Six or seven years ago, when I was a brand new teacher, I had the idea to make my students design Facebook profiles for characters from the novel we were reading. I believe it was one of those last minute ideas, and I didn’t even have them do it on paper; they did it on the blackboard. I assigned each group a rectangular section of the board, and they had 10 minutes to draw a mock-up of a Facebook profile, filling it in with as much information about the character as they could cram in there.
They had fun with it, if I recall correctly, and I thought it was a neat way for me to assess their familiarity with the characters. I think it also allowed the students to relate to the characters and to consider them as fully fleshed-out personalities.
A couple of years later, when my school was on a 1:1 laptop model, I had 9th graders create Myspace profiles for characters from Romeo & Juliet. I assessed them on the appropriateness of the theme they chose, given the character’s tastes, and the comments they would write to their “friends” throughout the reading of the play. This was fun for the students who did use Myspace at that time (most, not all), although it was a logistical nightmare for me. And I don’t think Myspace liked it when people made fake profiles.
So it was with great interest, and a sense of my own gradual aging process, that I saw Fakebook today, via Larry Ferlazzo’s post on the best web 2.0 tools. Fakebook basically lets you do the same thing: make a profile for a literary or historical character, complete with all the fun trimmings – photos, videos, status updates, having certain friends, etc.
This gave me a strange sense of the passage of time. And once I was done feeling old and prescient, I started thinking more seriously about having my students use this tool. But I’m wary about it here, mostly due to my increasing reluctance to assign much homework, let alone homework that requires internet access. I have a few students in each of my classes for whom internet access is not constant. I also get very poor returns on homework in general. If my school had a 1:1 laptop model, I think I’d be all over this. But without it, I’m starting to consider revisiting my old “profile on the board” idea. It’s got the buy-in that comes from tapping into knowledge of Facebook, but it lends itself to collaboration with actual peers much more easily.
And while I think it’s great that someone built a tool that looks just like Facebook to let kids tap into all the multimedia options the web provides, I also think there might be something sort of fun and novel about creating a Facebook profile on the board. But maybe I’m just being sentimental.