[tech] FaceBook continues to roll out academically useful tools

Within the last week FaceBook rolled out what FB is calling "new groups." New groups are not the same as old groups. They are more like friend lists, but with new functionality. One major change is that the group creator selects friends into the group, as one did with a friend list. No need to send out group invitations. The new group has, if set up as a closed group, its own closed, private wall. No one outside the group can seen posts in the group.

One of my students just discovered that the group I set up, psa3, permits group multi-way chat. This has been a critically missing piece of technology for FaceBook chat. FB chat has been two-way only chat up until now. I do not know how the student "activated" the multi-way chat, but the window stays open as long as any member is on line.  Members who are on line are displayed by their profile image at the top. I will be following up with her to see if she remembers how she opened that multi-way chat.

A tantalizing icon on the publisher unit labeled "doc" suggests that documents could be attached to a post. That is another piece those of us in the classroom need - ability to post documents. I continue to believe that it is easier to build a classroom where the students are already living in cyberspace, rather than building it elsewhere (Moodle, Blackboard) and hoping the students will come. My students are already in FaceBook, if FB will build the tools I need to serve them where they already are, so much the better.

Post-script: One major complication. Any member of a new group can invite other friends to join the group. The group originator has no control over this. Thus my physcial science class group now has friends in the group who are not members of the class and who were not added by me. To date I have not determined how to retain administrative control of a group one starts. I have not yet tried setting up a "secret" new group. My guess is that FB decided the groups should be able to "go viral" and thus set them up so any member can add members.

As for "popping open" the group chat, simply clicking on the group icon appears to do this automatically, which is why the student who started the group chat did not realize she had initiated the group chat.

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