About two months ago I had accounts in Facebook, Academici.net and LinkedIn. I didn’t use any of them much and was waiting to see which one would be of interest, if any. My money was on LinkedIn, it was the one for professionals, whereas Facebook seemed to be for under 25s who wanted to gossip and date each other. Two months on and Facebook is the clear winner. It has reached the tipping point in my particular circle, with a friend request coming in once a day almost (okay, once a week, I’m not that popular).
The reason is that Facebook has won is that it has cracked stickability, or maybe we should term it returnability. This is key to the success of social networking sites, he who gets returnability shall be king. There are lots of hooks to pull you back in. I love seeing my friends status and regularly update mine, for example. It also really utilises the network effect, so I can see who is friends with who, what my friends are up to, and now what tools they’ve added and what they’re doing with them. This last one, the opening up of Facebook has been the factor that has put it ahead of the others.
Now, like every other educator who has an account, one can’t help wondering what a Facebook for learning would be like. A few educators I have spoken to have said they think it’s all a bit superficial, but I think it’s quite powerful. Let’s imagine you flooded it with content, had lots of subject areas as groups and maybe added in a few educational widgets. The network effect then can really aid learning – seeing what others are doing and saying is not just serendipity, it’s serendipity squared. For example, I see that John’s status is ‘struggling to understand how analogue to digital conversion works.’ I see that Davina has added the analogue to digital conversion animation to her learning resources, so I recommend it to John. I look at Davina’s learning resources and find a tutorial on Ajax, which I add to my own and I also post on her wall that I have used it. Peter has also posted on her wall, and invites me in to a chat, as he is using it too. And so on.
So, the point is not could Facebook (or a Facebook type site) be used for learning, as I think it obviously could, the key question is, would people use it? Is the intrinsic motivation for using Facebook the social element, and adding in education (particularly formal education) would just kill this stone dead?
Well, the web 2.0/social networking project is about to start at the OU, so I guess I’ll find out.