For this Facebook learning activity our group posted a status update to prompt our Facebook friends to respond to the following questions: "What does a feminist classroom look like?" and "What examples if any can you share about a classroom that you would name as feminist?" Group members wrote a Facebook "note" which is a and tagged certain friends in an attempt to engage specific people in a conversation on feminist pedagogies and the potential for Facebook to further connect, share, and explore our feminist pedagogical goals. We also asked our classmates to initiate a similar discussion for those that have a Facebook account. To offer more information on the learning activity one could also include the link to our class website and blog. (This was quickly re-posted by other friends to include their entire friend list.)
We asked fellow students in class to bring their Facebook discussions/responses to class in order to share and discuss the different ways that people are engaging with questions of feminist pedagogical practices. Additionally we hope that our discussion highlights the ways that social media and social networking sites such as Facebook may contribute to these discussions. Hopefully during our class discussion we can talk about the possibilities and potential drawbacks of using Facebook to initiate discussions and then compare and share them with the entire class.
This activity is meant to "open the doors of the classroom" and expand participation to include not only students enrolled in the class, but to those who participate in these students' social networks (in this case Facebook) and would be willing to join discussion. Our learning activity can be used in different settings (undergraduate, graduate, high school classrooms, etc), as long as the students (at least some of them) have Facebook accounts.
The class size shouldn't be a matter in this activity, but larger classrooms may offer a broader variety of perspectives unraveled by the activity and the time for discussion should be tailored accordingly. The theme for discussion on Facebook can be also adapted for discussions on different subjects and for this reason we believe that this activity can be used by different disciplines.
For students who do not participate in social networking sites this activity is still beneficial since the variety of perspectives encountered by other students in their social network will be shared with all participants in class. The broader discussion of integrating non-academic voices into a traditionally academic topic is still relevant and useful in a feminist classroom.
The goals of this activity are to prompt students to bring class concepts and ideas into their social networks and to solicit input from those that are not in the classroom. In doing so, this activity may provide the class with an array of perspectives that are otherwise absent during classroom discussions. The role(s) of the non-academic voice in classroom dialogue is valued in feminist pedagogies. Accordingly our group sought to integrate non-academic perspectives through the use of Facebook . Furthermore, prompting students to initiate a conversation using social networking sites beckons their own participation and renegotiation of the concept as they encounter the unfamiliar voices we seek to include. Engaging in a dialogue with others that could be hostile to feminist perspectives or simply have no background in the subject may challenge the student to clarify their own ideas in helpful ways. The hope is that using Facebook to dialogue will bring critical conversation and thought to the social networking site and help students begin to understand their role in challenging their close networks outside of the classroom.
1. How open and honest were you about your own perspectives?
2. How did those that responded to you challenge you?
3. Did you receive the amount of responses that you expected? Why or Why Not?
4. Did you find that this exercise made you develop more clear and concise answers to your own question?
5. Did your dialogue with someone change your answer to the question posed?
Strengths and Limitations
Initiating and connecting traditionally academic conversations (such as those about feminist pedagogy) outside of the academy is challenging for all of us, especially undergraduates who are freshly encountering complex critical topics. Our group's activity is designed to address this challenge and motivate students to continue dialoging with others outside of their class experiences. Although exact percentages are difficult to attain most statistical studies estimate 80% of U.S. college students to use the social networking site Facebook. Our activity is designed to mobilize Facebook as a tool for potentially meaningful dialogue by utilizing that which is already familiar. Therefore a central strength of our activity resides in the site's relevance and popularity to student lives outside of the classroom.
Furthermore students have oftentimes amassed extensive friend lists on Facebook and are thus connected to a wide range of users that are excluded by university systems. The diversity of users on Facebook opens the possibilities for perspectives to be shared between individuals that otherwise remain unknown.
Facebook's "comment" design allows users to submit more text than other social networking sites such as Twitter, facilitating more complex discussions. Additionally because many facebook friends are familiar with each other in some sense it is possible that the scope of self-disclosure, reflexivity, and/or "authenticity" is widened. Similarly since Facebook profiles can be "private" conversations may feel safer to some users.
Facebook itself is privately owned and has come under well-earned criticism for offering information about its users without their explicit permission. Supporting student participation in a large private enterprise such as Facebook may then be counterproductive in relation to other feminist goals. Evaluating how students are using their Facebook page may encroach on a student's autonomy in ways that are also counterproductive, instructors using Facebook in their classroom should therefore allow students to inform the process as much as possible and offer alternatives.