Participants in my training “Facebook for the Classroom” offered these five interesting examples of how educators could use Facebook to improve teaching and learning:
1. Play the game Plague Inc.
This app was recommended for teenagers to learn strategy and critical thinking. You play the game from the perspective of a pathogen that is trying to kill all the humans. The humans are playing against you (the disease) to isolate cases, develop treatments, and even cures. The game uses engaging graphics to show what the pathogen is doing to its victims, and explain technical vocabulary related to pathology. Players discover more about epidemiology and public health through the strategies that humans in the game use to understand and eradicate the disease.
Our participant said her kids will name the disease after a sibling, and then if they win, the game says something like, “Andrew has killed everyone in the world.” You can see why teenagers find this endlessly amusing.
This game is a great suggestion for out-of-school time or supervised computer lab usage. A parent, afterschool tutor, or teacher could use the game as a conversation starter in science, health or social studies classes to connect with real scenarios of communicable diseases either in the news or in history, and also use screen shots and definitions from the game to illustrate technical science vocabulary.
2. Find an inspirational mantra with Status Shuffle
An adult educator suggested this app to start off class with a motivational activity that also can build basic skills of comprehension and building an argument. She would use Status Shuffle to find several inspirational quotes. The students would each select their favorite, and explain why it would be their mantra for the day. This introductory activity also gives early or punctual students a meaningful to do, while allowing others to straggle in without being lost on the introduction to the lesson.
Like most games, playing Scrabble is fun, but won’t automatically help students learn or use new vocabulary. Educators can transform the game into an instructional activity by asking students to write down the words they used in the game, or allow them to use flashcards or lists of recently learned words (like these words to study for the GED® Test) to play in the game. A follow-up activity would be to define the words, first using intuition, and then using the dictionary to find precise or alternate definitions and synonyms. My workshop participant said she would finish the activity by asking students to use these Scrabble words in a constructed response similar to what her adult learners would encounter on the GED® Test.
4. Create or join a Facebook Group with other educators
Two of our participants were teachers at the same high school in Cleveland, Ohio. They created a private group for members of their teaching team to post interesting videos and troubleshooting questions. Facebook Groups can be private, public, closed or open. There are lots of options to control how many people you want to engage. It is up to the administrator of the Group to set the tone and moderate activity if you aim to keep things professional.
Warning: It can be very useful to have an online professional learning network, to meet new people or gain new ideas. However, Facebook is not a “private space” like your living room. Everything you post can become public information, even if you don’t intend it to be. Don’t use Facebook to bash students or administrators, or share federally-protected educational information about students. Any of that can be grounds for termination.
One high school social studies teacher suggested using this game and its television show to teach principles of economics, like scarcity and bartering. It also includes in-game advertising, so you should alert students to the ways that companies cross-market their products. All the tips above still apply for using this game to engage students of all ages.
What do you think? Are there any Facebook games, groups, or apps you would suggest for educators?