Redes Sociales en la clase de Inglés Lengua Extranjera

El tema de usar las nuevas tecnologías en el proceso de enseñanza y apredizaje de inglés me interesa mucho. Se ha dado alguna que otra oportunidad para que escriba algún artículo (en inglés) en una publicación de dpcentes de Inglés Lengua Extranjera en Israel. He decidido editar una nota que me publicaron y compartirla con quien se interese en este encuentro.


He aquí tal nota editada:


Leveraging Social Networks for Pedagogic / Didactical Advantage 
 Facebook and Edmodo as tools that support my work as a teacher of English as a Foreign Language

Blasphemy alert. I am a fifty-five year old high-school English teacher and I was not afraid of using Facebook with my teenage students during the last school year. It was not because I like to sound "cool", chat endlessly on this social network, upload pictures to show pupils the world, or whatever. As a matter of fact, I hardly do any of these on Facebook. However, I used Facebook as a sort of a companion to my English lessons, and even as a "virtual" extension of the "physical" place, that is, the classroom where I taught. (Incidentally, this opening is an outcome of the sharing that took place on the Facebook group)

My point is that we teachers of English as a Foreign Language can leverage Social Networks for pedagogic / didactical advantage. During the 2010 – 2011 school year, I used Facebook. This year, I started using Edmodo instead.

2010 – 2011 - Facebook

Allow me to take up Facebook first

We may all have heard that "everybody is on Facebook".  Well, I don't know about everybody, but I do know that most Israeli teenagers are "there" (I guess you can say the same about teens from other countries). For them, Facebook is a familiar territory  in which they feel at ease to communicate and upload stuff. Incidentally, English is THE language most people on this earth use to communicate on the internet and beyond, so getting pupils to be aware of that might open the way to a "new" (for most) use of this popular social network. Why can't we use it as a means of getting pupils use English in a somewhat authentic way?

We shouldn't be afraid of Facebook because this network is no more than a tool. We could instead help pupils learn some basics of Netiquette (Internet Etiquette) which "refers to the set of practices created over the years to make the Internet experience pleasant for everyone. Like other forms of etiquette, netiquette is primarily concerned with matters of courtesy in communications." ( ), and specifically Facebook Netiquette as introduced, to mention but an example, on Education Coffehouse ( as we went on about using Facebook.

It is time to get to the What for, How and What of this way of using Facebook. "Educators using Facebook"- provides some insights regarding these points.

Facebook is social. It can increase a sense of belonging; build bonds between classmates, and increase bond between students and instructors. You can create a “teacher” profile separate from your personal profile, You can create a "closed group" (Groups allow you to manage basic information, memberships, photos, videos, links, officers, and a wall) permitting access only to those people (your pupils) you want (that is what I have done), or else you can ask students to create a limited profile with controlled settings, friend you, and add you to the limited profile list. You can make lists of classes and message an entire list. You can publish notes, which are like blogs, but are more targeted toward the personal than the publicly searchable. You can share videos, which you simply embed from You Tube, Google videos, or wherever or even upload from your own computer. You can share photos, examples of worksheets, third party applications, experiences, status updates, jokes, testimonials, grammar explanations, links to vocabulary items, you name it… I wouldn't go as far as writing that the sky is the limit, but you can decide what the limit is. And, again, thanks to "Educators using Face book" for the stuff that makes up this paragraph.

What did we (pupils and me together: this is sharing) do with a Facebook group? We used it as a follow up to what we managed (and didn't manage) to do in class. We posted comments on what we read and did in class, uploaded video clips, which included songs and the lyrics, and then commented on them, related to the contents of the units of our class textbook, chose, read, commented on and recommended reading (or avoiding) texts on different subjects, ... In short, we tried to get a glimpse of what a Community of Practice (an important tool when sharing knowledge) is or can be, and saw that Facebook is a social network that functions great in English and not just in Hebrew (needless to say, English was the only language allowed in the group).

It all sounds like a sort of Book Report but not meant just for the teacher (it is not "for your eyes only, teacher", as everybody in the group could see what others wrote). That means that the teacher had to be there to serve as moderator, give (positive!) feedback, explain words and clarify concepts in a general way (without embarrassing anyone), dealing with errors in a post and opening the way for further treatment of the subject in class, etc. Facebook did not replace class work, but was a welcome addition.

It should not come as a shock to learn that some pupils couldn't (or can't) see the connection between using a Facebook page in English and studying English. "That is not studying", I have heard say. It turns out that some pupils have a clear idea ( a mental model) of what "studying English at school is" (I guess "doing" unseen texts, placing the correct form of the verb in brackets, filling in a cloze passage, writing a composition on paper, and the like). Mind you, I said "some", but not all.
I must stress that I taught then (and teach now) pupils who are willing to try something new. Most are neither computer students nor absolutely crazy about computers. To put it simply, these kids are regular kids, as most kids are. I guess they use Facebook as much as many other kids, and (surprise) not all of them had a Facebook account before I made them open one for our course.

I can't show you the real page because it is a closed group.

There is no point in burying our heads in the sand. This is an Information Age of some sort and the Social Media is around whether we like that or not. It is not a question of "If you can't beat them, join them!" It is simply a question of leveraging Facebook for didactical advantage, to paraphrase the title of a good book. "Here comes everybody" (another good book on Social Media), so we as English teachers can make use of "The Wisdom of the Crowds" (our pupils, and, yes, that is the title of yet another good book. Who says the time of the published page is gone?)

Try a Facebook group and enjoy yourself. It's well worth it.

2011 – 2012 Edmodo

School year has just started in Israel, so this year I have decided to try something new: Edmodo. To make a long story short, I am putting this secure social network to work just as I did with Facebook. The fact that it is more teacher - controlled is one major advantage. It prevents distractions in a way Facebook does not, and… it simply looks like Facebook but isn't. It seems to be working well, but that is too early to say for sure. Time will tell.

Try a Edmodo and enjoy yourself. It's well worth it.

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