- “Post It on the Wall!”:Using Facebook to Complement Student Learning in Gender and Women’s Studies Courses
College professors, including those in women’s studies, are increasingly implementing pedagogical methods that include online social networking tools such as YouTube, Facebook, Friendster, Del.icio.us, blogs, etc., to enhance face-to-face discussions in the classroom.1 In Feminist Collections (2007), Janni Aragon writes, “As a media junkie, I constantly find interesting items to share with students. I often note these sources on the course syllabus or notify my students via WebCT (now Blackboard) or Facebook. These online sources grab the students’ attention, since the sites are convenient to access” (45). The sharing of up-to-the-minute information on a site that students are already using makes social networking sites attractive to teachers. Feminist teachers, however, have an additional consideration when employing social networking tools in the classroom—identifying how social networking tools might encourage feminist pedagogy by building upon the experiences of the students and, simultaneously, enhancing the democratic participation of everyone in the classroom.
Feminist pedagogy, according to Carolyn Shrewsbury, is “engaged teaching/learning-engaged with self in a continuing reflective process; engaged actively with the material being studied; engaged with others . . .” (166). Given new information or new tools of analysis, feminist pedagogy means considering participants’ experiences in a different way. While social networking tools hold potential for feminist pedagogy, there is little systematic academic research concerning the impact of social media on student learning in a women’s studies classroom or on feminist praxis.
This study analyzes student response to the use of a closed Facebook group to expand the classroom conversations of students enrolled in traditional face-to-face (FTF) women’s studies courses beyond the designated class period. The findings suggest that Facebook is an effective tool for integrating current issues into the FTF classroom and encourages a feminist critical reflection and engagement that expands the classroom to a social networking site (SNS). In addition, Facebook facilitates goals of feminist pedagogy such as questioning the gendered relations [End Page 142] of power as well as making learning a more democratic experience for students. Feminist pedagogy is enhanced by including Web 2.0 technologies found in social networking tools such as Facebook.
Literature Review: Course Management Systems, Social Networking, and Feminist Pedagogy
Web-based technologies used to plan, implement, and assess a specific learning process, known as Learning Management Systems (LMS), are ubiquitous. According to Edudemia, the top five LMS have 132 million users from both the educational and the corporate world. The subset of LMS specific to academia, Course Management Systems (CMS) such as Blackboard and Moodle, provide an online environment for student interactions. (Note, Blackboard Inc. is a for-profit company, while Moodle is an open-source management system available at no cost to the user.) In a 2009 survey on the use of information technology in higher education, Campus Computing Project reports a significant increase in the use of CMS between 2000 and 2009, from approximately 15 percent to 55 percent of campuses surveyed (16).
Drawing on a random sample of one hundred of the approximately two thousand institutions of higher learning in the United States, David Falvo and Ben Johnson found that the CMS Blackboard has the greatest number of users (33 percent). CMS like Blackboard allow the instructor to use various functions when interacting online with students: among them is a “chat” or “discussion” function. The adoption of CMS allows faculty to develop Web-assisted courses, which are commonly understood as FTF courses that are supplemented with online instruction and online resources. While CMS are available to students at most universities and colleges in the United States, the use of the multiple functions in CMS by students varies. According to Landry et al., students using Blackboard reported that “the features that are part of the Course Content factor are used more often and are perceived as more useful than those items that provide Course Support and communication” (94). CMS are reported to be most useful as places to store information for later retrieval rather than as active online sites for students to...