Effectively Using Facebook to Foster Civic Engagement
18 Pages Posted: 6 Feb 2013
Many universities are embracing civic engagement curricula. While research about best practices for civic engagement is fully fleshed out, the use of technology and civic engagement needs much more attention. Most of the recent research focuses on the Obama 2008 presidential campaign rather than speaking to the larger educational issues (Cogburn et al 2011, Fernandes et al 2010, Vitak et al 2011). We know that students use social networking tools more than email in their connection to the University community. Recent research demonstrated that a special get out the vote message showing user pictures of friends generated 340, 000 additional votes nationwide (Bond et al 2012). Thus, faculty using flyers and bulletin announcements and even perhaps email may be missing the opportunity to engage many students as they are using an entirely different medium. This fall 2012, I employed Facebook in my current events assignment to bridge this gap. Students were required to create civic events and invite their peers to them; they posted New York Times links and then commented on their own as well as other students; and they were required to upload media to Facebook from some civic event they attended. In this paper, I demonstrate that the use of Facebook fostered more civic engagement than did discussion posts used in previous courses. I compared the discussion posts in an online introduction to American National Government course to the Facebook posts in an online introduction to American National Government course. By using two online courses, I was able to control for instructor influence as neither set of students met me in a classroom. This allows me to narrow it down to the medium.
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