Facebook Timeline: They’re Already Telling Us the Story of Their Life…

By Thomas Ho

… Why not get them to tell us the story of their learning?

Since Facebook announced its Timeline feature last fall, some of us have been waiting anxiously for them to deploy it to its users. Now that the process has begun, we ought to be considering the implications of this development for teaching and learning!

Three years ago, I was already experimenting in a college information technology course with the concept of a course “lifestream,” which I subsequently renamed to LearnStream. I aggregated the social media identity of that course at a Netvibes site.

I have continued to develop those original ideas into a framework for encouraging their adoption in the school district in which my daughter is currently enrolled. For that reason, I was especially excited when Facebook announced its Timeline feature because I recognized the opportunity for these ideas to enter the mainstream of social media.

I published my own Timeline shortly after the Facebook announcement. Subsequently, I began publishing my own lifestream to my Timeline using techniques which I’ll describe later. I had been hopeful of using my Timeline to suggest how students might craft their digital identity by publishing their LearnStreams to their Facebook Timeline, but it’s been pointed out to me that students would be likely to resent doing that on Facebook because of the “creepy treehouse” effect!

Therefore, I am merely suggesting that the acceptance of socially sharing one’s musical tastes via Spotify or one’s reading habits via the Washington Post Social Reader may motivate students to socially share their learning. If they’d be willing to do that on their Facebook Timeline, imagine the possibilities if a service such as Diigo social bookmarking would use Facebook’s Open Graph to enable us to publish our bookmarks to our Timeline? Or imagine the possibilities if we used Friendfeed to publish our lifestreams to Timeline? That’s how I did it, by publishing my Friendfeed RSS feed with RSS Graffiti. Remember, Facebook owns Friendfeed!

Is it time for social media to be taken seriously by those who don’t “get” its implications for learning?

9 Responses

  1. […] Facebook Timeline: They're Already Telling Us the Story of Their Life … […]

  2. I would love to see Groups incorporating Timeline feature in Facebook. Telling us the story of their learning in Group category to a selected people is an idea worth spreading – A timeline within a timeline..

  3. There used to be a time when we did with kids a kind of history of their life as a writing essay. I learned with diversity, that kids of all colors had
    reasons not to want to write an autobiology, or a history of their family.
    I was teaching G and Talented so we were doing project based programs and I found a couple of little exercises , that let them
    tell about themselves as if they were a fruit, a number, a color, a
    weather event, and an animal. I think it was called ” Making it Strange”
    and I found a paper chart that let us map out the immediate and connected family. This was much less invasive than a biography.
    We did TIme magazines to find out their dreams , what they would want to be at age 25 and what career they thought they might like to pursue.
    Then there was the ” Me Box” it was a set of pictures of things they liked that they gkued onto a box.. I know that the Facenook Timeline
    wiill not be for small children, but the thing that a project like this does is to share, help people care, and see similarities. Being older
    I might have a longer timeline, I have not done mine. Where to start.
    What to include.. the tables are turned on me. Should be an interesting experience for all of us who do it.


  4. I have a very difficult time taking seriously any “educator” or “administrator” who continues to willfully eschew social media and its impact on education.

  5. It is a great idea. Most of my friends found timeline annoying or creepy since it exposed all the detail about their lives such as locations, events and so on. However, if we can use it in the RIGHT way, it could become really helpful like Mr. Ho said!

  6. If teachers design projects that get students to connect to learn (as Thomas says, they already know how to connect socially) the possibilities for social constructivist and connectivist learning are tremendous.

    • Are you concerned about the “creepy treehouse” effect?

      • For students who are not “at risk” I’m not concerned about the “creepy treehouse” effect. Fortunately, the data we are seeing from researchers shows that kids overwhelmingly figure these situations out. Of course, the we need to be extremely protective for at-risk kids as the data shows that these kids succumb to “creepy treehouse” situations at alarmingly high rates.

        In school situations I recommend having teachers start off with a list of vetted connections for students. Students can find and show teachers any additional connections. Before the students show the teacher the connection they should attempt to vet it themselves by leveraging information-literacy skills that they have been taught. The teacher can sign-off on or veto the connection accordingly.

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