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.