Professors utilize Facebook

By on October 24, 2007

Sarah Jordino updates her status frequently. William Jellison uses it to show his political and personal views. Sean Duffy joins its online groups. Timothy Dansdill sends out invitations. PattieBelle Hastings uploads photos. Mark Hoffman is avid fan. These Facebook users are not students; they are professors at Quinnipiac University.

These five panelists met last month with the goal of teaching others about Facebook.

Facebook was created in February 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg. It was strictly created for use at Harvard but quickly spread to encompass all college students. Soon after, high school students gained access and now, anyone with a legitimate e-mail address can join.

According to Quinnipiac computer science professor Mark Hoffman and Manager of Computer Information Systems David Vance, a survey out of 787 incoming freshman, over 80 percent login to Facebook several times a week. 75 percent of these students update their photos occasionally. Two-thirds of these students agree with the statement saying they use Facebook to connect with new friends, and many are members of five groups or more.

IDD professor, PattieBelle Hastings has always kept a web log for her students. Her log contains links to items specifically interesting to interactive design majors. Upon discovering that students were using Facebook and not her web log, she decided to incorporate into her curriculum “A feature within Facebook that allows you to have your blogs..fed directly into Facebook”.

As a follow up, she conducted a survey to find out if the students were going through the links and she was very pleased with the results. The survey said that “a good _ of them are”.

Similarly, english professor, Timothy Dansdill uses Facebook as a form of teaching by integrating it into his QU 101 classes, focusing on community. He has set up the group to discuss “What is the Facebook community and how are they seeing this community in relation to the traditional community,” Dansdill said.

Political science professor Sean Duffy and psychology professor William Jellison have found other uses for Facebook.

“I wanted to try and connect with my students in a different way, to be more accessible to my students,” Jellison said.

Jellison felt that on campus, gay and lesbian students are virtually invisible, and his Facebook page allows them to get their voices heard more.

Duffy shares similar sentiments. “(I have) an opportunity to make myself available on campus that doesn’t require me to hang a billboard on my office door,” Duffy said.

Jellison and Duffy are both members of groups such as ‘QU Pride’, ‘G.L.A.S.S.’ (Gay, Lesbian and Straight Supporters), and ‘New Queer (and Old Gay) Cinema Lovers’. These groups help both professors to interact with their students on a private level.

However, while teachers are eager to learn about the widely-popular Facebook, students are hesitant. They seem interested in the educational aspect, but are leery of the consequences.

“They know (professors are using Facebook) but they’re compliant. They want to see where this is going,” Dansdill said.

In Hoffman’s Introduction to Internet Studies class, Rachel Lewiton feels that having a teacher gain access to her photos and her Facebook page is “creepy”.

“They know what’s going on, they don’t need it to be thrown in their face,” the junior public relations major said.

Other students such as sophomore broadcast journalism major Jeremy Schilling, feel as though teacher access to Facebook has the potential to create unwanted bias depending on what the professor views on the page. Schilling feels if the professor disapproves of the images she/he sees, it might reflect in their grading.

It is because of the debate between student privacy and teacher’s wanting to integrate it in the classroom, that the panel is hopeful to hold another session in the near future that will extend an invitation to QU students.

Hoffman states that because of the “various degrees of violation” perceived on the side of the students, the issue needs to be examined further.


About Ashley Reynolds