Resistance is Futile: Facebook & Study Groups app

Like the Borg said, ‘Resistance is Futile’.

So far, I have not succumbed to Facebook. I’m on Linked In, I write this blog, I’m supposed to be contributing to the Ancient Bloggers’ Group Blog, I manage two other blogs for other projects, I keep the RWU website going, I’m building a virtual excavation in Second Life, I’m writing  two works of Interactive Fiction (as an experiment to teach historical literacy), I’m trying to figure out how the scenario builder in Caesar IV works so I can create a Forum Novum scenario, I have at least four articles on the backburner, plus sundry agent-based models… oh yes, I teach from time to time too…

But it looks like I’ll have to join Facebook, if only to evaluate what looks like the most useful application of it so far, at least as far as teaching/learning is concerned: ‘Study Groups‘.  From Dan Cohen’s Digital Humanities Blog:

“Many academic Facebook applications are merely search boxes or other non-social search and information services transposed to Facebook (e.g., JSTOR Search or the countless library search widgets). Study Groups, on the other hand, gets it right by emphasizing the networking and collaboration possible within Facebook.”

From Jane Hart’s Blog:

“Study Groups is a Facebook app.  It’s a social project management tool aimed at students to help them to easily collaborate online and in person.  It lets them:

* Easily log in and set up a group using their existing Facebook ID
* Discuss assignments in a discussion board
* Share files and notes
* Assign tasks and responsibilities
* Schedule meetings
* Stay up-to-date on the latest group activity”

Having once caused one university’s entire Moodle system to crash during an upgrade (it wasn’t entirely my fault, there was some custom coding in the back end that I didn’t know about!), it is easy to imagine something easy and straight-forward like this (no coding, no installing, no ftp’ing, no worrying about which version of MySql and Php are on the server) evolving quite quickly to become an effective management system for rounding up and sorting out your distance ed, online, or real-world classes.

On a similar note, there is now a WordPress plug-in to achieve the same thing. Look at what Scholarpress  is up to:

“ScholarPress is a developing hub for educational WordPress plugins – bridging the gap between technology and pedagogy. At our launch we have two plugins that work independently, but can be combined together.

Courseware enables you to manage a class with a WordPress blog, including a schedule, bibliography, assignments, and other course information.

WPBook works with the Facebook Development platform to create a Facebook Application (addable by users within the site) using a WordPress blog.

It’s possible to use these together, as Jeremy has done for his History 120 class. Check it out.”

All of this reminds me of a post that Eric Kansa put up the other day, when we were talking about integrating archaeological data into Second Life:

“I think the most interesting things will happen between and among such systems that work together as an ecosystem exchanging data. The capability to draw upon a diverse array of powerful web services (delivering XML-encoded data, or similar formats like JSON) from data providers such as Nabonidus, Open Context, Freebase, GoogleDocs, the Portable Antiquities Scheme and others.”

I think this is what we’re starting to observe, a developing ecosystem where multiple services are fused together, seamlessly, in a way where their use is no longer reserved for the geeks amongst us.

Resistance is futile!

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