Posts Tagged 'facebook'

Facebook, Cheese Whiz, My Husband and other such things

no_facebookBy Claudia Felske — Cheese Whiz? TMZ? Farmville? Justin Bieber?

Any shameful indulgences you’re not particularly proud of? Any guilty pleasure you’d like precisely no one else to know about?

Three weeks ago a secret sin of mine was revealed to the greater Facebook community by none other than the man I married. That was the day I quit Facebook.

Those in my world know me as an English teacher, as a reader, a writer, a lover of words. I watch very little television, read whenever possible, and accuse most mass media of numbing the American mind.

Yet there I was that Wednesday night, doing schoolwork on my laptop while Nashville, a nighttime soap opera set in the country music scene, played in the background. It was then that my husband walked in.

This was not the woman he had married.

He stared at me in disbelief and grabbed his iPhone. “I cannot believe what my wife is watching,” he typed and said aloud at the same time. His salacious post inspired much speculation from our Facebook friends. The Kardashians? Barney? Polyamory? Home Shopping Network?

“Stop right now,” I warned him, carefully articulating each word and never losing eye contact.

But he didn’t.

thumbs down

Humorous Facebook comments from others followed, calling me out for my hypocrisy: “This from the queen of high  culture?” “Does this mean we can listen to country music during our English department meetings?”

“GET OUT NOW,” another warned, “first Nashville, next NASCAR, then Monster Trucks.”

I was not as amused as they were. Watching a country soap opera was not a badge I cared to wear. It was a mindless diversion, an escape, a stress ball for the eyes.  It was my guilty pleasure. I neither desired nor appreciated public commentary about it.

What followed was at once immature and life changing.

First, the immature part: My final Facebook post was “I just unfriended Mike Felske.”

I immediately hated that post. For its rudeness, its pettiness, its association in any and every way with me. I then decided I would, at once, return to the practice of using words for meaningful and beautiful purposes, period. And that, for me, meant no more Facebook.

The more I thought about what had just happened, the stranger it seemed.

Strange to unfriend my best friend, unfriend the one person I this world I willingly and enthusiastically agreed to spend my life with.

Strange that social media somehow compelled my soulmate to reveal something to the world that I had expressly asked him not to.

Strange that I would willingly partake in Facebook, that which I now viewed as a vainglorious middle schoolesque platform, often spending 30 minutes or more on it per day.

Strangest of all that I cared about any of this.

So amid all of these strangenesses, I quit.

(That’s the life changing part).

Three weeks later, here’s my report on being Facebook-free:

  1. I’m more productive: I no longer begin my laptop work sessions with a time-draining cruise down Facebook lane. After a quick email check, I get right to work.
  2. I’m more present: If I’m enjoying an amazing meal, I don’t feel compelled to tell anyone other than the person across the table from me. If my son says something hilarious, I laugh and stay fully in the moment with him instead of documenting it on Facebook.
  3. I’m more observant: I find myself noticing others’ cell phone behavior as deviant and anti-social. Facebook frequenters now strike me as willfully inviting a certain freneticism into their lives. Three weeks ago, that was me.

You may, Dear Reader, be asking yourself at this point what any of this has to do with education. This is an educational blog, right? Good point. So here it is: educational relevance.

I’d like to challenge my Facebook-using students and colleagues to ask themselves this question and answer with candor:

Why do you use Facebook?

Is it to avoid your to do list? Is it to gain approval? Is it to exercise your self-righteousness? Is it for self-affirmation? Vanity? Do you feel deflated if a post of yours receives few likes or none? Do you spend 20, 30, 60, 90 minutes or more on Facebook per day? Is the something else more productive or rewarding you could do with that time? Wish you had more time to read, to play with your kids, to exercise? Do you find yourself documenting your life instead of fully experiencing it?

If you don’t like one or more of your answers, give serious consideration to whether stay or leave the Face Place.

If we, as educators, are trying to model authentic experiences, self empowerment, and a strong work ethic and focus, perhaps we could all stand a reexamination of Facebook’s value (or lack thereof) in our lives.

What is the quality, after all, of our Facebook communications?  What is the quality of our Facebook friendships?  Exactly two (of several hundred FB friends) have contacted me to see if and why I quit (I posted no formal farewell). Only a few more asked my husband of my whereabouts. This suggests what I’d always suspected: most Facebook friendships are superficial: “friends” who are happy to comment if I post, but otherwise I’m off their radar.

At the end of the day, If you don’t document the sushi you’re eating, is it any less delicious? If you don’t post your child’s silver medal in gymnastics, is it a lesser achievement? Are there more authentic ways for us to feel “liked” and connected than a Facebook post?

Note: For my earlier Facebook quandaries, see my March 2002 post To Friend or Not to Friend: Teachers and Social Media.

New Technology, Ancient Opinions

Facebook-Circling-the-DrainBy Elizabeth Turco — Facebook. While it is simply a social media website, it has taken over the globe.

As a 21 year old college student, I use it quite frequently. This is also (what I hope) true of all other people my age. This site is not uniquely popular among people my age. From my middle school cousin to my elderly grandmother, everyone is using this site to connect with others around the world. It is the most modern form of communication; letter writing and phone calls are almost a thing of the past in this age of technology.

The other day, during one of my many viewings I found something quite shocking. A Facebook friend of mine posted something about how she was excited about a certain republican politician who has announced his running for president in 2016. This is not uncommon. Facebook has become an outlet for people’s political excitement and frustrations. The comment conversation that ensued, however, was appalling. When asked about why she liked him so much, she responded with a very discriminatory and crude statement about how she agrees with his distaste for homosexual people. She then proceeded to continue in her bigoted comments. The first amendment gives her free speech, and she was taking advantage of it.

At a Jesuit university, the issue of gay rights is a very hot issue. Some use the church to defend their opposition. Did the Bible not condemn homosexuality? As a Catholic, I look to Pope Francis. He has made many statements on this issue. His most famous was when he said in regards to gay people, “Who am I to judge them if they’re seeking the Lord in good faith?” Even though he is the leader of the church, he understands that he is not God-like in his ability to judge others. He preaches that no one should be the judge of others. Living a religious and godly life is what should be important, not something as meaningless as sexual attraction.

As a future educator, I fear this debate. I am confident in my beliefs, but understand that the classroom is no place to voice them. The role of a teacher, to me, is not to teach beliefs and opinions, but to teach the ability to form them for one’s self. As a history teacher, this will be a constant struggle. Historically, discrimination is on the down turn. From slavery to civil rights to now, racism is slowly declining. Thanks to the Nazis, discrimination against Jewish people is socially unacceptable. It will be necessary to teach these types of prejudice and how they are being eliminated. It is easy to relate these issues back to homosexual issues, but hard to do so without putting my own beliefs into the mix. I can encourage kindness and compassion, but I cannot force it.

I can only hope to find a good balance in my classroom: offering my Jesuit education gained insights to social justice issues, yet providing them in an informative, but not forceful, way.

Snapchat Stress – Catching up in an age of social media

coverBy Sabrina Bong — When I was a junior in high school, I received an email that said, “Your friend has invited you to connect with her on Facebook! To accept her invite, click here.”

At the time, Facebook was still an enigma, something that only a few people had joined. I balked for a while; after all, who did I need to connect with on Facebook? All of my friends were in my classes. But when senior year rolled around, I decided to give in and join the Facebook world.

Suffice to say, I am a little slow sometimes on getting with the trends. I did not get a Twitter account until my junior year of college. It wasn’t until my senior year of college that I actually understood how to use it. Some people think it’s a little ironic that a Broadcast and Electronic Communication’s major would be so hesitant to join the social media crazes. I guess I saw it as my way to see how powerful the website became. Once I had gauged how useful it could be in my life, I would embrace it with open arms. But until then, I treated social media with a certain degree of wariness.

Through this school year, I have seen the benefits and the detrimental effects that social media can have. This is especially true with Snapchat.

If you do not know what Snapchat is, here is what I have learned: It is an app designed for people to send pictures, videos, and texts to a specific list of people. The sender can also choose a time limit for how long the recipients can view whatever they sent (between 1 and 10 seconds.) Once the text, video, or picture is opened, the recipient has however many seconds to view it. Then, it is deleted from Snapchat’s servers and the recipient’s device, never to be found again.

I’m sure that this app creates friendships and gives people the opportunity to share their inside jokes, as well as offer some privacy. I, however, cannot find too many redeeming qualities for this app, especially after several incidents that occurred this past week.

I had three students come to speak to me about bullying via Snapchat. One student told me that a few older students had sent him a Snapchat that told him he was worthless. One student told me about a Snapchat that showed a distorted picture of her, along with a text message that made rude comments about her weight. Another said that several people had sent her a Snapchat message saying that she should kill herself. By the time my students managed to find someone to show the message to, it had disappeared, leaving only pain and humiliation for the recipient.

When I heard this, I was disgusted. I had never imagined that people could be so hurtful to others. Here was an app created with, I’m sure, good intentions, and now it is being used to terrorize people. Bullying is infusing itself even more into our personal lives. This is no longer an issue that just occurs at school; it is now affecting students at home as well. To make it worse, students are now doing things that eliminate any trace of evidence, leaving us struggling to find out who is the one sending the messages.

My goal for the next semester is this: I hope to teach my students more about social media. I think it can be hard for my students to see the long-term effects of social media, like Facebook and Snapchat. I also hope that through this teaching, I will be able to show them how social media can promote compassion and friendship, not just drama and pain.

To Friend or Not To Friend? Teachers and Social Media

–By Claudia Felske

It’s not that I’m anti-Facebook.
It’s not that I’m anti-technology.

I encourage my students to use cell phones in class to discuss, research, write, but I have yet to find a sweet spot using Facebook with students.  Of course I know the Facebook No-No’s. I know better than to friend current students, but beyond that, the line gets fuzzy.

Three times I’ve dabbled in Facebook with students and three times I‘ve been burned:

  1. Strike One: two years ago, when recent graduates sent me a facebook invite, I accepted. It was fun staying in touch, seeing how they were doing in college, keeping my finger on the pulse of teendom.  But soon enough, I ran across a rant about my AP Class: too hard, too much reading, what did it have to do with real life anyway? I was surprised by my reaction – how much I took this to heart: ‘this” being my life, my livelihood. “This” being why I stay up way too late at night, why I bring a stack of papers with me everywhere I go, why I feel perpetual guilt for not spending enough time with my family. So I revised my Facebook policy: no “friending” former students until post-college age.
  2. Last year was strike two.  I violated my policy and let one recent grad slip in; a beloved student and the daughter of a friend and colleague. Things were fine until her friends realized that we were friends, and the requests started streaming in. Clearly I had to reestablish the line. Fresh out of my classroom, our teacher/student roles were too recent. And once friends with a recent grad, their friends (many who are still in high school) see my business. FB is a place where I want to be a non-teacher. If I feel ike ranting, I want to rant.
  3. Third Strike: This year, my beloved Freshmen blew my mind. I assigned a “This I Believe” essay modeled after the National Public Radio Show. It required that they write and read aloud an essay about what they believe. I had hoped this assignment would inspire the sublime – that it would force students to examine themselves and their world in a profound and meaningful way. This year, my 5th year of teaching “This I Believe’s,” it happened. After being touched by the work of one of their peers, who opened up about a deeply personal topic in her essay and courageously read it to the class, my freshmen, with no prompting from me, rewrote their essays – getting much more personal, opening up, writing about what matters most. They bound their essays, wrote me a cover letter that made me teary, and ceremoniously presented it to me in class. And so, when they told me they started a facebook page with their essays and invited me to join, I hesitated, talked it over with them, and ultimately joined, hoping to affirm and extend the inspiration they clearly had for writing and the camaraderie clearly forming . That was about two months ago. Today, a single comment posted on that page pierced the heart of their poorly-labeled “fearless leader”: “So guys, what are we going to do when we actually have to try hard to pass English next hear?” OUCH. BIG OUCH. ENORMOUS OUCH. These are accelerated students. I expect that they will have no problem passing. I expect them to strive for excellence on each assignment. I expect that my job is to encourage and nudge, not threaten or penalize.  And I would expect that I’d have thicker skin after 18 years of teaching.  And so, strike three, facebook is out.

Public and private spaces exist for a reason. With social media playing an increasingly powerful role in our culture,, teachers must be deliberate in making and walking the public/private line.

There’s an inherent paradox in education: we are told to get to know our students, to personalize their educations, to appeal to their interests, but we’re also rightly told to leave our personal lives and biases outside the classroom and to maintain a professional distance. A tough balancing act.

Students need a place to blow off steam, to be themselves, to say things they can’t say in school. We need to give them their space and we need to accept that not technology tool is effective and appropriate to use with students.

And so, farewell Facebook. Continue reading ‘To Friend or Not To Friend? Teachers and Social Media’

Through the Back Door: Backchanneling

By Claudia Felske — I remember when I was a first-year teacher in awe of my mentor, an amazing veteran teacher who made it a point to speak to every one of her student each day – no small feat for a high school English teacher, juggling 100+ students, 5 classes, 4 different preps and loads of correcting. Yet, she did it.  That was 18 years ago.

Flash forward to 2011.  With 30-40 students in many classes, with many teachers having an extra class altogether, with laser focus on test scores in many districts, the goal of speaking to each student each day and hearing from each student each day seems to be a schoolgirl fantasy, literally.

Enter: technology. In my continuing iPad experiment (see past posts for the full dramatics) I tried my first stint with backchanneling last week. Backchanneling involves having students engage in a second layer of participation during class. While the teacher is talking, while a video is playing, while the class is discussing, students can also be posting comments, questions, and answers about the topic at hand via a computer, ipad, or cell phone.

It’s basically Facebook for the classroom. Comments are visible to students on their devices and visible on a screen in front of the room. Theoretically, the benefits are obvious: greater participation, increased engagement, a less-threatening way for shy students to converse, and an opportunity for students to speak in their native tongue: social media. The liabilities, however, are also obvious: how to control the conversation, how to keep comments appropriate, how to keep students focused on the topic at hand.

And so this week, I went beyond the theoretical in three of my classes with the following results:

In Junior English, my students had turned in generally dull first drafts of their college entrance essays. We’d stressed the importance of writing an essay that would rise to the top of the application pile, that would be unique and showcase its writer as an individual. The results were otherwise. So, as an antidote, I taught a mini-lesson on using figurative language in narrative writing. Then, I had them use backchanneling to write and post key metaphors they could incorporate into their essays. Next, students commented on each others’ metaphors, communicating what they thought the metaphors meant and suggesting ways to extend or intensify them.

The results were exciting. All students but one posted metaphors; then, 189 comments were made on those posts. This class averaged 7 comments per student, far more than would have ordinarily happened in traditional discussion mode with one student speaking at a time with the others passively listening. Fingers were clearly on keyboards, tapping away; students, reading and posting actively. What also happened is that EVERY student in class (sans one) received peer comments. Once I allowed the “backchannel” to become the primary focus, I started commenting too, picking up on lost details, nudging some writers to go deeper. Clearly both student engagement and constructive feedback were on the up and up. I’m anxious to see the full results on their revised essays.

In Freshman English, I used backchanneling to turn a whole-class discussion on a short story into a posting session. We started with students posting what they thought the story was about – what the author’s intent was. Answers appropriately and predictably varied as it was a difficult story. Next,  each student posted a line from the story that he/she didn’t understand. Then, students posted comments on each other’s lines, attempting to connect the ambiguous lines to the theme/point of the story. Again, all fingers were clicking and posts were flying onto the screen.  What was eerie was I didn’t know quite what to do. I started out commenting aloud on posts as they appeared, but it felt strange because kids were responding with their fingers, not their mouths.  I was talking to a a silently-clicking room of students. And so, I stopped talking and started typing too.

I had been transformed into a mere moderator, watching the conversation flow. I found this rather confusing: Shouldn’t I be talking? Shouldn’t they be talking?  I felt out of place, like an interloper in my own classroom. I wondered what my role was; I wondered what the right ratio of audible and clickable words was; I wondered if it was okay that I wasn’t speaking. Was I doing my job? Were they doing my job? What was my job? I ended the hour with plenty to ponder, but what I did know is that all students had participated, 6-12 times each: ten or more times more than they would have in a traditional whole-class discussion. Continue reading ‘Through the Back Door: Backchanneling’

A Social School: Social Networking Transforms Learning

By Steve Ryan — Education has certainly progressed from the one-room school house hundreds of years ago; however, one fundamental tenet of schooling has been the connections and relationships that students form as a part of their education. Previously, students and teachers created these relationships before school, during lunch, and in extra-curricular activities. However, in the 21st century, educators are charged with a task to foster and develop these relationships within and outside of classrooms and as a part of instruction.

Tom Vander Ark, a partner in a fund focusing on innovative learning tools and formats, writes in his blog post “How Social Networking will Transform Learning, “In the coming decade, most middle and high schools will adopt some version of 1:1 technology, online learning will play an increasing role, and learning experiences will be conducted and coordinated on social learning platforms.”  Thus, the time to now to bring social media into the classroom.  As more and more schools deploy 1:1 models, the technology no longer becomes the barrier.  With this rapid change sweeping education, educators need to keep up with it by adding social media into curriculum and instruction. Vander Ark continues “Instead of a classroom as the primary organizing principle, social networks will become the primary building block of learning communities (both formal and informal).” In an effort to break down the barriers and walls that many schools currently embrace, educators in the 21st century must start looking beyond the walls and confines of a school building and encourage students to be proactive in their quest for knowledge.

Most are familiar with the networks of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, and YouTube (major social media giants); however, in addition to those networks, I’d like to specifically call attention to Edmodo, which was developed by teachers and IT professionals for schools to utilize as a more controlled alternative to social networking (an administrator’s dream come true)!  Edmodo allows students to micro-blog, share links and resources, submit assignments – it is a true virtual learning environment.

Imagine a classroom where students are conducting their conversations online via Edmodo or Facebook, keeping current with news events by following news sources on Twitter, and speaking with real-life experts on their content via Skype — everyday!  This is the way of the future to make learning come alive and be more applicable for students. This technology handbook for teachers by teachers provides a more in-depth look at the many benefits of social media and technology integration.  On a personal note, I was on Twitter the other day reading through my timeline when I came across a former MU classmate and friend, Joe Finn, Jr., who was tweeting about how his students were on Edmodo that day having a discussion (during the summer!!). This is a true testament to the power of social media.

Our students have a desire to learn and share their knowledge and opinions with others, as educators, we need to harness that energy and provide them with a means.

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