Facebook groups: A great way to build language and literacy

Allison MillerAllison Miller is a regular contributor to eWorks’ blog who is passionate about engaging learners, equipping them with the knowledge and skills they need to succeed in the world of work. Today Allison teaches us how you can use Facebook to build student language and literacy skills.

A Facebook group provides a great place to build students’ language and literacy through a blended methodology. This is done by posting information / images / videos and getting students into the Facebook Group where they can interact with it. This model involves class discussions about the topic, which helps students build their understanding, and then having students write replies to posts which allows them to build their language and literacy.

Here are the steps on how to do this.

Getting started

  1. Set up the Facebook group

Set up the Facebook group as an ‘Open Group’ and invite students to be members.  Once all students have joined the group, change the group settings to make it a ‘secret’ group. This way any interactions the student have in the group will not show up on their Facebook timeline or be found by anyone outside of the group.

  1. Lay down the guidelines

Students use Facebook a lot, but that doesn’t mean that they have very good online etiquette (or netiquette). So ensure you have a discussion with your students about what is appropriate behaviour and what isn’t when using the Facebook group. Summarise these and put them in the ‘Description’ of the Facebook group as a reminder to everyone.

  1. Make your first post

Now make your first post which introduces you to the group and ask your students to do the same eg Hi – I’m Allison – the Facilitator for the “Deliver a service to customers” training program. I live in Adelaide. Please introduce yourself.

  1. Start the training

Make the next post about training such as finding a video online about your topic. Then add the link to the video and write something appropriate to generate an in class discussion, eg What is customer service? View this video and think about what customer service is.

The students then watch the video individually.  This allows students to replay the video if they need more time to understand the content. Students are encouraged to write their own notes.

Then as a group, discuss the video and the question. Throughout this discussion, write the students’ responses on the whiteboard and have the students type the group’s work as their reply to this post. For those students who are a little more confident with their writing, encourage them to type the summary of responses in their own words.

  1. Rinse and repeat

Now put up the next post while the students are writing their replies to the above post.

As Facebook is quite visual, consider things like:

  • Saving each of your PowerPoint slides as a ‘JPG’ format and uploading each one as an image as individual posts. This way the students will have ongoing access to the course content from their Facebook account
  • Getting the students to find relevant online images and video, then getting them to post these as a reply with an explanation of why they chose the image/video and how it relates to the topic
  • Getting the students to work in groups to brainstorm their ideas/responses on butchers paper and then getting them to take a photo and uploading the photo to the group

You can even upload workbooks or PDF files which students can download.

Consider all of the facts

While Facebook group offers many great features to build students’ language and literacy skills, there are some things you need to consider all of the facts:

Pros Cons
A lot of students are already a Facebook user

Evidence of student learning is in one place

Students can easily edit their posts

Students can access the information as long as they’re a member of the group

The approach allows you to ‘chunk’ up the training

Those students who finish their post quickly can ‘surf’ the net

You cannot make students join Facebook due to privacy reasons

You will need a classroom with internet connected computers and headsets

Students need to remember their Facebook login and password

Students may not feel comfortable about having their work seen by everyone

There are alternatives

If you cannot access Facebook at your organisation or you prefer not to use it, consider Yammer or Edmodo, which are very similar to Facebook, but without the ads, and with more control of content and privacy.

Using Moodle forums for blended training

Allison Miller, eWorks Accredited Consultant

Allison Miller is the director of Vanguard Visions and an important member of a team of Accredited Consultants at eWorks. Allison is passionate about interactive learning and knows how to use the latest technology to make it happen. Here you will learn how to use Moodle forums in a variety of ways to support training both on and off campus.

Does less campus time mean less training?

Paul is a building and construction teacher. Paul needs to change his current training program because he has been given less time to run his block training sessions on campus. He would like to do this by extending his training with his apprentice learners between their block training sessions. He has recently discovered Moodle, but that’s just for storing course content, right? How is that going to help his learners do some of their training when they’re not on campus?

Introducing Moodle forums (yes plural!)

If you haven’t introduced Moodle forums into your blended learning strategy it’s time to join the revolution. Moodle forums offer so many options to make training relevant and interesting, and you can tailor interactions to the nature and stage of your courses.

  1. Getting to know each other forums

Starting a Moodle course with an icebreaker is generally a good idea. The ‘Two trues and a lie’ icebreaker asks learners to share three things about themselves, two of them true and one of them a lie (or a fib). Learners then guess which piece of information is a lie. A good way to kick-start this forum is for the facilitator to share two truths and a lie. This activity can be done before learners come to their first class or during class, to help them get used to using the forum space with the facilitator’s guidance.

  1. Question and answer forums

Q&A forums act like the physical classroom whereby one learner asks a question and the teacher responds so that everyone else in the room knows the answer. This type of forum means that teachers only need to respond to similar questions once via the forum rather than repetitively responding to the same questions via email or telephone. It also encourages a learner community, allowing learners to offer answers and support each other. This both encourages learners to get to know one another and reduces the teacher’s workload.

  1. Group sharing forums

Group sharing forums mean that learners can access ubiquitous information through the internet and share it so that teachers don’t need to give all of the content to learners individually. But this isn’t just about saving time for teachers – the best way for learners to retain information is by teaching someone else. By asking each learner to research a topic or theme and share it via a forum post for other learners to read and comment upon, learners will understand the content more thoroughly. Learners also generally put more effort into writing when it is published to the whole group rather than written for the facilitator’s eyes only, so the quality of learner output also improves.

  1. Debate forums

In debate forums each learner is given a topic related to the course and then asked to post information on either the ‘for’ or ‘against’ of that topic. Learners need to ensure that they don’t use the same information as other learners, encouraging them to read and learn from other people’s posts before submitting theirs. Once all ‘for’ or ‘against’ posts have been made, learners then need to give a rebuttal or reply to at least two or three other learners’ posts who took the opposing side of the debate. For a final post, learners are then asked to sum up why they felt their side won the argument. There is nothing quite like arguing a case to learn the ins and outs of a topic.

  1. Reflective forums

Getting learners to really think about how their training is impacting them can help them to understand the relevance of what they are learning back in the workplace. Reflective forums ask learners to share a situation in which they have been involved. For example, learners could share how their workplace health and safety procedures could be improved or changed, and how these changes would impact upon them as individuals and also the people in their workplace. Asking learners to read over the posts of their peers and respond as to how fellow learners’ suggestions could improve their own workplaces will reinforce the learning

  1. Peer review forums

Having work critiqued by managers and customers is part of most jobs. A peer review forum, where learners post work for review and critique by their fellow learners, is a great way for learners to develop these skills – and to get used to being reviewed themselves. A teacher or facilitator will make this process efficient and effective by providing clear criteria according to which the work of their peers is judged. Learning to respond to criteria is yet another skill applicable to the workplace, as well as applying for jobs in the first place!

Keeping it nice

We have all seen online forums move off topic, and even get personal and rude at times, so it is important that facilitators establish clear expectations about how learners Moodle forums. Fortunately this isn’t difficult. Simply provide your learners with information about online etiquette or ‘netiquette’ during a training session, then use a forum to ask learners to share what they should and shouldn’t do on these forums – plus the likely consequences if learners don’t toe the line. This activity could be undertaken in class so that learners learn how to use the Moodle forum function, and so that the facilitator can moderate initial activity to ensure that it meets good netiquette.

Want to spread the word?

Here is a nice little summary which will help you explain how useful Moodle forums can be to your colleagues or the powers that be.

Forum Ideas Learner Activities
Getting to know each other forums Learners participate in ice breaker activities to learn more about each other.
Question and answer forums Learners are encouraged to ask questions about their course or their work.
Group sharing forums Learners need to research and post information on a topic related to the course.
Debate forums Learners present the fors or againsts on a particular topic related to the course, and reply to their counterparts’ posts.
Reflective forums Learners share how an activity can be improved in their course or their workplace and how it can impact them and others.
Peer review forums Learners post their work for critique and feedback from their fellow learners.

Are you making the most of your Moodle forums? Contact eWorks to find out.