I was looking at PraxisWiki which collects ideas for scholars and teachers about the intersections of rhetoric and technology.
A post that caught my attention yesterday (after I had just read the latest huge stats for Facebook use by Americans) is titled "Using Facebook as a Teaching Tool" and was contributed by Elaine Childs at the University of Tennessee. It begins:
"My English 101 class at the University of Tennessee is called “‘It Was Like That When I Got Here: The Simpsons and Postmodern America,” and I’ve taught it three times so far. This year, in order to standardize first-semester composition at UT, the English department established a sequence of required assignments that emphasize rhetoric. This change created a need to update my course requirements to reflect the new emphasis, and one of the ways I did this was by making use of the social-networking website, Facebook... Blackboard seemed too impersonal and “academic” for my purposes, so I created a group on Facebook.com..."
Though her experiment went well...
"I am convinced that placing course material in students’ social space promotes the demystification of writing, the university, and the instructor. Facebook’s informality led to bad manners and disrespect very infrequently and certainly not more often than occurs in email exchanges. Moreover, those issues may be dealt with more productively on Facebook because discipline becomes less an exercise of power and more of a gentle reminder about social codes and recognition of expertise."
the experiment was not without problems...
"Of course, it is foreseeable that students might misuse Facebook’s informality, as one student did when she messaged me to say that I had “overreacted” by failing her for transgressing the university’s plagiarism policy and that she didn’t think I should report her. Like any variety of inappropriate student conduct, however,excessive informality on Facebook may be managed by creating clear boundaries and firmly maintaining them. All in all, my experience with using Facebook as a teaching tool was unequivocally positive."