Friday, February 18, 2011

Facebook pilot project

During the first term, in the 2010-2011 school year, I created a Facebook group called “Notre Dame Math Discussion”.  Above is a picture of what the group looks like.
During the semester, I assigned specific questions that needed to be answered using the math discussion group.  One example, from my math 20 pure class, is the following:
Each student was given a slip of paper with different function notations on it.  For example,
the student was then required to send a message on the discussion board as to what their slip means in English.  The student that received the slip above sent me the following message, “It means you multiply the function f, with x as the variable, by 2, then multiply function g, where you substitute 2y into the variables, by 6.  Your two new functions are then added together”.
Another example from my Math 31 class:
As a class we graphed 3 functions from their equations.   I never gave any directive as to the steps, just asked the class, “What do we need to know, so that we can graph an appropriate graph?”.  The students were then asked to send me a message as to what the steps where in graphing a function.  I explained that, for this task, there is not just one right answer or one correct order of steps.  I received many messages, and later in the course I received the following picture as a way to represent the steps of graphing a function.

Students used this site above and beyond expectations.  During the weekends, I was getting messages from students asking how to solve problems.  When I was not quick to answer, students started answering their classmates’ questions.  My students were becoming teachers!

When students were incorrect, instead of deducting marks on their assignment, I would reply with a guiding question.  Students were also becoming self-assessors.  Here is a conversation between myself and a student on the week-end outside of class time.
Student: for the question x2-6x=-9 i got x= -9, 1/4 i got this by gaphing the equation on my calculator and finding the intercept lines
ME: Hey KKKKK. X does not equal -9. How did you graph it?? What did you graph in y1 and y2?

Student: x squared-6x in y1 and -9 in y2
ME: Recalculate intersect. Are you looking for x or y?

Student: x
ME:ok try again, so graph and what does x equal?
ME:Awesome job KKKK! See you tomorrow!
Student: ok thx for the help and see you tomorrow.
Most students seemed to enjoy using the site as a way of communicating answers outside of class.  Some comments I received were,
·         “I don’t have to wait for class for an answer”
·         “If I miss a class and I can now just get my homework through Facebook”
And my favourite:
·         “I enjoy the opportunity to be creative in math”
Some students, to my amazement, didn’t have Facebook.  For these students, I allowed them to complete the assignment the traditional way; complete at home and hand in tomorrow. 
How the students understood the concepts also amazed me!  In all my math classes, we started having deeper discussions about the beauty of math.  Just by having students write out their thought processes, brought in an entire new view of mathematics.
Even though I don’t use test scores as an indicator of understanding, their exam and quiz marks also increased.  The exams I use were common, and all my class averages were 70%, 75%, and 85%.  Not to be misleading, the third class was an advance placement class, so those marks are to be expected.  Beyond the marks, the comments I heard in my class and on my course evaluation are what brought joy to my heart, here are some of them:
“I finally understand where math is in my life”
“I never thought math was this easy”
“I enjoy being able to try something and not lose marks if it is wrong”
Overall, this project was a great success!  Facebook opened up discussions outside of class that I have never had before.  I cannot wait to try and grow this project more.


  1. Great idea! I'll try it soon with my math 10 & 11 class.


  2. Dave,

    Great idea, good to see teachers embracing technology instead of seeing it as just a distration. I took my commerce degree online, and we were required to post in discussion forums in order to get participation marks in the course. Similiar sort of result, there was a lot of self teaching and collaboration.

    One note, you might want to check out NING - where you can create your own social networks. Some students may not want to participate in a Facebook group because their profile contains risque pictures or content.

  3. Thank you Matt and Steve. Steve if you do try it, let me know how it goes! Always looking for ways to expand my own knowledge about social networking!

  4. Question for you Dave:

    Can people in a group, if not in your friends list, see your personal information (photos, videos, info, etc)?


  5. Great use of social media. I would love to see more teachers using it. I feel that too many teachers are unaware or dare I say uneducated in the world or importance of social media in the world in which we live. Our world will reach a crossroads in education with technology and the students will be the ones that are missing out. They will have to sink or swim on their if we as teachers do not learn to embrace the use of technology in our classrooms. I really hope that teachers learn the importance and benefits with the use of it.

  6. Dave,

    I came into this school year (and my first year of Calculus) fully prepared to go out on the Facebook/Twitter limb in all of my classes. I started (and ended) with student input about how I could use either to help them in class. When the most thoughtful responses I got were "to remind us about tests," I knew if it was going to work, it was going to have to be of my own ingenuity. Frankly I've been too preoccupied with the Calculus this year to wrap my head around it, but stockpiling great ideas like yours for next year. Thanks for the valuable and encouraging insights!


  7. Hey Steve, no my students and I are not friends on fb just part of the same group. I also cannot see their profiles

  8. Hi Dave,

    I am really trying to figure this out so I can set up some groups for my students. However, all of them say I need to invite friends. Groups and pages. How do I get around this "making them my friend".