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Professor's Essay Discusses Facebook for Teaching

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David M. Perry, associate professor of history, recently published an essay in the Chronicle of Higher Education discussing his adoption of new technologies to engage student discussion online.

The essay, which was published online April 29, traces Perry's experiences with online technologies through his academic career, from using Blackboard and simple websites as a graduate student in the 1990s up to experimenting with social media sites including Facebook for his teaching at Dominican.

When I started using the Internet in the classroom, back in the late 1990s...engagement seemed to come so easily. Once students learned how to click on a link or use the "back" button on a browser, the class took off," he writes. "I am now embracing my philosophy of 'Go Where the Students Are' to recapture that magic."

For today's students, that means Facebook. Perry explains how he navigates the site's privacy settings in creating a group page where students can safely and freely express their thoughts on course topics.

And it's working.

"Not only do they bring in resources and topics that I might never have found, but they do it at 2 a.m. on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. And when that little red number appears on the Facebook page indicating that someone has posted a message or responded to a comment, the students (and I) have a Pavlovian response to click and check out the new posting or comment," he writes. "The discussion ebbs and flows over the course of the semester, but it never really stops."

However, Perry is cognizant of the constantly evolving nature of the web and of his own responsibility to adapt as the landscape shifts.

"The day is coming when students won't naturally check Facebook constantly," he writes. "There will, however, be some form of virtual social space, which I will try to identify and adapt for teaching."

Those on campus should be able to access the full story on chronicle.com. A subscription login is required for off-campus access.