This article first appeared http://ethosconsultancynz.ning.com/profiles/blogs/are-you-thinking-of-adding
As a teacher, coach or manager, you are probably wondering whether the world’s biggest social networking service may be of use to you. The big advantage of Facebook is that is easily takes an offline community to online. The flexibility of social media is tempting, as it creates a unique opportunity for teachers, coaches and managers to establish communities of practice that support our students, players and employees.
There is no doubt the most popular social network application is Facebook (Hew, 2010). From your own experience you will know that managing a complex and varied interactions, with students, staff and players is demanding. You can be forgiven for being keen to find an open, easy to use, and widely accepted online application to support your key functions, of design, assessment, facilitation and evaluation. Facebook is the online application widely used by students, staff, and players. It may be a tool to relieve some of the demands of managing interactions. But really, can Facebook facilitate an online community of practice?
What is an online Community of Practice?
A course, a programme or a project can easily be identified as a community of practice, (Ayling, 2010). Relationships between participants allow the domain, the community and the practice to develop and grow. The participants share commonality in their interests and passion for their activity or work. Moving to an online community of practice should bring together people who share and generate knowledge into a mutually supportive environment, (Misanchuk and Anderson, 2001). The online community is likely to be driven by individual members who desire to share experiences, knowledge and ideas. The unique aspect of the community is the way in which the members use the technology, and particularly how they engage with social networking services such as Facebook (Wenger, 2009). The real advantage is the opportunity for social interaction to support learning.
So what are the benefits of Facebook?
More recent research by Isacsson & Gretzel, (2011) has demonstrated positive use of Facebook in support of collaborative learning projects. Facebook illustrates the potential of social media in creating engaging learning environments. The study situates the theoretical discussion of the value of edutainment and the promise of social media to foster self-directed and social learning. The findings provide good foundations for the conceptualisation of social media use in education and practical implications for educators who would like to integrate social media in their teaching, coaching or managing.
Facebook provides the opportunity for engagement and collaboration in a wider learning community. Interestingly, research indicates students are no more likely to engage in Facebook than they are with any other online learning tool (DeSchryer et al., 2009). Participation will depend upon a clear articulation of the advantages of social networking services, training in appropriate behaviour, managing personal and professional self, and ensuring personal safety. Antoci and others (2010) conclude that through both face-to-face encounters and online networking, the stock of the Internet’s social capital will continue to increase. Educators have to decide whether they want to invest in the creation of this social capital.
What are the challenges in using Facebook in my work?
Reynard (2009) and Hayman (2009) have identified the key challenges in using social networking in educative environments. Hayman (2009) identified the greatest challenge to online communities is participant’s willingness to ‘present’ ideas publicly. In preparing participants for the online environment (Reynard, 2009) the teacher, coach or manager will need to ensure participants have the confidence, learner autonomy and collaborative learning skills to participate in any learning community. Everyone will need to have the same skill sets to fully participate and gain benefit from the community of practice.
What will I need to do to make this work?
Your role, if you are ready to accept it, will be to identify and foster the key skills for participation and collaboration in the online community of practice. Following the ideas of Blogger, Marcia Connor (2008) you will need to foster skills including traditional literacy, research, technical skills, and critical analysis. You will need to encourage and develop your student’s, players, and employee’s skills, knowledge, ethical frameworks and self-confidence to participate in contemporary society, which includes an online community of practice.
Understanding why people participate online provides useful clues for the design and facilitation of the of your Facebook page. Kollock (1999) and Noff (2008) have found motivations include:
- Exchanging of information and ideas
- Acknowledging of expertise or contribution
- Supporting the community
- Belonging to community
- Sharing commitment to the community
From our reading a number of themes and issues have emerged that will need to be addressed and investigated if Facebook is to be used as an online support your activities. These issues are complex and variable depending on the age, digital and foundational literacies of your participants. The first issue is resistance to online social networking services. This resistance is based on a number of reservations and concerns including, privacy, appropriation of ideas and property (intellectual) and online based learning communities of practice.
The second issue is the presentation of online self, particularly the tension between private and public self. Included within this topic are concerns about digital and foundations literacies, and appropriateness of participation. Teachers have genuine concerns about using Facebook in higher education. Roblyer et al. (2010) explain that “Unless this tendency changes and faculty perceive Facebook and its sister technologies, both current and those to come, as additional opportunities for educational communication and mentoring, SNSs (social networking services) may become yet another technology that had great potential for improving the ….education experience but failed to be adopted enough to have any real impact.” We hope that doesn’t happen.
What are the big barriers to introducing Facebook in my work?
Everyone will share concerns about the use of Facebook. As Hewit and Forte (2006) explain students must balance the potential social gain with the relinquishing of some control over the presentation of self. Students mainly use Facebook to keep in touch with people they already know. In an academic sense they use it to share lecture notes, ideas and to be informed of academic activity (Bosch, 2009). Kolek and Saunders (2008) have found that Facebook is preferred by women and therefore, women are likely to be more receptive to use in education. Lampe et al. (2006) report Facebook was used to keep in contact with friends from high school rather than make new connections in fields of study or profession.
Using Facebook to support learning will be a new use of a familiar tool for many participants. Be sure, everyone will require training on netiquette for Facebook in a professional setting. Facebook has the facility to create groups, so that professional contacts and personal contacts can be separated. Participants will need training in creating and managing groups, so they can separate their personal and professional selves.
How do people use Facebook?
Christofides and others (2009) report that students spend approx 40 minutes per day on Facebook. Not everyone will be willing or able to commit to Facebook on a daily basis. Facebook is likely to compete with other communication tools including email, intranets and websites. Lewis and West (2009) have identified that students view Facebook as fun and not part of serious study or professional networking. This may conflict with your expectations. Madge et al., (2009) have found that students are beginning to acknowledge that Facebook could be used for learning purposes. This behaviour tended to be initiated by the students themselves rather than teachers. However, Ophus and Abbitt (2009) report that 85% of students have never used Facebook to communicate with an instructor. Selwyn (2009) only 4% of postings relate to academic use. It is however, likely that students, players and employees will be more open to social networking services for administration than learning purposes. You will need to decide which if any of these purposes suit you. It could well be that Facebook enhances the administrative side of your activity but not the learning.
Christofides and others (2009) also found Facebookers disclose more about themselves on Facebook than they do in casual conversation. They post personal information such as photographs, birthdays, email addresses, hometowns and relationship status. However, Lewis and West (2009) found that women are more likely to have private profiles than men. Interestingly, Mazer et al., (2009) found that teachers who disclose more about themselves on Facebook to their students are more likely to be considered as trustworthy and caring than their counterparts. That may be a good reason to get involved.
So there you are, a brief but up to date summary of where Facebook is placed in education and the creation of online communities of practice. We know a number of people are considering the move, and some have already made it. We would love to hear about your concerns, and your lessons learned from using Facebook to create online communities of practice.
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