Facebook ‘Groups’ could boost privacy, collaboration

“It will be important to help students understand the difference between smaller more trustworthy groups of friends and larger groups of people,” said Willard. “But it is also imperative that young people understand that even if something is just shared with a couple of friends, [it] can be sent further,” she continued, citing the recent case of a Duke University student who ranked her romantic experiences as a private joke for friends, only to discover that the ranking list went viral when it was passed on to other Facebook users.

CoSN’s Bosco said he fears that if students are not instructed how to properly handle Facebook and sites like it in an educational setting, it could lead to their misuse.

“Many schools are saying this is part of the reality of kids’ and adults’ lives, and so we probably have to get our heads out of the sand and recognize that we have to work with kids in order to teach them how to use [these sites] responsibly,” Bosco said.

Willard disagreed.

“What we’re going to have, if schools start using Facebook for educational activities, is advertisers are going to pick up on that and pick up the eyeballs and eWallets of these kids in schools. I think they need time away from that, and I really want to preserve education time for education and not advertising,” she said.

Facebook founder Mark Zuckerburg said he believes 80 percent of the web site’s users will be affected by the Facebook Groups feature, either by creating groups or being sorted into them. Facebook Groups also allows for members to plan events together or edit documents posted within a group.

Bosco said communication and collaboration tools like this might be a way to update the classroom, despite some ed-tech officials’ concerns about online safety.

“To the extent that … these resources get better and better, they provide more opportunity for collaborative learning, for us to get beyond the more primitive ways of teaching to create the most vibrant learning environments,” he said.

Adults must teach children how to use social networking sites the right way, he added, rather than prohibiting students from accessing the sites at all.

“It’s forbidding versus educating,” Bosco said. “Some people take the forbidding approach, and that’s their prerogative, but I don’t know that that’s the best way to cultivate the values we wish to cultivate. That’s a losing battle.”

Willard isn’t against using Facebook for other activities. In fact, she said she sees it as a great tool for use outside of the classroom.

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