So, I have been thinking again.
I have been mulling over ways to successfully reach students when they are not in school on a platform they already are comfortable navigating. I imagine a space where school learning and connecting with fellow students expands outside of the classroom walls. I know for me personally, I spend a great deal of time outside of my work day delving in my own personal PD sessions with the computer or a book. My goal is to promote that love of learning and connecting with my students. I've tried wikis and blogs with limited success. That is not to say that I am planning to abandon those efforts; I am simply exploring other options. I am always looking to create windows in the metaphorical brick wall. My thoughts led me to Facebook. Why not? I know my students have profiles there and they are on the site often in their spare time. Considering my own daughter's use of Facebook I thought it just might be pretty successful. Another personal observation of my daughter: she is not an overly social in person, but she is extremely social on Facebook. I expect for those students who are shy or hesitant to share their thoughts in the classroom setting this group would enable them to participate safely. So another reason to try. Of course all of the negative antics associated with middle school students having free reign on a social platform did cross my mind. But, how would I ever know how this could work unless I just tried it? How would I know what to change or set up or anticipate the next time? My brain was screaming, Just Do IT! So I did.
I started a group on Facebook geared to sparking discussions around a guest speaker who will be visiting my district. I invited adults working in the district to join first and encouraged the teachers to start promoting this group with their students. Excited to see what I could generate, I casually mentioned it to a group of students in the library. I had my first student join just the other day. When I congratulated her for being the first student to join she declared that she was going to start inviting her friends! So we have a small group started. Not too much discussion going on quite yet. What I am planning to push next is talking it up with the English classes as those teachers are working most intensively to get this visit off the ground. I intend to make students aware of the group prior to spring break as I suspect that may be a good time for us to be connected. All the students will be required to finish their books over break so my goal is to get them talking about it online. This is a work in process.
To date, what I was most surprised about was how many students told me their parents would not allow them to have a profile on Facebook. I suggested if they were interested in seeing what it is like they should encourage their parents to create a profile and join the group. That way the student could participate through their parent and the parent would be able to monitor what was going on in the group.
I will plan to write more about this little project as it unfolds! Stay tuned!