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    Facebook Can Encourage Students' Extracurricular Involvement

    Facebook has been held up as a champion for the Arab Spring and Occupy movements. It’s also been put down as a “huge waste of time” by Betty White—even though her appearance on Saturday Night Live began as a Facebook campaign and ended with an Emmy award.

    Teachers from high school on down tend to dislike Facebook for distracting students from schoolwork. Many post-secondary instructors agree, too, although more of them have figured out how to use Facebook to help them communicate with their students, host discussions, and post assignments and due dates.

    As the parent of an under-13 who wants to have a Facebook page just like “everyone else” in fifth grade, I have a hard time disagreeing with the teachers on this one. Ten-year-olds don’t know how to use Facebook properly and aren’t mature enough to know what’s OK to post and what isn’t. Plus it really is just another distraction for them along with the DS and BeyBlades.

    But college students are different. Many who use Facebook have figured out a balance between using it and keeping up with extra-curricular activities, such as fundraising for school-supported charities or volunteering their skills in clinics.

    A study by Boris Popkoff Reynol Junco, a college professor from Lock Haven University in Pennsylvania, found that college students do spend a lot of time on Facebook. But it doesn’t necessarily mean that Facebook is hurting them socially or in school. The amount of time they spend on Facebook isn’t as important as what they are doing while online.

    Students who used Facebook to check in with friends and especially those who commented to posts were more engaged in campus activities than students who played Facebook games. Even those who uploaded photos were less “engaged” with campus activities than those who viewed and commented on them. The reason? Posting photos isn’t directly communicating, but commenting on them is.

    This agrees with earlier studies that found it isn’t how much a student uses technology that predicts his or her involvement on campus, but how the technology is used.

    In fact, Junco found that students who spent more time on Facebook spent more time doing campus activities—although he also thinks that multitasking Facebook with school assignments can drive down your GPA. He plans to research this more.

     

    What do you think about Facebook? Are you using it for school as well as social purposes?

    Here are some comments from students who read about Junco’s report in the New York Times:

    • “If the teacher forgot to put the homework assignments or test dates in [the school website], I go to Facebook to ask some of my classmates what was that assignment or test. This has helped me numerous times…it resulted in getting As and Bs in my classes.”
    • “My classmates and I have benefited from a group we created for our class in freshman year. We share homework and help each other before a test with group chats.”
    • “Whenever I have to do schoolwork on a computer, I find myself wanting to go on Facebook…I do feel it is impacting learning negatively.”
    •  “After using Facebook to get more connected I have actually gotten more friends that share similar interests with me and I have become more social. I also used Facebook to make an online private study group which in turn boosted my grades from a B+ to an A-.”
    • “I think that too much Facebook can be really bad for you. You can get addicted and it can start to interfere with school. I wish I never got a Facebook [page] to begin with.”
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