Is FaceBook the Best Online Implementation of Educational Theory We Have So Far?

I have talked to many people that have taken a class online entirely through FaceBook. I can honestly say that none of them liked it.  They found it really hard to go back and read things they missed, or to keep track of what was said in the class group. FaceBook groups and pages are good ideas that are poorly implemented in the overall program, so I can see their points. But I think the core of FaceBook’s success rests squarely on good, old-fashioned educational theory… and most educational software companies are missing that and still missing the boat on how to really engage learners online.

Whether you follow Dewey or social constructivism or connetivism, the main thread to most educational theories is that we learn best when we are sharing what we have learned with others (or when we are teaching others, or making social connections, or whatever your particular slant is… they all say the same basic thing).  We also know that we humans are curious creatures at our core that like to learn.

What if FaceBook (and Twitter and blogging for that matter) is not about narcissism…. but about us sharing what we have learned? What if the whole genre of “Web 2.0” is really just the best implementation of educational theory that we have observed so far (and is popular not because it is cool, but because it is helping us to learn)?

“Okay,” you might be saying “I see how sharing links to current events and fighting for our political beliefs might be learning… but what about all of those posts that are just about our lunch? How is that learning? That has got to be pure narcissism, right?”

Don’t we need to learn as much about ourselves as we can? How can we understand the world around us, if we can’t even figure out ourselves? What if all of those so-called narcissistic status updates and tweets and blog posts are just us learning about ourselves…. in the best way possible, by sharing what we have learned with others?

The more I think about it, the more I think that is mostly what it is. As many times I have read someone’s update about brushing their teeth, I have also seen the profound update where that same person has made a major self-discovery. And this profound experience helps me learn about myself… making all of the mundane updates that I read worth it.

To be sure, FaceBook is really just a mirror that reflects more of our true personality than we would like… the part that we hide behind masks when we are in face-to-face communication.  So, if you are a very narcissistic person, then your status updates will be narcissistic in nature. But if you are a learner at heart (as I believe most people are), then FaceBook is just reflection of your desire to learn – both about the world around you and yourself. And about how to brush your teeth. Learning is not always pretty :)

Of course, FaceBook is missing some keys administrative details that make it difficult for the focused learning that needs to happen in a true class setting. If only ed tech companies would catch on to this and take their tools in a different direction, I think we could have some truly great tools created.

That is exactly what Harriet and I are trying to do with the “New Vision for the LMS” series that we are pushing for. Hopefully, there will be more on this in the new year. For now, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Matt Crosslin
Matt is currently the Learning Innovation Coordinator with the UT Arlington LINK Research Lab. His research focuses on Learning Theory, Innovation, and learner empowerment. Matt holds a Ph.D. in Learning Technologies from the University of North Texas, a Master of Education in Educational Technology from UT Brownsville, and a Bachelors of Science in Education from Baylor University. His research interests include instructional design, learning pathways, sociocultural theory, heutagogy, virtual reality, and open networked learning. He has a background in instructional design and teaching at both the secondary and university levels and has been an active blogger and conference presenter. He also enjoys networking and collaborative efforts involving faculty, students, administration, and anyone involved in the education process.

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