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Does Facebook + Academics = Success ???

We are members of a class at University of Maryland, called Networked Intelligence. This semester we are wrestling with ideas about how networked technologies and our information-rich worlds change the way we learn, live, and collaborate. In response to a wonderful letter that Dr. Davidson sent us, we will post a weekly blog that summarizes the big thoughts from our own peers’ writings and class discussion. Please feel free to connect with us and add to our networked learning.

As the world continuously evolves, so will communication. In the last twenty-some odd years, the Internet has changed the ways in which people are able to communicate with one another. In the early 2000’s the world was introduced to the two massive-scaled social networking tools, MySpace & Facebook.  Since then Facebook has taken the number one spot in the social networking world. Facebook took the world by storm with over 500 million users and counting. Facebook has transformed, from being a way to meet friends, into a tool for a number of business and schools as well.

The 21st century has definitely transformed a lot of the ways that we do things. Unfortunately, many of the institutions that govern our society are stuck in a 20th century funk. The work place is slowly changing but what really needs changing is our academic institution. We are still learning the way our grandparents learn. These institutions keep us boxed in and sheltered, “protecting” us from the world of possibilities. About three weeks ago we read three articles: “Too much face and not enough books: The relationship between multiple indices of Facebook use and academic performance ” by Reynol Junco, “Student use of Facebook for organizing collaborative classroom activities” by Lampe et al., and “Connection Strategies: Social Capital Implications of Facebook-enabled Communication Practices” by Ellison et al. Each of these articles posited ideas on how Facebook changed academic performance and how Facebook could transform academics. The articles had a good number of valid arguments while other arguments were questionable. Though all articles made some great points I believe the strongest come from the argument of the integration of Facebook and Academics.

The premise of this argument is that by integrating Facebook and Academics we can create a new type of classroom dynamic. To understand this further we must first look at how we are using Facebook. The Lampe article in particular talks about the importance of this. The article argues that Facebook should increase their social capital.  Facebook gives us the ability to know more information about a person than we normally would, if we took advantage of this then it would be easier for us to use Facebook as an academic tool. Jenna talks about how our human condition has changed and the way we learn more about people is through Facebook. We are in a more wired society and it has become the norm to interact through technology. In Sean’s post he talks about the seven factors that were pointed in the article that make up a successful undergraduate student. These factors were: (1) student/faculty contact; (2) cooperation among students; (3) active learning; (4) prompt feedback; (5) emphasizing time on task; (6) communicating high expectations; and (7) respecting diversity. Each of these can be achieved with Facebook. Looking at Sean’s post we can take those factors and see how Facebook works with each of those. In Vanessa’s post this week she states, “I think that Facebook is one of those “communication technologies” that we can use, explore, and take to our own hands ways in which we can use them to accomplish what ever it is we want to accomplish.” I think that she sums this up great. Facebook is what we make of it and nothing more or less. It is a convenient and maybe to some a more practical use of the website. However, when do we know?

An integration of Facebook can both benefit and harm us. Vineet talks about the need of separation. I think Vineet brought up a good point though the integration of Facebook and Academics is enticing where is the line? He talks about how students want a separation between school and our social lives. I completely agree with him, how else will we have that escape that we seek? I also ask the question as to whether or not this will deter us for Facebook in the long run. When we go to Facebook we go to get away from our pressures or to just do something different we enjoy. If my ELMS accounting were on Facebook I would seek a different source of networking. Ana talks about the awkwardness of adding your professor as a friend. When thinking of integration you also have to think about the type of information that you have on your Facebook and the people on your Facebook page. If your Facebook social capital (Ellison Article) is important to you then this may not be a viable option for you.

This is the conundrum that we find ourselves in now days. We are looking for new ways to multi-task, to learn, and to interact. The only problem is that finding a way to make all these things interact seamlessly seems close to impossible. In this particular example we look at how we can integrate Facebook and school but realize that there is a separation that we would want. Where do we draw the line? When is it too much or too little?

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