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Courses, Facebook, and Secret Groups
March 21, 2013 - 9:00pm

Our students are leveraging the the web and mobile apps to collaborate, share information, and study together.

They are sharing online resources such as videos and learning objects Khan Academy, digital textbook resources, YouTube, iTunesU, and other open online education resources.

Students are actively sharing information about study strategies and techniques designed to help each other learn the material and do well on quizzes, tests, and papers.

There is a world of social learning going on, and we (meaning us instructors, educational technologists - basically anyone employed on the instructional or administrative sides of the house), know nothing about what is going on.

The reason: Facebook Secret Groups.

To quote from the Facebook privacy option description page:

Secret: Non-members can’t find these groups in searches or see anything about the group, including its name and member list. The name of the group will not display on the timelines of members. To join a secret group, you need to be added by a member of the group.

What is so appealing for students about Facebook Secret Groups is that instructors, or anyone else that works for the school, can't access the group. 

We can't even know the the group exists.  An enormous amount of really high quality is learning going on on our networks and and our campuses, but it is completely invisible to all of us.

All that is required for a course Secret Group to start is for one student to create the group.  She can then invite all the other members of the class.  So we have Secret Groups for courses in every subject - from Anthropology to Zoology - with everything in between.

Or at least I think your campus and mine has these Secret Groups.  But we will never really know.

And that is a great thing.  

Facebook Secret Groups for classes means that our students are taking control of their learning.  Freed from instructor and administrative surveillance and judgment they are able to learn in ways that fit their needs, not ours. They can be critical of our teaching, dismissive of our learning technologies, and disparaging of assignments - all without fear of retribution by grading.   

What should our best approach be to the rise of Secret Facebook Groups for classes? Do absolutely nothing.  

Rejoice that our students are findings ways around us and our systems to take control of their own learning.   

Don't even mention that we know anything.  Trust that our students will find the technologies that they need to navigate our classes.   

Be grateful that they are gaining the skills in technology mediated sharing and collaboration that they will need in the workplace.

Realize that when it comes to how our students use technology to learn that we don't really know what is going on.


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