Friday, May 20, 2011

This Instrument (Facebook) Can Teach...

Are Mark Zuckerberg's interests in the education potential of Facebook self-serving?
It would be so very easy to dismiss them as just that. However, after reading this article at CNN Money, I get the feeling he's being genuine.
Children learn best in an environment that has fair degree of social interaction, and in order for a child to function in this world, social skills need to be honed. In addition, there has to be play, creativity, imagination. Could Facebook be used for something like this? I'm going to skirt around the various concerns that there may be, and instead focus on the what-if.
Imagine an educational Facebook (Kinderbook? Edubook?). The interface would not be so different from what normal users of the service see at this time. However, the number of distractions are lower. Instead of games like Farmville or, gasp, Mafia Wars, the children would access games that teach skills; math, language, critical thinking, even programming. The site could be written in such a way that the child can modify it to suit their needs and interests, down to the font and colors, with a considerable amount of drag and drop of the various widgets.
As the child grows and matures, other areas of the site would open up to them, and they can explore anew. Exploring equals learning. Their user ID would contain traits and profile information that could dictate where the child can go, what they can do. This user ID would have parental controls, naturally.
There is potential here.
Edward R. Murrow famously said (during an editorial about television) that "this instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire." The same is true of the Internet, of course, and especially Facebook.

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