Using Facebook for Literacy Skills

I was wondering if you might share with me some ways that you use Facebook in your classroom? I'm wondering if you have any suggestions for how to use Facebook to reinforce literacy skills?

I received that head-inflating request from a co-worker, and immediately typed out four pages of tripe, complete with quotes and illustrations. Then I came to my senses and just took two minutes to show her what some of my learners do.

Still, not wanting the tripe to go to waste....

Blogging - that is, writing and publishing online on a regular basis - is much like writing letters to the editor or writing for a school newsletter. It is an activity which gives learners reason to want to write (and edit) their best.

The "notes" function in Facebook provides a basic blogging tool. This tool allows for the use of photos and spellcheck (which is also built in to most browsers). Notes also allows for html formatting, although at least one study says Facebook users find it "confusing or tedious using HTML in-text markups to stylize a note." Combined with the "pages" and/or "groups" function, it is possible to create an online newsletter of sorts on Facebook. (Possible, though I confess I haven't managed to make it work for me.)

Facebook also hosts several applications that invite users to review (write about) the books they've read, movies they've seen, etc. Most of these have a "social component" which allows users to read other's writings as well.

Besides Facebook, places to write are: blogs (Blogger, Wordpress), forums and groups, social network sites (Orkut, Multiply, Live Spaces), photo hosting sites (Flickr, Photobucket), and fan and/or review sites (Amazon, Epinions).

Writing - Create on the Desktop, Share Online.

Writing online or on a PC requires keyboards and mouse skills, and can provide opportunity for learning how to format text, cut and paste, use a spell check tool, etc.

Writing online allows learners to become familiar with a variety of web tools and editing practices (commenting, creating hypertext or links, including photos or videos in a post, etc.). However, it can be complicated, and only sometimes allows learners to save their work in draft form. As well, learners need a reliable network connection.

Writing on a PC allows learners to save their work without worrying about their network connection. Most PCs offer several venues for writing:

Notepad - very basic and uncomplicated ("point and type"). Notepad comes as standard software on most PCs. The copy and paste function can be used to copy text to and from web pages. Notepad has few formatting options, though font size can be adjusted only for the screen. This can be good, since formatting codes (invisible but present in many Word and Wordpad documents) can cause problems when text is pasted into an online text box.

Wordpad - basic formatting tools (size, shape, colour of text and bullets, etc.). Wordpad comes as standard software on most PCs. Wordpad is less complicated than Word, but also offers fewer options. Some web page publishing tools will not accept Wordpad formatting when a portion of text is copied in.

MS Word - a standard office tool many employees need to use. Word is very flexible, but also very complicated. It has many automatic editing functions which often frustrate or confuse novice users. (These can be turned off , but only if the user can find the right switch.) It's invisible formatting codes can cause unexpected results when copied into a web page's text box.

Possibly Useful Steps for Online Writing / Publishing

1. Write out a passage in notepad or wordpad. Save. Minimize window.

2. Open and log-in to the website to which you are posting. Locate the text box or publishing application (e.g., Facebook notes).

3. Restore ("re-open the window for") your typed text, select all, then copy (don't cut) the text.

4. Switch to your open website and paste the text into the text box.

To add a picture

5. Find a suitable image through Google Image search - or take a photo with a digital camera - and save it to the desktop as a .jpg file.

6. From the web page, use the built in "add a photo" tool to browse to and upload the picture.

8. Look for a button that says "publish" or "post".

9. Review your text as it appears online to look for mistakes or formatting problems that need to be edited out. (Many comment and review forms don't allow editing, but all blog sites allow posters to make revisions.)

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