The majority of today’s adolescents pay close attention to Facebook, the most popular social networking website. Today’s youth check the updates every few minutes and spend much of their day scanning Facebook’s news feed page. This new technology modality has strongly influenced many adolescents’ lives including their attitudes and habits towards learning. Since it has become part of adolescents’ daily lives, teachers may consider how to take advantage of Facebook to support their teaching and learning.
There are complex considerations, however. Many teenagers have developed an addiction to Facebook and the result of this habit is that they cannot concentrate on their school work. Research shows that some teenagers check their Facebook every two minutes during their school time. The research on high school students shows that students’ learning efficiency and quality have been seriously affected as the continuous updated information and announcement on Facebook distract them from study. In addition, the information on Facebook is so immense that students don’t have ample energy and time to deal deeply with it. Thus, these young users gradually develop a reading habit of skimming. Larry Rosen, a researcher from California has observed 300 adolescents and the result shows that those who use Facebook frequently have poor memory on reading tasks. Facing this problem, teachers may need to set rules for restricting students watching Facebook during the class. However, it is impossible to totally stop students using Facebook, so teachers can take advantage of it. For example, teachers can upload learning materials to Facebook, share some interesting and useful websites or link to projects related to the subject. It will let students feel that teachers are not always trying to restrict them or demand things from them. Teachers may also share information and pictures about their life with their students. Therefore, students can use Facebook to do the work related to academic study.
Furthermore, many adolescents are currently using Facebook as a tool for knowing others instead of for communication. There is a phenomenon that most adolescents will want to “friend” each other on Facebook so that they can access each other’s photos, wall, status updates and more. Many times spend lots of their time visiting other’s pages and suppose that they have known each other very well. They pay attention to certain people’s personal update, and it makes them feel like they have communicated with that person. Gradually these observers are not even willing to learn things through verbal communication. Moreover, more and more adolescents prefer to absorb information, interact with others, and log on to Facebook – a virtual world. So for helping students develop healthy and strong communication ability, teachers can create a group for those students who have difficulty spending time away from Facebook, and have them work with a group to do an assignment online. In this way, students can learn more interactive communication, build meaningful relationship with classmates, become more active and engaging in discussion, and more thoroughly explore academic learning.
Of course, teachers may encounter many difficulties during application, such as how to control the duration of discussion, and how to keep the students from becoming distracted. However, I believe that Facebook, if used effectively, can be a creative and motivating teaching tool. Since it is hard to change adolescents’ habituation and stop their enthusiastic pursuit for Facebook, then let us teachers take advantage of it and lead adolescents in the right direction.