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School Stories

Let’s make school Facebook worthy

via Lost In Recursion.

Last year my favorite course was my hardest to teach. I felt very strongly about the material, thinking almost constantly about it and how we could spend our time experiencing it. And yet, most days I felt class was stale and that the students felt and thought little during the experience. No matter what I tried, class wasn’t consistently satisfying. Fatal flaw: Class was too much about me, and not about them.

Some of what we did was spectacular – analyzing structure together, sharing and presenting creative insights. I’m also certain there is a terrific course in my approach that year, but most days I did most of the talking, to what felt like crickets. I was driving content. The students saw me speak passionately about the math, but the feeling wasn’t mirrored.

* * *

As the year ended we spent some time working with geofix, building polyhedra and tessellations. This went rather well, with almost everyone enjoying their work and talking a lot about their projects. Later that night, I got a pleasant surprise in my news feed. One of my quieter students, who was nonplussed all year, had posted Facebook pictures of his work in class that day, not on my wall, but out to the world of his friends. Though I didn’t say something at the time, I thought this was extremely cool. He posted again on both of the next two days. By the end he had posted eight pictures of three different projects, and I was thrilled.

In short, because people use Facebook to post things they care about. They post things they’re proud of, like new recordings and videos, clever thoughts, and their favorites from around the web. By posting, Facebook users are sharing themselves with their friends. I was so pleased to know he took that work personally. At least for those three days, class was about him, and his classwork was a part of his identity.

“And yet”, I thought, “this never happens.” Kids post about school all the time, but how often do they post their actual work? Is school too often not about them? I believe students need a personal relationship with their school careers. School should be a place to strengthen and develop who you are and want to become, but how can this occur if your courses and class schedule are largely out of your control, both daily and over time.

* * *

Isn’t it completely obvious that Facebook is important to young people? (and a lot of the rest of us too.) Social media is an incredible way to share ourselves and our ideas. Is school a part of that? I think it should be. Otherwise, we retain a disturbing chasm between student personal identity and their work for school.

If I told you students spent hours there a day, openly and passionately expressing themselves to their friends, often giving articulate thoughts and opinions, would I be talking about Facebook or school? I’m going to spend a lot of time in August thinking about what kinds of math activities my students can take personally. I want school to be like that.

About Paul Salomon

Life is not about discovering yourself. It's about creating yourself.


6 thoughts on “Let’s make school Facebook worthy

  1. Boy, this takes me back five or six years ago.

    It takes me back to high school kids… elbows deep into a shark in zoology class… when one (almost magical) year, phone cameras (when phones in our school were still contraband) popped our simultaneously, and later that evening our class was played out once again… this time upon the pages of Facebook.

    Awwwww, the memories. *sniffle*

    A worthy goal. and a point I agree with. Nicely done.


    Posted by Sean Nash | August 10, 2011, 11:18 pm
  2. Paul, thanks so much for joining in the conversations on the Coöp – I really like the story you share here. Our school works some with Glasser’s Choice Theory and the idea of the Quality World – the inner landscape in which each of us situates those things we value and love and about which we feel passionately. It’s fantastic that your student put the Geofix lesson into his own quality world.

    One of the things that blogging let me do is share the parts of my work that occupy my quality world. I love projects like Youth Voices (maintained by the generous and driven Paul Allison, who hosted our hang-out) that serve the mission of providing kids with tools like blogs or Facebook through which they can share the learning they value most.

    I hope to use Youth Voices in my class this year – what about you, fellow catalysts?

    All the best,

    Posted by Chad Sansing | August 11, 2011, 6:53 am
  3. Hey I love this, and there are many “yesses!” and “Amen, brother” here for me:

    “Class was too much about me, and not about them.” Wow have I been there on that one. My first class with undergraduate college students, I thought that powerpoint slides with a minimum of 40 points on each one was just right. They had their vocal chords removed somewhere mid-semester.

    “people use Facebook to post things they care about. ” How much do they care about school and their work in school? Exactly to your point.

    “how often do they post their actual work?” will you use this as a metric for assessing your own capacity to meet your goals?

    Will you write about this again soon? (And are you going to use Google +)


    Posted by Kirsten | August 11, 2011, 11:35 am
    • Thanks so much for all the thoughtful comments, everyone.

      @Kristen- I won’t use any actual numerical metrics in my work, but I will certainly be taking notes about how personal our work is to my students. Do they talk to me in the hall about it? Better do they talk to each other? How much do they need me to do math? Do they in fact post creations on facebook?

      I will actually be writing about this sometime soon. I have a draft started about all kinds of social media thoughts, sparked by Missouri banning teacher/student relationships on social media.

      Finally, I do use google+, and I love it. I am thinking about how to use it in my classes. It’s not perfect, but it might be pretty close. I haven’t used blogging before, but I am thinking of going that way as well. The trouble is, if you require students to do it, it’s not the authentic relationship with the material you’re looking for.

      Much more thinking to do.


      Posted by Paul Salomon | August 11, 2011, 8:25 pm
  4. Paul,
    I like this idea a lot and it is a great way to rethink the role and meaning of assessment in school by emphasizing how students feel about what, how, and why they learned. Real learning is not checking a box on a list of requirements; it involves incorporating that knowledge into your life. Facebook feedback is a neat way of thinking about that.

    Posted by Patrick Farenga | August 15, 2011, 2:57 pm
  5. It’s a real relevance check for sure. Can school be something students care about all the time? I find it amazing how often you ask kids (6th graders say) what they would want to do in school if they could do anything, and they have no idea. This is not a problem for 2nd graders, I suspect. More thoughts another time. Thanks for your comment.

    On a separate note, I am thinking about using Google+ as a way to communicate with some students this year. I already use Facebook to do this with many students, but g+ doesn’t have a culture of use already attached. It’s more open to educational use, I think.

    Posted by Paul Salomon | August 15, 2011, 3:26 pm

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