One Learner’s Journey

MaryH’s blog for reflecting on the EVO08 SMiELT session

Voices and Ears January 25, 2008

Gladys Baya set up a wiki whiteboard at Facebook entitled “Voices and Ears”, and blogged “A Case for Social Networks (Facebook).  She posed a question that I am really interested in exploring, “How can teachers make effective use of Facebook for their professional development?”

First, I think Facebook allows us to strengthen the relationships we have with other members of online communities of practice.  In my opinion, this social networking tool is valuable, especially for educators like me, who are deeply involved in online communities of practice.  Facebook allows me to connect with colleagues who I do not know face-to-face; thus, I get to know them in a different light.  For instance, I have been interacting professionally on an almost daily basis with the co-moderators of Blogging4Educators over the past 6 months or so; however, it isn’t until I visit their Facebook pages (or other social media sites, such as Flickr) that I get to know them more personally: their families, interests, travels, and so on.  Also, Facebook allows us to interact in different ways: we can play Scrabulous, throw sheep at each other, and send greetings!  Although some people may claim that they don’t have time for these kinds of things and that they are a waste of time (and I would have to agree with them!), they are entertaining and do add a humorous and personal touch to supplement the interaction we have on discussion lists.

Next, Facebook can help us network with colleagues who we may be able to meet face-to-face.  For example, during the EVO moderators training, I added other moderators as friends in Facebook.  After doing so, I realized that a moderator of another session lived in Japan, and that we would be attending and presenting at the same conference soon!  Although we missed each other at the conference, we may run into each other in the future.  Also, a Facebook group for TESOL members attending the upcoming conference in NYC has formed, and we are making more connections.  I think this is the real strength of Facebook: a place to make connections.  No, we don’t get much work done on Facebook, but we make connections, and ideas spark.  You see, the idea for this post was inspired by a question on a wiki application on Facebook 🙂

In addition to adding online contacts, I searched Facebook for former professors and peers from graduate school, and found many of them had accounts on Facebook.  Even though we know each other through face-to-face interaction, we are now living in working all over the globe!  By reconnecting and becoming friends on Facebook, I found some great professional information through shared notes, links, and groups.  Also, through private messages, I am now up-to-date on what they are working on professionally and personally.

Groups are a great feature because many of them are connected to academic professional organizations, sites, or events, it is a great way to get to know about useful professional resources.  As Gladys mentioned, I created a Facebook group for Learning with Computers, but we still have to explore it further to discover how it can be used most effectively.  If the Facebook group activity showed up on the News Feed page, it might be easier to get members more involved, and to see more action or progress being made in these groups.  For now though, I see the groups as a way to further connect with colleagues, and to get more professional information.

Finally, Facebook can be used as a kind of place to collect and share the things we are doing with other Web 2.0 tools.  On my Facebook page, for example, I have my blog posts, Twitter updates, bookmarks in delicious, photos, and so on, allowing us a place to share our voices while our friends listen; hence, “Voices and Ears” is the title of Gladys’ wiki whiteboard.

Of course, I use Facebook not only for professional reasons, but also personal ones.  I am really interested in other ways to use Facebook for professional development, and how others envision using it to enhance their professional lives.


8 Responses to “Voices and Ears”

  1. Gabriela Sellart Says:

    Nice post, Mary. It has kept me thinking. I have a Facebook account and I never use it.
    You have convinced me. I’ll explore it.

  2. Gladys Baya Says:

    Dear, sweet Mary,

    You keep talking educators into trying Facebook, good for you! 😉 One thing I’ve found really useful is the Facebook notifier I’ve been able to integrate onto my Pageflakes. As that’s my homepage, and I regularly keep it updated, just peeping there I get an idea of what’s going on at Facebook.. I expect to learn to make better use of it during 2008!

    Keep blogging, you’re an inspiration to many!


  3. illyasoet Says:

    I am not yet a user of facebook, but it’s interesting for me to see how others use it. It’s posts like yours that raise my curiosity!

  4. onelearnersjourney Says:

    So far, I have had a really positive experience with Facebook. However, I should really become more active in reading about the privacy policy of Facebook. From my point of view, my generation has a lot to gain from social networking sites because we can reconnect with former classmates we lost touch with and hadn’t been in contact with for some years; it is like a reunion almost! At the same time, we can connect and reconnect on a professional level, and having all sorts of different friends is what inspires me. Hope to see you on Facebook, Illya and Gabriela!

  5. sarahbraxton Says:

    I also have a facebook account, but use it only to see the photos that document my son’s exploits in Hawaii! It sounds like a great tool for professional networking. Perhaps we should add it as something to investigate during this course…

  6. Patricia Glogowski Says:

    Thanks for this great post on Facebook, Mary. I think you point out a lot of good aspects of Facebook and I completely agree with you; I think one of the next sessions of EVO should be on the potentials of Facebook in professional development, social networking, and education (and perhaps in something else?). I know that I have benefited from being on Facebook in many different ways, and you greatly summarize it in your post.

    I think the biggest change that Facebook has brought to my life was the shift in the way I think about my presence on line and my privacy. Last year or before that I was really apprehensive of putting information about myself online but, at the same time, I wanted to benefit from networking with other professionals in the field and from staying in touch with former students. This conflict or tension in not wanting to expose myself (I had been a very private person up to then) and the idea need to show who I am was somewhat (and gradually) resolved with Facebook. Because it is somewhat a closed environment and requires a password and a network, it felt more secure than other social sites. In a way, it eased my coming out into the virtual space. Now, I feel more confident and I also see how belonging to social networks such as Facebook can help establish and maintain professional ties.

    Thanks for making a case for Facebook!

  7. […] Thanks, Mary, for your post about the use of Facebook. Also, thanks, Joao, for the Twitter […]

  8. onelearnersjourney Says:

    Hi Patricia,
    After seeing an update from you that you loved Facebook, I was looking forward to your comment! It would be great if there were an EVO session dedicated to various aspects of online professional development, including the use of Facebook and other social networking sites. Educators should be aware of their potential for building professional networks; also, by being active users of social networking, we can provide students with more accurate information on how to use social networking appropriately.

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