The British Council refers to itself as the “UK’s international cultural relations body” and one of its mandates is to help people all over the world learn to speak English. It’s established a Facebook Page called TeachingEnglish that acts as an interactive repository of information and resources providing “everything busy teachers need” to teach English at home or abroad.
The TeachingEnglish writers — all current or former teachers — provide teaching materials, articles, and a community where educators can come together and share ideas and strategies about teaching English to a global audience. The TeachingEnglish Page’s sister site, the LearnEnglish Kids Facebook Page, provides resources for educators teaching kids how to speak English.
The British Council must be doing something right. The engagement level is extremely high on both of its Facebook Pages and between the two sites it has over 60,000 fans. It was once said that the sun never set on the British Empire. The educators at TeachingEnglish have demonstrated that the sun never sets on the educational world of Facebook either.
Teaching Geography Through Postcard Swapping
Marlene Cloete Redelinghuys, an elementary school teacher in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, has come up with a creative way for her students to learn about geography. She encourages them to swap postcards with schools and individuals all over the world.
What’s the connection with Facebook? This platform allows the students to continue building relationships with the people and organizations they meet through the postcard swapping. Additional photos are often shared on the school’s Facebook Page and given the global reach of Facebook, it allows the students to easily find and connect with new postcard swappers from some of the farthest reaches of the planet.
Facebook also provides a feedback loop; sentiments like the one below become poignant teaching moments, not only for the students but for a global audience as well.
Thanks to teachers like Marlene Cloete Redelinghuys and their creative uses of Facebook, children are discovering a whole new world outside the confines of the schoolyard.
Connecting With Students On Their Level
Michelle Luhtala is a teacher and librarian at New Canaan High School in New Canaan, CT. She used Facebook so effectively for her school that The American Association of School Libraries awarded her with the National School Library Media Program of the Year Award in 2010. Reflecting on the award, Mrs. Luhtala talked about how important it was to get buy-in from her students. “We want to be information specialists, but more than that…we really want the students to be invested,” she said.
In a related article on her personal blog, Luhtala discusses the concept of whether teachers should friend their students on Facebook. Citing her use of Facebook in organizing a Model UN trip to Philadelphia, helping her students submit videos to a national contest, and forming research study groups, Mrs. Lahtala says that none of those activities “would have been possible if I wasn’t Facebook friends with hundreds of students.” She even wrote a letter to her local Board of Education when it attempted to ban teachers from friending students.
As a self-described “fierce defender of free-range media” Luhtala went on to win an award for her school by creating a vibrant, interactive Facebook Page for the New Canaan High School Library that features events, photos and videos from her students. It just goes to show what can be achieved when you use the social media tools students are already familiar with in order to augment their education.
Do you know of any educators using Facebook in creative ways? Give them some well deserved recognition in the comments below.