Facebook in the classroom: How can we effectively use social media to teach?

I’ve talked about facebook in the classroom before, as a way to provide funny snipets of history from historical figures.  I wanted to try to find a way to integrate the social media that students (and myself!) use on an almost every day basis into the classroom as a teaching/learning tool.

As an optional extra credit homework assignment (full assignment and rubric available here) I challenged students to think creatively as an historical figure.  Their assignment was:

1. Chose a historical figure that we have studied or a person from one of the civilizations we have covered in this class.

not an accurate representation of me

2. Create a profile page for this character.

3. The next page has a checklist of all the information that must be included.  Use this sheet to complete your research before you begin constructing the page and finding pictures. Make sure you check off each item as you do it to get full credit!

4. This page does not literally have to be an online account.  You can produce a mock-up through Word, Photoshop, Powerpoint, or with magic markers or colored pencils depending on your level of creativity.

5. This assignment does require research.  You may use your textbook or other academic books.  You may go online to find information, but please remember that WIKIPEDIA IS NOT A VALID SOURCE.  NEITHER ARE NON-ACADEMIC WEBPAGES.  If you are unclear on what an “academic webpage” is email me.  Use websites with .edu or.gov for valid information.

6. You must, as always, properly cite your sources and include a works cited page.  I prefer footnotes for this assignment since it needs to be aesthetically pleasing.  Since this assignment requires more research I expect your citations to be correct.  If you have questions, email me or visit the writing center.

7. To get full credit you must have information for every category listed below.  This may require you to be creative but also be historically accurate.

8. Extra extra credit (1 point each):

  • Prepare a presentation for the class on your historical figure, your page, and your process of creating this page for an extra point.
  • Create an actual facebook page published using the information you have compiled here.
Students then had to fill in the worksheet with the following information:

Since this was an optional homework assignment for extra credit it did involve a lot more work and research than previous projects.  I wasn’t sure how students would react, or how many would take the time  and effort to fully develop the assignment.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have as many students participate in this as I would have liked!  In the future I hope to make this a required homework assignment instead of extra credit.

One creative idea was to do a page for Cleopatra using the Shakespearean play for the wall facts and conversations among the Pharaoh and her lovers.

I also had another Cleopatra, Achilles, and Jesus. Surprisingly, they all love watching Ancient Aliens!  Clever, students. Very clever.

Achilles’ page was great.  He has some pretty awesome lines; his last status update was, “taking a dip in the Styx River!”  This was after he met with Homer to give him some info on the Illiad and complained that Lycomedes made him dress like a girl.  His interests include working out, sailing, and traveling, while his favorite movies are 300 and Antigone.  Also, for all you Achilles stalkers, he lives at 1345 Hellenistic Drive, Athens, Greece.

My second Cleopatra got very creative, as well.  Her last status was, “…will not let Rome control me!  My Antony is dead and I can not live without him!” dated 30 B.C.E.   Her relationship is “It’s complicated” with Julius Caesar.  Her statuses also complain about having to marry her brother Ptolemy XIII, but she is quite happy to take the throne and rule Egypt.

She also talks about running off to learn Egyptian language and culture to try to gain respect of Egyptians.  Her favorite music includes the sistrum and Walk Like an Egyptian, and she enjoys watching the Style network.  And for any Cleopatra stalkers, you can email her at isislover@ptolemy.com   Her political view is divine rule, and she included several pictures of herself on her facebook page.  She included photos from Egyptian papyrus, Renaissance paintings, 1920s film, Elizabeth Taylor as Cleopatra, Kim Kardashian as Cleopatra, Angelina Jolie as Cleopatra, and also a Greek bust and a coin that may show the “real” Cleopatra.   Another album was also posted of herself and her Ptolemy family members.

My students used (for the most part) valid educational websites or books for this research project.  It seems that they enjoyed themselves and the opportunity to be creative in a history class, which may not always be the case.

It also seems that the students learned quite a bit from this project.  Not only did students learn a lot about a specific person from history (or mythology), but they also learned a lot about creative thinking, the historical context and the world of that person, and how to do proper research and citations.

Have any of you used Facebook in the classroom, or other social media?  How can it be used effectively?  I encourage you to try this with your students either as an extra credit assignment or as an alternative homework assignment.  I believe in my future classes it will be a very beneficial learning tool.

Book Review Next Week: The Dawn Country by Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear

Last week I was approached to be a part of a blog tour for a new book: The Dawn Country by Kathleen O’Neal Gear & W. Michael Gear.   The book is in the mail, so I will write the review next week.  I’ve also had e-interview access with the authors, so next week I should have answers to questions such as:

  1. What kind of connections do you see between your popular historical fiction writing and public history/archaeology?
  2. Are you familiar with Janet Spector’s “What this awl means”, and if so, what connections can you make between her work and your own? (as related to class discussion a few weeks ago in Material Cultures seminar)
  3. What inspired you to tell the stories of these people, and how does historical archaeology assist that process?

The publishers sent me the following information about the book and authors:

ABOUT THE BOOK:

The Dawn Country is the Gears’ 50th published novel, and the first North American series hit international as well as the USA Today bestseller lists.

PEOPLE OF THE LONGHOUSE series is about the first Iroquois confederacy and the legendary heroes who founded it, the Peacemaker, Dekanawida, his friend, Hiawento, and the “Mother of Nations,” Jigonsaseh.  Set between the years of A.D. 1430-1451, this epic tale takes readers to New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Ontario six hundred years ago, when five Iroquois tribes were locked in bitter warfare. Yet the violence led to one of the most remarkable alliances in the history of America, the League of the Iroquois: a confederacy of five nations whose ideas on government would literally change the world.

In The Dawn Country, set around the year 1430 during a time of violent upheaval, Young Wrass is being held captive, along with several other children, in the legendary evil Gannajero the Crow’s camp. Gannajero profits enormously by buying and selling children to outcast warriors who subject them to brutal treatment.  Wrass knows he can’t wait to be rescued. He has to organize the children for an assault on Gannajero’s warriors.  Even if he dies, someone has to escape, to carry the story back to their people. It’s the only way to stop the evil old woman.

But Koracoo, a female war chief, and Gonda, her husband and deputy, have not abandoned their search.  They’re coming for the children, and they have allies: a battle-weary Mohawk war chief and a Healer from the People of the Dawnland.  Together, they will find the children and destroy Gannajero. But not before many of the children have been sold and carried off to distant villages— lost to their families and homes forever.

Michael and Kathleen O’Neal Gear have successfully provided a vital understanding of the history of North America with the latest archaeological findings and sweeping dramatic narratives and strong Native American tradition. Filled with fascinating details about ancient customs mixed  with adventure, spine-tingling action, and spiritual power that is entertaining and intelligent, The Dawn Country will gratify dedicated fans and appeal to newcomers of the series.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

W. MICHAEL GEAR, who holds a master’s degree in archaeology, has worked as a professional archaeologist since 1978. He is currently principal investigator for Wind River Archaeological Consultants.

KATHLEEN O’NEAL GEAR is a former state historian and archaeologist for Wyoming, Kansas, and Nebraska for the U.S. Department of the Interior. She has twice received the federal government’s Special Achievement Award for “outstanding management” of our nation’s cultural heritage.

For more, visit: www.gear-gear.com.

** Now for the fun part!!  Comment on this post with any thoughts you have on popular history or historical fiction and how it relates to public history for your chance to win a copy of The Dawn Country.  I’ll choose and announce the winners some time next week.