According to a study on students in an Ontario middle school, 73% of students report using Facebook as an educational tool (Fewkes & McCabe, 2012). While some think that the overuse of Facebook can be a distraction to learning, they mostly agree that there are some advantages to creating a class Facebook group. Some benefits they cited: organizing structured discussion, asking teachers/friends about homework, reminding about quizzes and exams, access to test banks, other materials (PPT, lesson notes, sketch notes, ...)
So as teachers, how can we organize a Facebook group to help facilitate students' learning?
Establish course logistics, rules
Social media can be a dangerous place, where people attack each other personally because of different opinions. To organize a healthy environment for your students, teachers should establish clear rules at the beginning of the class, and use appropriate punishments if these rules are broken. Samples of the rules include:
Be respectful to other classmates
Do not post irrelevant content, advertisement, etc. on the group (points will be deduced)
For each post, students should follow a clear structure (title, body, endnote) and use the appropriate hashtags.
Other logistics need to be clarified. For example, to give students an understanding of responsibility, you can give each student administration rights and rotate that regularly. When students take charge of the filtering and posting process, they will recognize the problems that administrators of a group have to encounter. They will learn that there is certain content from classmates that are inappropriate and should not be posted to a study group. Therefore, the students are more likely to listen to you when you ask them to follow guidelines for a healthy online exchange of opinions and ideas.
What should you, as the instructor, post?
Scenario 1: Organize a hybrid discussion
You are teaching an ELA class, and you want students to think creatively. You can assign reading to students and ask them to post three questions they have to the Facebook group. Each student post three items on his thread, and you can make each student comment on others' post. So, one student – 3 questions, one comment in others' posts.
In class, you can have a debrief by picking out the most creative questions and let the class have a group discussion. The purpose of this debrief is not to reach an answer to those questions (if they can, then they are more than welcomed), but more like a way for them to dig deeper into the source of this curiosity.
Scenario 2: An archive for class materials
You are teaching a biology class on "cells". Some students find it hard to visualize concepts like special cells or microscopy. Without the Facebook group, you might print out the leaflets of the definitions and explanation and give it to your students. A sample of that handout can look like this:
When they come back home, they might lose it into a ton of handouts they have received earlier in other classes. It will be very difficult for them to pull out the right handout after a few lessons have passed. A solution to lost handouts can be posting these on your class Facebook group. You can use the "pin" function to pin that to the front of the class group feed, which allows students to easily access the materials at the tip of their fingers.
Besides pictograms and infographics, you can post other relevant materials: videos, attachments, test banks, quiz preparation, study guide, etc. depends on the requirements of your class. Last, you can monitor students' engagement by giving quizzes in class about the materials you post online.
Scenario 3: Online debate
Sometimes, you encounter online debates about current controversial topics and wonder what your students think about these? In this case, you can organize a structured discussion on Facebook by posting the link to the current event on your group, and ask students for their opinions. Do they agree or disagree? What is their evidence? Let them have a healthy exchange of ideas. If you perceive a debate has gone out of hands or need a resolution from teachers, you can close or restrict access to the post.