04 December 2007

Exploring New Technology: Facebook

I've been wanting to write about my new infatuation with Facebook for a while now. But it wasn't until I read this article in the Chronicle, that I started to wrap my head around a post.

For quite some time, I have been debating with myself and colleagues about the role Facebook can play in Library service. The most esteemed DR. Elaine Young always makes convincing arguments as to how Facebook has not only augmented her class's participation but also the quality of that participation. And now that I am on Facebook, I can see how it is a far more adaptable and engaging venue for class interaction than the god forsaken WebCT.

Oh, and yes...I now have a profile on Facebook.

But it is a personal profile.

And that returns me to my ceaseless debate on where Facebook belongs. As the Chronicle piece pointed out, there are some hefty consequences to "friending" a student on Facebook. For both of you. For students, it brings you closer to faculty than you might ever have been. It makes them into a real person, with real interests, real friends, real humor, real friends. But there are reprecussions to that. Faculty, who are people too let's remember, can only show their faculty face to students.

I can't help but think about the role of the librarian in this in two ways. First: librarians are not viewed the same as faculty, even if we have faculty status. Librarians are guides, friendly faces that students choose to interact with rather than are forced to face in a class environment. We are less threatening. We are there to help, not to grade. So perhaps the role librarians face in Facebook is slightly different than faculty. That said, librarians today are charged with helping their entire college community, not just the students. We are there to help faculty too. My talk at Computers in Libraries this spring (really excited about that, by the by) focuses on the role of the librarian in teaching faculty about technology that students and librarians are quick to embrace. Facebook is one of the highlights to the show.

As librarians try to help faculty face 2.0 technologies, it is just as important to educate them about the implications of their participation in that technology as it is to incite their interest and enthusiasm for it. If we do not present a balanced view of the technology, if we do not look at what we can gain but also lose in using it, than we are only feeding faculty into the same flames from which we are trying to rescue our students. THIS IS ALL ABOUT INFORMATION LITERACY. Making edcuated decisions about how to use technology is having a clear understanding of all that technology brings with it.

This is where I get on my high horse and encourage librarians to get out there and work with their faculty to help them navigate these murky waters. Let's help faculty embrace new things but also help them avoid pitfalls that cause embarrassment, uncertainty, and a rejection of the power of collaborative computing.

There are a lot of amazing applications of Facebook in the classroom and in the library without having to put yourself in an uncomfortable position for you, your faculty, or your students. With the vast number of applications and groups out in Facebook, chances are that there is a group that you could encourage your students to join that deals with issues you are studying in your course. Liven it up a bit!

But I feel like faculty need to hear that it is okay to keep their personal lives to themselves. It is okay to not friend your students. It is okay to play in Facebook for your own good. I found friends that I went to camp with when I was 12. We are just as entitled to having a space to ourselves as students are.


annie B said...

Sar -

Have you thought about creating 2 facebook profiles, just the way you have 2 email addresses. One for work and one for you? Just a thought - it would allow you to friend work contacts and students using your professional face and still reconnect with camp pals as the sheck we all know and love!

The Sheck said...

Annie B,

That sounds like a follow up post as I do indeed have thoughts on that. Thanks for the suggestion!