Using facebook in and out of classrooms

By Shin D Kim, Hallym University, Korea

I opened an account on the facebook primarily because I wanted to use it to connect myself with the students. I was a visiting professor at Sciences Po, one of the most prestigious universities in France, in 2008-09 where I was invited to teach a few courses including Asian Cinema and Media and Communication in East Asia and Korea. As soon as I opened an account, I also began a group East Asian Media Culture. The limited functionality of the Facebook did not allow too complicated usages but I thought it could be very useful in and out of classroom for my courses. From my experience, I would like to clarify how both the Facebook and the group that I formed was contributing to my teachings at both Sciences Po in Paris and at City University of Hong Kong subsequently.


As soon as I went to Paris in the fall of 2008, I found most students in my class had accounts on facebook. It was simply ‘the medium’ which was functioning at the center of all kinds of connections. In the case of mobile phone address book, students tend to keep the numbers of relatively close friends. But the Facebook is designed not only to keep the links with close friends, but with most friends. You don’t publicize how many phone numbers you have in your mobile device, but you cannot avoid exposing your Facebook network to your friends. Young adults tend to put themselves under a sort of pressure when they first develop their affinity with the social media and they tend to put themselves in a silent competition of adding more friends. Friend requests are generally accepted whereas requests for mobile numbers are not made in such a loose manner.

Facebook proved to be a nice and easy way to get to know on my students to a certain degree. I usually don’t visit each student’s profile but what they do with the Facebook is usually appearing on the wall. Even if you don’t pay too much attention, you can still notice what these students are doing. This proved as a small but interesting and meaningful difference to me. As a teacher, I seldom find a time to know more on my student on a personal level. But the Facebook activities of some (not all) of the students informed me of themselves quite a bit which was never available to me before.

East Asian Media Culture

East Asian Media Culture is primarily designed for the class that I taught, but it was open group and anybody interested in the topic could join. The group has 186 members as of April 2010 among which roughly half are students who took my classes either in Paris or in Hong Kong. The function of the group is simple. Students (or any other members) were asked to post a link which is related to the topics and contents of the class each week. The classes were primarily about media and communication cultures and related issues in East Asian societies such as China, Japan, and Korea.

The group helped students a lot in two major ways. First, this was an easy and effective way for them to actually watch various video clips like movie trailers and teasers, music videos, television dramas, and so on. Teaching a course on media culture used to be quite troublesome when it comes to show the actual pieces in class. Together with You Tube, it has become such an easy and convenient tool. Secondly, students can enjoy the effect of pooling resources. Each student put one or two links a week, and they took the advantage of watching and reading all other links that their classmates found. This is a small but effective collaboration. The students also used the links they made when they were making in-class presentations. Once a student made a presentation on the characteristics of the Korean B-boy culture. B-boy battle and the technique of it were not quite familiar to many students in the class, and the presenter shoed exemplary battle clips along with his own performance of some basic movements. This produced immediate impact on the class. Not only the students in the class understood well on the topic, but they were impressed in the way the presentation combined three elements so effectively. The three elements were powerpoint slides, Facebook linked YouTube clips, and the presenter’s own performance. Any one of the three components was indispensible to make the presentation effective.

After the course and out of the class

The Facebook helps me to remain in contact with my former students. Some students are posting comments on my wall, while some others sending messages to request recommendation letters or casual meetings for small talks. Even after the class is over, few students disconnects from the group. Not all group members become friends of mine on the Facebook, but some choose to be friends during or after the course. Both the friend connection and groups serve as a sort of “after service” channel. As far as they remain a member of the group, the former students get updated links on the topic that they once studied.

The global aspect of Facebook is another attractive point both for me and my students. A student I taught in Paris is now a visiting student in Taipei and plans to make a job-talk visit to Hong Kong where I happened to stay as a visitor. She was aware of my whereabouts and wanted to arrange a meeting on her trip. This obviously would have never happened if both of us were not linked on the Facebook. I plan to attend a conference in Paris in a few months and considering a casual and informal meeting with my former students during my visit. I am going to collect personal experiences of their Facebook life. This in a sense is allowing me to have lifetime panel for my ongoing research on the use of social media.

Facebook or any other social media seem to be offering a variety of different ways for implementing in teachings. Its probably not a fancy technique that produces rare and surprising impact but simple and easy ways to be accommodated to daily usages that make more useful outcomes. Reducing the distance between the teachers and the students, for example, seem to be already a revolutionary impact that the social media are creating in and out of the classroom.

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