Are We Using Facebook Enough?

Published on: Apr 30 2014 by Guest Writer

In the developing world, a teacher’s connection to information and his or her personal learning network are key factors in the quality of education students receive, and a social network that provides both of these is a powerful professional development tool.

I’m Jim Teicher, founder and director of CyberSmart Africa. Our recent (2013) survey of students enrolled at a regional teacher-training center in Senegal indicates that the ICT for development community should be more proactive in using Facebook as a tool for information and knowledge sharing.

Our survey of 286 teachers-in-training at the Centre Régionaux de Formation des Personnels de l’Education (teacher training center), Thiès, Senegal revealed that 70.3 percent have a Facebook account, and most of them use Facebook more than once a week.

Frequency of Facebook Usage Among Teachers in Training 

Frequency of Use

Rarely

Once a week

Twice a week

Three times a week

More than three times a week

No response

# Students

30 62 29 23 47 10

Percentage

15 31 14 12 23 5

Of the 85 students without a Facebook account, 73% envision creating one.

Similar data revealing the popularity of Facebook was collected in 2012 by Liz Grossman as part of her graduate studies in International Education at the Harvard University Graduate School of Education. Her survey of academic Internet use at the high school and university levels in Senegal, revealed that 67% of university students reported Facebook to be their most used website.

Why is this data so important? Because, according to UNESCO, Sub-Saharan Africa has a critical need to train millions of teachers in order to meet the educational needs of the fastest growing youth population on earth. I believe that this won’t be possible without the use of ICT – combining equipment, broadband, and effective training content. Sure, there are lots of hurdles; but it’s do-able with ongoing innovation and cost reductions that will inevitably happen over time. Given that Facebook – with over 700,000 users representing over 5% of the population – is already established as the most popular social networking site in Senegal, it just makes sense to take better advantage of this platform as a way to build the capacity of a nation to advance itself.

CyberSmart Africa has implemented a proof-of concept for highly scalable digital learning in Senegalese classrooms. Working in partnership with USAID, The Millennium Villages Project and its urban counterpart The Millennium Cities Initiative, joint initiatives of the Earth Institute at Columbia, and the Senegalese Ministry of Education, we have implemented a learning solution that includes a solar-powered interactive whiteboard, curriculum-aligned learning content, and ongoing teacher training in learner-centered pedagogy (watch the overview video).

We realize that ongoing professional development for teachers is key to the success of our work, hence our collaboration with teacher-training institutions, and our focus on practical and highly scalable digital tools. I believe that in Sub-Saharan Africa, teachers represent a key entry point in extending the benefits of globalized information sharing and knowledge-building to the rapidly expanding youth population, and that Facebook provides a way to speed up the process.

Written by Jim Teicher, Director of CyberSmart Africa

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One Comment to “Are We Using Facebook Enough?”

  1. Gadson says:

    I would be grateful to know i f you have teachers in Kenya in your program.
    Much regards.
    Gadson.

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