10 Reasons Facebook Fails Education

Facebook dead?

So – I know what you’re going to say, right. It’s not Facebook’s responsibility to do anything for education. Right? I totally agree with that sentiment.

However, if you think back 2 and 3 years ago, when educators were scrambling to use social tools to piece together their Personal Learning Networks, we were using any (and every) tool that was out there. Facebook, Twitter, now Google+, Pinterest, Diigo, Delicious, Instagram- anything- that would connect our learning and create a pipe for knowledge.

I had a lot of faith in Facebook at one point, as I’m sure many educators have. We joined every Facebook group we could get our hands on. Some educators decided to just “let everybody in” to Facebook, and that meant severely opening one’s self up to strangers, and, perhaps, putting limits on how open we can even be on Facebook.

At this point, Facebook has devolved for education. It’s now clearly the place to go for family and friends. That’s okay, but I think that it’s a missed opportunity for discourse and the sharing of ideas. Here’s 10 reasons Facebook is failing educators, in reverse order:

10. Family and friends only.

Facebook has, over the past few months, clearly defined itself as the virtual online family photo album. I’m not saying that’s bad in-general, but it has left “work” stuff out of the picture. Many educators are certainly fine with this. In fact, many of them have rules about not sharing any work stuff to Facebook and are pretty diligent about leaving Facebook simply as the place to share cat videos and pictures of their kids. I’ve been asked outright by my own family members to stop sharing so much about education in my Facebook stream. I was told, “no one wants to see your work stuff on Facebook.” Really? Nobody? Interesting development…

9. Discourse is dead.

Ever have a good argument? Not one that ended with you getting a black eye, but one where both parties achieved a moment where a new level of understanding was created? This could be considered that “aha” moment that educators strive for in their classrooms. Yeah- that’s not happening on Facebook.

When was the last time you had a really good in-depth conversation about politics, education, the environment- or anything on Facebook? Four years ago, during the 2008 election, so much vitriol was spewed on my Facebook stream between folks from both the Right and Left- it was terribly unproductive. This last time around, political sharing was mostly implied. I saw many of my educator friends do a “house cleaning” after the 2012 election because some Facebook “friends” were clearly racist.  Ugh.

The problem with discourse on Facebook is about expectations. People don’t expect to learn anything on Facebook. In fact, I’m beginning to think that not learning anything on the platform is becoming an expectation of its users. If it’s just a place to “blow off steam” after a tough day at work- fine. There’s nothing wrong with that.

But it’s a sad, missed opportunity for learning.

8. Groups fail again and again.

Facebook has tried Groups twice, and twice they both failed. I’m not blaming Facebook here, but I do think that creating all of these micro-communities is becoming overwhelming to the users. I understand the logic behind it all, and I can see the authenticity in using these in a college setting where you might want to share information to a study group. [BTW- have any of you used Facebook Groups for Schools? Out of all of my FB friends, only two people use (or used)  this tool.]

I don’t know that this is just Facebook. Google+ recently introduced Google+ Communities, and after two days of fanfare and a lot of signing up, this seems to be fizzling as well. My theory: it’s enough work and sweat to maintain Facebook, Twitter, and Google+, but having to now micromanage these sub-communities is perhaps just too much for people.

How many of us have been added to Facebook groups without even being given the option to participate? That’s a glitch, in my opinion, that just adds to the clutter of notifications on Facebook.

People don’t expect to learn anything on Facebook.


7. Ideas are dead.

Just as discourse is dead on Facebook, along with that comes the sharing of ideas. I think Facebook belittles idea sharing. Big ideas are reduced to quote sharing (which I admit I do).  Just as the consumption of video on the Internet has been reduced to 1-4 minutes max, just the same, the sharing of ideas on Facebook has been reduced to a sentence. This has turned my Facebook wall into a warped version of the Hallmark store.

6. Over-notified.

Besides being added to groups that you’re not asked to be in, asked to use or install apps, or invited to too many events-  the notifications in Facebook also requires too much management. To add to this, many people  are still crossposting from their other social networks; I find that Facebook is cluttered, and not filled with much substance. Cross-posting from Twitter is a behavior that’s frustrating. If I just read your post on Twitter, seeing it on Facebook, belittles the share. And, just from observation, it looks lazy. I realize that you can change settings on Facebook, mute people’s posts and such, but that’s way too much management involved.  It shouldn’t be this hard. Educators like Miguel Guhlin have started over completely- removing almost all of his friends, and asking you now to “Subscribe” to his posts.  That’s certainly a strategy. Is that too much?

5. Video fails on Facebook.

I’m a huge fan of film and video in education. Also being a former film student, I just love movies. EdReach hosts the iDigVideo Show with Jonathan Furst, and that’s just the beginning of the “movies in education” shows we’d like to do.

I find that Facebook is a horrible place to share movies and video. If you want to share a movie trailer- that’s fine, but if you’re expecting that latest TED Talk to get any traction on your Facebook page, then think again. Facebook is the place where ideas come to die, whether that’s in written or video form.

4. Facebook fails Ed businesses.

I don’t know if you noticed lately, but TechCrunch recently stopped using Facebook Comments (EdReach has also followed suit). Like many new things Facebook rolls out, there’s an initial bump, but then things seem to die off.  If the conversations about education aren’t happening on Facebook, then that makes it doubly difficult to start a conversation around an education product.

What this means for education businesses, is that their Facebook Page presence becomes no more than a Like Button. Again- maybe I’m asking for too much, but this seems like such a missed opportunity for all involved. What a great opportunity for companies to engage their customers, but you see very little of this- in depth.

It shouldn’t be this hard.


3. Facebook fails Personal Learning Networks (PLNs)

A few years ago, many of us early adopter educators added throngs of other educators to our friends lists. The thinking here was that we’d be ready to scoop up any new ideas, tools, or classroom strategies that were shared on the platform. Now- we’re stuck with a thousand friends, and not a lot of education sharing. I’m sure many of us are okay with the fact that we get to see our fellow educators in their “normal-ish” lives, and that’s cool.

But, again, now we’re stuck with a bloated friend network- and perhaps – a lot of folks that we still don’t know very well. I’m a big fan of getting out the message. If you’ve got a positive message, then share it to the widest audience possible. If the audience only wants to play Farmville, though, then you’re wasting your time.

2. Facebook ads worsen the experience.

I’m amazed that after all this time, companies like Google and Facebook still haven’t figured out a way to make advertising relevant to the user. I know that ads are necessary, but when algorithms try to guess our likes or dislikes based on our previous behavior, I find they are still off-base and irrelevant. Often, Facebook and Google will serve you an ad based on something you just looked up- and that’s often after the moment you already bought something and have moved on. They’re always a step behind. Advertising doesn’t have to be a horrible thing; it could help you find relevant new tech tools or platforms to help your teaching practice. This never happens though. If advertising platforms truly knew what you liked and offered you a personalized experience- we’d all feel different about it. Miguel Guhlin sums up Facebook’s commercial experience best:

Facebook is a commercial environment focused on advertising and gathering personal information (e.g. text, images,video), and has been mis-appropriated for educational purposes. If Facebook had options that enabled it to “shut off” advertising for education audiences, that would be one thing. But since Facebook makes little effort to support education because that is counter to its mission, I shudder to think about any K-12 usage.

1. It all comes back to Twitter.

Every couple of years, I have this realization. After trying different networks over the years, FriendFeed, Google Buzz, Pinterest, now Google+, I still get the most out of Twitter. Sure, I get frustrated with Twitter, too, but I continue to find that Twitter feeds my need for discovery, and I consider myself an education explorer. I want to go to a place and discover new things, ideas, landscapes.

Google+ has promise, but again, I think they copy Facebook too much. I still discover new things there, but I also get invited to Hangouts at 2am from people in India, and still don’t find that conversation is as much as it could be.

Twitter is vibrant. You can always come across a thought, an idea, or a superb blog post- sometimes from a colleague, or sometimes from FastCompany.com or TechCrunch. It’s Democratic. The network will reward you for ideas, by giving you more followers and retweets, and it will penalize you when you have terrible ideas. It was instrumental in sharing thoughts and ideas during recent Middle Eastern regime changes.

Twitter is a marketplace for ideas. It’s the perfect tool for education. Let’s stop kidding ourselves, save ourselves the time of cross-posting to everything- and place our cards on the Twitter table (and let’s use Google+ for Hangouts). If Facebook is the candy, Twitter is the cake.

All in all- it could be said that Facebook is “what you make of it,” that it’s all “who your friends are,” but judging by the video interviews below, taken from EdCamp St. Louis, I think it’s safe to say- it’s not just me.

So- does Facebook need to serve education? Facebook owes education nothing. The fact that idea sharing and learning seem to be drifting far, far away from its 1 billion users, is just plain sad.

What do you think?

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