Over the past six months or so, as the rhet/comp blogging community stakes its claim to a corner of Facebook, grown men and women, with several degrees to their name, have been gleefully heaving farm animals and seasonal paraphernlia at each other. (More intellectual pursuits are available as well: sharing names and reviews of the scholarly books you're reading, friendly games of Scramble and the asynchronous Scrabble-like game Scrabulous, mired in copyright squabbles.) A quick check today reveals Facebook groups, among others, for the 4C's (271 members: need a roommate anyone?), NCTE (293 members), and Kairos (a whopping 404 members), although most of these groups see very light activity. A few questions come to mind:
- the old-fogey factor: Does the over-25 crowd belong there? Is it an invasion of privacy for our students, or children (my own daughters were horrified when they found out I had set up a Facebook page)? Is it unseemly, like a 70-year-old in too-baggy jeans with a baseball cap perched sideways on his balding head? Is Facebook like some adolescent nightspot we're better off avoiding, for everyone's peace of mind?
- social networking 101: As English teachers should we understand how our students communicate? What can sites like Facebook teach us about the possibilities for social connection with our own peers? (These are really two separate questions, I guess.)
- the privacy issue: How do we as faculty handle the balance between personal and public that sites like Facebook tend (maybe) to blur? Do you want to be able to see your students' pages? Do you want them to see yours? Are there important "teachable issues" here (and can the teaching take place in both directions)?
- creating community: I read about one blogger (unfortunately I can't remember which one) who chose for practical reasons to use a Facebook group (closed to members of his/her class) as a sort of course management system to post notices and assignments. As I remember, the teacher found that students bonded more closely, forming both study groups and friendships. Could this help in creating community of writers in a composition class?
- the alternatives: Of blogs, list-servs, wikis, Facebook, Twitter (anything else?), which seem most useful to you professionally and why? Do any seem rich in untapped potential?
- Facebook etiquette: Is it rude to refuse to catch the sheep that's sailing your way?