What are FaceBook and MySpace?

Students can now "socialize" via the internet.

FaceBook and Myspace are social networking programs designed to allow anyone with a valid email address to talk to other people. These programs allow those, who subscribe to them, the ability to display pictures of themselves and others, tell other users about their lives and hobbies, and talk to other users via messaging in an email style or in an instant message format. Users of these programs can "friend" each other, making a social connection very much like obtaining a phone number. "Friends" usually subsist of family, friends, co-workers, employers, classmates, celebrities, groups, societies, and other various entities. Your "friends" list contains links to each of your friends profiles that contain their specific information that they display. Most importantly, there are areas to talk to your "friends" on their profile page. There are three ways to contact you "friend":

1) The Wall or comment board allow one to post a short message to the person. It can be seen by anyone who is "Friends" with that person other than your self.

2) The message link allows one to send a private email-like message to that particular "friend" FaceBook and Myspace track your conversations based on subject between you and that "Friend". Just like email you can send a message to multiple recipients.

3) Instant messaging: much like an instant messenger program, you can see who is on their faceBook or Myspace page and talk to them directly via the messaging system. (1) (2)

Other tools that FaceBook and Myspace offer are:
Students can communicate with teachers and classmates from anywhere!

Event Listings: allows the user to make an invitation and invite their friends to the event.

News Feeds: allows the user to see updates on their "friends" these updates can range from what they are doing, event they are attending to who they are talking to via wall posts and other indications such as "poking" or "gift" giving.

Postings: elements or listings that the program allows you to upload into the system. Postings can be pictures, notes, links to websites, videos, ads, and made events.

Networks: groups that you can belong to within realm of the system. The network allows one to connect with people that are also in that particular network. For example: The University of Pittsburgh has its own Network. The Network requires them to have an email account that the school offers to join their Network. Once you can prove you have a valid Pitt email account then you are allowed to explore the network for those that are also apart of the network. Once a part of the network, one can view profiles or limited profiles (privacy settings can stop others who are not your "friends" from viewing your profile. You can set the amount of information "others" and "friends" can see in your profile.) and "friend" those people. You are able to view people outside of your networks by individually searching for them in the system. Networks define what you are apart of in the system of Facebook. Myspace does not require networks so you can freely explore anyone's profile or limited profile in the entire social network.

Danah Boyd, a researcher of social software and its use with teenagers, reveals the basic idea of what social networking is in the following video interview (13:57): http://discovermagazine.com/videos/interview-danah-boyd/.

What Learning Theories are Most Applicable to the Use of FaceBook and MySpace?

Social Learning Theory is applicable to social networking sites in that students observe the actions of others through typed communication, photos, videos, and percieve whether or not those communications were reinforced or discouraged by the others in the group. For example, if a teacher responds to a student posting with positive comments, the other students will learn from the outcome of that exchange. The same is true if the teacher's comments are negative. Feedback from the student members of the group will have a similar effect on the learning process as well.

Cognitivism is also involved in the learning process via FaceBook and MySpace in that students are perceiving various stimuli (written, verbal, observational), they are then encoding the information and storing it to memory, and then recalling the information at a later time. The advantage social networking sites give to cognitive learning is that they allow for multiple exposure to the same information (the information remains on the site for the student to access whenever they want) improving both the possibility of storing the information to long term memory (due to multiple exposures) and retrieving that information (due to unlimited exposure to cues).

What are the Benefits of Using FaceBook and MySpace?

The benefit of FaceBook and MySpace in a general sense is that you can communicate with your "friends" without having to meet or call them. In terms of an educational approach, you can create or join a "group" on FaceBook or MySpace that represents your class, your school, or a specific area of educational interest. Membership can be open to the public or by invite only. Some ideas include:
  • A class "group" can be a great tool for communication between the members of a classroom. The teacher can leave messages for students regarding homework assignments and grading, either for the whole class or for an individual student. Teachers can also leave video podcasts as well, providing an opportunity for "face time" with students and allowing an additional forum in which to communicate with students. They can also post video and internet links with material to support the material they are learning. FaceBook and MySpace are also working on integrating their websites with educational technologies such as Blackboard Learn and other programs that are utilized to provide on-line grading systems, student course evaluations and course materials. Students can leave messages and communicate with each other as well, allowing for a question and answer forum (a mentoring opportunity for students) and providing insight on information they have discovered that might assist their classmates.
  • A school "group" is an opportunity to communicate with the entire student body and staff, promoting a more cohesive school community. They provide the benefits of the classroom "group" except on a larger scale. A school group addresses all-school events, activities and policies. For instance, the school Polish Heritage Club may have just returned from a trip to Krakow, Poland. FaceBook and MySpace offer a great opportunity for posting journals, photos and videos of the trip, along with educational information that the students took from it. The same could be said of an athletic team that just competed in the state tournament. Or, perhaps, there is an all-school assembly coming up featuring a speaker on achieving your career dreams. You could post video of the speaker from the event, and even reations from students on what they learned.
  • A specific area of interest. These are groups that can be set up (such as the aforementioned Polish Heritage Club or the athletic teams) to provide a forum of communication for friends in these groups. There are also groups for those interested in specific areas of study, and the potential far greater than what currently exists. One example is the software program kaChing which provides a virtual stock portfolio management system. You can join a kaChing group on either FaceBook or MySpace and get a hands-on experience with stock market investing. The potential for such gaming tools far outweighs what already exists. This is one area that when expanded upon will provide an outstanding opportunity for educating students.

What are the Challenges of Using FaceBook and MySpace?

The challenges of using these specific social networking programs is that they can distract students from staying on task with their assignments. Students can be suckeddistracted by their "friends" profiles, loading and playing with new applications from third party designers, message baords that contain info more socially oriented, and updating their own profile information.

There are also technological challenges as well, particularly for those students- and teachers- that do not know the latest on utilizing these socila networking sites. Here is an instructional video on getting started with FaceBook:

What Special Guidance Might Help Users of FaceBook and MySpace?

Special guidance to using facebook and myspace is to make sure that the user of the program(s) enables the security control on his or her profile page and what his or her “friends” can view on their homepage. Certain sensitive information such as email and phone numbers can be exploited by those who can view the user’s profile that are scrupulous inside the network. By locking up your profile, you can protect this information. Also be weary of what is posted on your profile. Unflattering pictures or unwanted posts from “friends” can compromise your dignity. So just check the security settings when joining. It could make a serious difference in the use of facebook or myspace.

What is the Current State of the Research on FaceBook and MySpace?

Current research being carried out on facebook and myspace is connecting the use of facebook and myspace to college grades. In one such study, evidence was found that their was an inverse correlation between facebook use and GPA. Higher a student's GPA was recorded, the time spent on facebook was considerably less. Inversely, Students that had lower GPA went on facebook considerably more. the following link includes more information about the study: http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/facebookusers.htm. Other studies suggest that a web-supported class can outperform a lecture-oriented class (Hamann & Wilson, 2002).

The aforementioned Dr. Danah Boyd, a researcher of social software, stated: "In their current incarnation, social network sites (SNSs) like Facebook and MySpace should not be integrated directly into the classroom...I have yet to hear a compelling argument for why social network sites (or networking ones) should be used in the classroom." (4) Boyd noted that the focus of such sites are for social purposes.

But teachers are utilizing social networking sites, particularly at the post-secondary level. A fantastic compilation of studies on this subject is found at: http://www46.homepage.villanova.edu/john.immerwahr/TP101/Facebook.pdf.
It shows how these tools can be utilized to enhance educational opportunitis for students.

What Lesson Ideas Might Instructors Consider in Using FaceBook and MySpace?

Teachers have realized the extent to which students are engaging in social networking on the web. There are several ideas that teachers can use to incorporate social networking into their classrooms. These include:
  • Bringing about class togetherness and unity through posting a class list, photos, videos, and class messages that students can respond to. Teachers can also manage students assignments through the FaceBook and MySpace as well. Here is a brief powerpoint presentation by Michael Stanton that explains how this can work: http://www.edumorphology.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/02/fb_classroom1.pdf
  • Applications with educational uses such as Restaurant City (running your own business) and Causes (social causes sites) on facebook can be utilized by teachers. Here is a link for the applications offered by FaceBook: http://www.facebook.com/apps/directory.php (4)
  • Class discussions can be led on social networking sites, where the teacher can post a discussion topic and students can respond with posts. Photos, videos and links to other sites can be added to enhance the experience.
  • Students can use social networking sites to share class notes and discuss class assignments, utilizing the technology as a way to assist each other in studying and writting papers. (5)

What Resources Might Instructors Consult When Using FaceBook and MySpace?

There are several resources listed above, including the Dana Boyd interview, FaceBook tutorial from YouTube and the Michael Stanton powerpoint.

Here are some links to sites and blogs that contain more links that would be of great benefit to teachers on utilizing social networking sites:



1. www.facebook.com
2. www.myspace.com
3. http://researchnews.osu.edu/archive/facebookusers.htm
4. http://www.ecademy.com/node.php?id=98854
5. http://www46.homepage.villanova.edu/john.immerwahr/TP101/Facebook.pdf