Sunday, May 27, 2007

Facebook as PLE - I Have Seen The Future!

There has been a lot written lately about Facebook, both pro and con. Several institutions have actually banned their employees from using Facebook on organization machines. Many school boards have restricted its use.

But there are a lot of positive things about Facebook. I've been using it as a mean of creating alumni groups of former and current learners as a way of staying in touch and developing industry networks. We have posted employment opportunities to Facebook groups created for our programmes (as have learners) and we have had learners get employment offers through jobs found on Facebook. That is a great thing. I am actively exploring the creation and use of Facebook groups for my courses as a way of assisting learners to get to know each other better and to provide a social networking opportunity that hopefully will result in greater engagement and a more positive learning experience.

The real excitement for me though is the recent announcement that Face book is allowing third-party companies access to its API for the creation of Facebook applications. The launch of the Facebook Platform will add an incredible amount of functionality and customizability to Facebook. Some of the early adopters of this platform include apps for file sharing, voice, video, and links to other Web 2.0 applications like Twitter and RSS feeds.

So what does this mean? Well for me it means that Facebook is well on its way to becoming the ideal tool for the creation of Personal Learning Environments or PLEs. The ability for users of Facebook to customize their environment so that they can receive and share information with others will create and even more powerful social phenomenon than Facebook currently is. With available chat, RSS, file and picture sharing, the potential exists for learning to occur in a whole new learning-centred way. I see Facebook and the learners who use it becoming the content generators and consumers of future learning environments. The currently available applications already have the [potential for creating rich learning experiences - I can hardly wait to see what applications get added to Facebook over the coming months - Facebook as learning manager or portal - what does it mean for out current established base of Learning Management Systems (LMSs)?

I definitely know that I will be exploring the available third-party applications in Facebook to determine how they might be used for the development of learning environments for my courses. To start with I have added the following applications to my Facebook page (I am sure that there will be more ...):
  • Picnik - photo editing and sharing
  • WalkieTalkie - voice chat
  • RSSbook - RSS aggregator
  • Twitter - integrate smy Twitter account in Facebook
  • Files - upload and share files
  • Docs - Facebook docs is the Great Library of Schoolwork where anyone can contribute
The addition of third-party applications to Facebook may just be the "killer" Web 2.0 app that everyone has been waiting for...


Carolyn said...

I was thrilled to see a site as engaging as Facebook create so many new possibilities. You've already mentioned some of the great ways that you and your learners are using Facebook now. The open API really does make this a potential learning environment. If only LMS vendors could do the same! Learning management systems are looking more and more quaint every day.

Thanks for the great post. Now the fun begins!

Ian H. MacLeod said...

Fun is right! It will be really interesting to see what users of Facebook will come up with because it will be the users that will make Facebook that "killer" app I spoke of.

This is so cool - to see a tool with the potential to support and encourage learners to develop PLEs.

PLEs will truly make learning about and for learners allowing them to learn what they want (and need) and to choose how, where, and when they best learn. A whole new spin on the 5 Ws!