Most people are happy to use Facebook without worrying about its more sophisticated capabilities. Others might want to take it to the next level and use it to communicate with more than one audience. For instance, a teacher might have personal messages posted but may also want to use Facebook to reach students. This is done using custom lists and privacy settings. For a long time, I didn’t realize these features existed. And as a teacher, I worried about mixing my personal life with my faculty role. Fortunately, Facebook provides a reasonable solution and once set up, managing more than one audience becomes easy. Facebook permits profile owners to assign groups of friends to specific lists. For me, this means a Personal Friend List and a Student List. Privacy settings can be applied separately to each list so only certain material is visible to each group. For instance, I may not want my students to access photos and posts related to my family. Likewise, my personal friends really don’t want to see a student study guide. So how does this work? First, a list must be available. To create a new list, or add someone to an existing list, the profile owner can visit his or her group of Facebook friends on the profile page. Mouse over the name of the friend to be added to a specific list. When the dialog box appears, click on the ‘Friends’ button and a box with all available lists will appear (see Figure 1).
You may have to click on an item that says ‘show all lists’ to see lists you previously created. If you haven’t created the desired list previously, it is possible to do so from this same dialog box. Click on the list or lists for this particular friend. A check will appear next to the lists you have assigned. Once a friend is added to a list, content can be screened from their view more easily. How do you do this? In order to post information restricted to specific people, first create a post, load a video or add a photo as you normally would. Then, use the drop down box associated with the content to select the list of friends as an audience. As an example, Figure 2 shows how a post about a power outage will be made visible only to my family members. My students will not be aware of this posting. After posting the content, the settings can be modified to include more viewers.
Figures 3 and 4 show how this can be done using a drop down menu then adding lists or specific friends to a particular post. This is a very powerful capability in Facebook that makes it possible to use one account for multiple purposes. And for teachers, this can be very helpful! Using one list for students and another list for everyone else makes juggling the two worlds just a bit easier!
Last year, my oldest son, Mark, called me and said his medical school acceptance would be put on hold unless he produced his vaccination records by the next day. That doesn’t sound like a difficult problem, until time and geography constraints are thrown in. His records were located in a lock box in our home in Kansas. My wife and I were both in Michigan, about a thousand miles away. Each of us had a key—the only two keys to the box. I threw out a number of possible solutions: contacting the family doctor (who informed us their paper records had been moved offsite for digitizing and were not accessible at the moment), breaking open the box with a crowbar, and begging the medical school to give him enough time for the key to be mailed overnight. My son, being a tech-savvy millennial, had other ideas. He went to the Internet, searched the Web for information about picking locks and quickly found a diagram that described the bends to put into a paper clip in order to create a replacement key for our specific lockbox. A YouTube video provided details about the mechanics behind picking the lock. Within a few short minutes, he had his medical records. I might also add that this was a high-end lock box, so I was surprised he opened it that quickly. He had “know-where.” Mark sent messages to his friends about his experience picking the lock and became a node on their information networks. He now is their go-to guy for future lock-picking needs! He used know-where to build know-how. This was a connectivist process in action. The learning resided in a community outside the individual but was available to him when he required it.
This is an example of connectivism in action. George Siemens summarizes in his blog:
1. Connectivism is the application of network principles to define both knowledge and the process of learning. Knowledge is the pattern of relationships, and learning is the creation of new connections.
2. Connectivism focuses on the inclusion of technology as part of our distribution of knowledge. Our knowledge resides in the connections we form, both with people and with information sources such as databases, wikis, and blogs.
3. Connectivism recognizes the fluid nature of knowledge and connections based on context.
It is the way our students are learning and applying their knowledge!
A little over a week ago I had the good fortune to attend the MIS Department Chairs/Program Directors Conference at the University of Texas Dallas (MIS stands for Management Information Systems and is the acronym commonly used to represent the field that applies technology solutions to business problems).
One of the sessions I attended was an industry panel that focused on emerging trends in information technology and the resulting implications for MIS programs. The panelists were well-known CEOs and managers from major organizations such as Microsoft, SAP AG, and JC Penney. They talked about hiring today’s students and attributes that were important criteria for identifying the leaders of tomorrow. Venkat Kolluri, CEO of Chitika, said he looks for students that know how to ‘get stuff done.’ He used the analogy of Astronaut versus Astronomer and suggested today’s business firms need more Astronauts. He wanted student hires that were willing to get in the middle of solving problems and not just observe and describe what was out there.
This got me thinking about my best students over the years. Many of them grew up on family farms in Western Kansas. Mr. Kolluri may have been on to something with his observation. Perhaps many of these students were strong because their formative years were spent solving problems with whatever was available. My wife and I grew up in rural communities and know many instances of farmers making do with very limited resources. In other words, barbed wire and duct tape solves many problems.
Although modern corporations are not hoping that their new employees will solve problems with barbed wire and duct tape, they do appreciate problem solving skills and the ability to ‘get stuff done’. Kolluri said the person he hires won’t be saying, “I want to be a manager someday.” Instead, he or she will be say, “I like to get stuff done!”