following response:

“This is a known issue and is under investigation.
At the moment Child pages seems to work only working in IE.
The work around for this issue in other browser is to add Site Map Application.
Go to the main page of the space, add Site Map application. It will give the link to the child pages.”

I’ve followed this direction and inserted the Site Map app into my Collaborative space (see below)

Site Map App enabled on a Collaborative space.

Site Map App enabled on a Collaborative space.

My response to the Ultranet helpdesk requested an estimated time of fix – the response was: “This issue is under investigation and I don’t have any ETF as when this issue will be resolved.”

In short, if you use any browser other than IE, you will not have access to the children pages for the foreseeable future.

In the meantime, a cumbersome and rather ugly Site Map is the only answer.

I hope this helps those who feared, as I did, that they had lost their children pages altogether!


Thanks to Helen Carver for the advice on how to make the Site Map look less ‘ugly’:

By clicking the ‘Look and Feel’ tab of the Site Map portlet, there is a section for ‘Advanced Styling’. In this section you are able to input CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) that will ‘bling’ up the portlet.

What is CSS, I hear you ask? To be honest, I’ve got no idea either!

I use the following CSS Generator, created by @ictguy, that takes you through each of the steps to create the CSS code that you simply cut and paste into the Advanced Styling tab!

It really is that easy.

Thanks again to Helen Carver for this tidbit!


What’s in store for 2011?


I’m normally not one for New Year’s Resolutions – why wait for the 31st of December to act on a good idea?

2011 is no different in regards to resolutions, but I have decided that I’m going to put down a list of goals, both professional and personal, that I want to achieve in the coming twelve months.

This is a list that I normally keep in my head, one that I add to and remove from as the months unfold. This process has worked well for me in the past but in the past few months I’ve realised that by keeping my goals private, I’m robbing myself of valuable input and support from the people around me. The huge amount of support that I have received from educators in my School, in my Region (a big shout out to NMR!) and my PLN Tweeps in the past 6 months has shown me the value of the collaborative effort.

So, here goes – this is a list of what I hope to achieve in 2011 (in no particular order):

  1. Lay down the foundation for a better model of Student Leadership at my school
  2. Facilitate a learning experience in my class that allows each student to experience success
  3. To be innovative
  4. Develop a strong learning relationship and rapport with each of my students
  5. Continue to build and grow  my Professional Learning Network (online & offline)
  6. To contribute to the ongoing discussion of how to improve Education
  7. To remain positive, passionate and relaxed
  8. To introduce more gaming into my teaching practice
  9. To continually challenge myself as an Educator.
  10. Learn, and use, the Ultranet to bring out the possibilities!

If I can achieve, or continue to work on, as many of these as possible – 2011 will be a successful year!

Feel free to comment, dissect or discuss!

Innovation in the classroom – what does it look like?

image courtesy of aarontait's photos via Getty Images

image courtesy of aarontait's photos via Getty Images

I read an interesting post this morning about innovation in the classroom.

I’m pretty confident that I use technology hand-in-hand with innovative teaching practice, rather than simply using technology as innovative teaching practice. However, I can see that the real challenge facing educators at this time is not about learning the technology (one look at the educators on Twitter and Edublogs teaching/learning/sharing exceptional skill-sets is evidence of this!) but learning how the technology can be used to support a new approach to education.

What does innovation in the classroom look like to you? Please share your ideas!

To play or not to play…

In a few weeks, it will be my 30th birthday and my ever-thoughtful brother has already sent me my present. We last caught up at Christmas and I mentioned to his partner that I had been keen to look into the prevalence of gaming in my students’ lives. They obviously spoke because yesterday morning the mailman delivered Steven Johnson’s book “Everything Bad is Good For You” (check it out here)

From the information that I can gather online, Steven Johnson is a intelligent individual (read: not some crack-pot!) who is active in the “twittoblogosphere” with his webpage (see it here), essays on technology in society and contributions to numerous blogs. He appears to attract some controversy – and lets face it – anyone who attempts to argue that video games could be making our students smarter, not dumber, is going to attract a fair bit of stick.

Video games must be “bad” for, or at least a distraction from, a students’ education. Right? I do know that in my experience, a typical conversation with a parent about a students’ lack of achievement in class often goes like this:

‘Little Johnny doesn’t do ANY homework. He always says he has finished it at school. I’m lucky if I can get him off [COD, WOW, Ultima, EverQuest] for long enough to have dinner with the family. He even plays it on his phone now! I’m about to disconnect the Internet!’

Last term, when I met my new class for 2011 on orientation day, I was pre-warned in a letter from a parent that one of my students was a die-hard Call of Duty (C.O.D, pronounced cod, like the fish!) player, and that other teachers had described her son as ‘easily distracted, disruptive and, at times, belligerent’.

Gee, I wonder if in a class of 25 I’ll be able to tell which 13 year-old boy he was?

As it turned out, it wasn’t too hard to pick him out – he was the boy wearing the black t-shirt with “CALL OF DUTY 4: MODERN WARFARE” inscribed across the front. Having the day to interact with him, to see him interact with his peers and to question him (gently) about his life and COD, I came to the tentative conclusion that he wasn’t an outrageous, homicidal, terrorist-wannabe. Just a regular kid who liked a computer game.

I relate this story because I’ve thought about it quite a bit over the summer break. I am fascinated to discover what role gaming could play in students’ learning – if any. Personally, I know that video games are HARD. They require a significant investment of time, effort and energy, often for little instantaneous reward. They often demand quick decisions to be made based on incomplete information, all while under pressure. I’m beginning to think that there could be something in adding video-game-play into the classroom?

At least I’d be popular with the students, right?

Teamwork, C.O.D-style?

Teamwork, C.O.D-style? Image courtesy of

Tramping a well-worn path

It’s time I put my hand up and admitted that for all the blogs I’ve started for the classroom or have encouraged students to start – I’ve never actually had my own ‘professional’ blog.

Until now.

This is my first foray into a public process of professional reflection. What works, what doesn’t, what I think, who said what, why I think they said it – the real nuts and bolts of my development from a teaching novice to a… Whatever comes after that!

Reflection is a powerful activity – in life as much as in education. As I reflect on my undertakings both within and without the learning environment, I hope to generate a better insight into the ways that I help and hinder the learning process.