face (F2F) learning. Of course, it’s not
always superior to F2F modalities, but
under the right conditions, Facebook
should be the medium of choice for
Frequently, we make judgments
about people based solely on appearance. We don’t take time to really
know them. And when we allow one’s
physical appearance to shape our
opinions without building rapport,
we often arrive at faulty conclusions.
On Facebook, however, we can peruse
the person’s information; interactions
with others; personal, professional,
and political tendencies; and the nature of the communities he or she is
constructing and nurturing. So, if we
are wise, we will use social networking
tools as a precursor to F2F encounters. And as we educators model such
behavior, we will enhance the productivity of the personal networks our
students are developing.
On Facebook we can peruse a person’s information; interactions with
others; personal, professional, and political tendencies; and the nature
of the communities he or she is constructing and nurturing.
Facebook is also a significant time
saver. Each of us has gotten “caught”
by someone who, during a F2F encounter, can’t stop talking. Frequent,
lengthy conversations about topics of
little interest rob us and our students
of productivity. Facebook transmits
shorter messages rapidly, and, due to
its asynchronous nature, interruptions
are kept to a minimum.
In contrast to the F2F scenario,
Facebook allows for facile transport
of supporting multimedia documentation, such as videos and photos,
to make a point clearly and quickly.
Embedded multimedia components
provide immediate evidence that helps
one judge the value of accompanying
material and comments. Facebook
also allows users to embed hyperlinks
in messages for immediate learning
and/or general enlightenment. This is
not possible in F2F interaction.
And because Facebook is agnostic
regarding geography and personal
schedules, its message is always timely.
For this reason alone, social networking
should be given serious consideration as
a 21st-century learning tool.
Let’s give Facebook a chance to
be the occasional forerunner to F2F
relationships. Surely we will witness
an enthusiastic expansion of learner
Larry S. Anderson, PhD, retired from the Technology and Education faculty at Mississippi State University in 2000 and now devotes 100% of his time to
public speaking, writing, and consulting. Anderson
founded the National Center for Technology Planning in 1992 and currently acts as its CEO.
least for as long as education is a human endeavor with humanistic objectives. We cannot allow ourselves to be
convinced that everyone is best served
by Facebook any more than we can
continue to convince ourselves that
every student needs to be able to excel
on standardized tests. Such either/or
scenarios have no place in the future
of education. The radical shift in the
educational paradigm precludes such
ancient attitudes. Students and teachers must be freed from the tyranny of
finite choices and facile solutions.
The Internet has opened up a world
of possibilities for us and our students.
But we must refrain from making
hasty, confining choices and remain
open to opportunities that we have yet
to imagine. Face-to-face, for example,
allows for the development of skills
that would never be addressed in an
exclusively online context. Haven’t
we all, as educators, found ourselves
reading students’ facial expressions
Face-to-face allows for the development of skills that would never be
addressed in an exclusively online context. Haven’t we all, as educators,
found ourselves reading students’ facial expressions and body language?
and body language? I have honed my
intuition concerning the unspoken
needs or concerns of my students
through careful attention to such
clues, and I see a real value in helping
my students to be similarly attentive
in a social context.
And although group projects can
be, and often are, accomplished regardless of geographical proximity, the
social skills acquired through face-to-face collaboration will continue to be
of value to our students in whatever
career paths they choose. Likewise,
face-to-face also allows, and often
requires, some degree of student aptitude in public speaking. Clearly this
ability can be improved only through
Go ahead, use Facebook! Allow its
use among your students and explore
its potential. But avoid the temptation to designate it as the teaching
tool of the future. I have no doubt that
Facebook and its like are here to stay,
and that they will be useful for many.
Nonetheless, communication among
learners should not be confined to
We must not take an essentially bad
give it a 21st-century spin. That, most
assuredly, is not progress!
Ellen Kemeza Hildenbrand is a teacher at the
Academy of Notre Dame de Namur in Villanova,
Pennsylvania. She holds an MS in education (
instructional technology) and an MA in theology.
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