Facebook and education – my idea

How about this: History teachres, students across the world can “adopt” a Facebook account that represents a historical person. These historical persons have friends from their time, reflecting the connections they had. Status updates give historically correct information.

So everyone can become a friend of a historical person, follow their updates, read about their interests etc.

Pros: Educate in a very natural way, raise interest in history.

Cons: Needs fact checking, could be abused to “rewrite” history.

But IMHO it is a wonderful idea to combine history and social networks. What do you think? Worth pursuing? Please comment ….

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9 thoughts on “Facebook and education – my idea”

  1. Every time you try to teach history, you run the risk of people trying to rewrite it. Classrooms use textbooks that have been verified and looked over by practically everyone that might want to have a say, and if you don’t develop similar checks and balances, the risks of ‘rewriting’ are higher. Still, abuse shouldn’t be the biggest concern, i think.

    1. Try to see it as a social experiment. By planting historical persons in a current context you try to raise interest, not more. Curiosity is key. Say you have Einstein and Heisenberg in Facebook. You could publish the letters they wrote as Notes in FB and recreate their correspondence as FB discussion. Add known good diary notes to it. So you are not rewriting history, you are only transporting it in a new way.

      If you “friend” historical figures as it was in reality, you also show people how these persons have interacted long ago.

      Most history books focus on The Big Picture – my little idea tries to focus on the people involved.

  2. This is a pretty interesting idea. The problem as I see it is that you are basically adapting history to a medium that thrives on up-to-the-minute updates. For the social network as defined by Facebook to work, I think you’d have to wrangle all these teachers and students to basically recreate history real-time; it’s not like you can back-date the timestamps on all this stuff and if you don’t, you end up with a mishmash of out-of-place historical facts not even considering the accuracy concerns of which the commenter above warns that would struggle to fit in with the real-time nature of Facebook.

    I wonder if there’s a practical way of creating a Facebook app to tie the real Facebook into “Historybook.” Without knowing much about how Facebook apps manage their own data, maybe a special-purpose instance of Facebook with the capability to correct past data for the purpose of placing events on a timeline, for example, would work for this purpose. Then a Facebook app is used to subscribe to an historical person’s feed as of say, 106 years ago today, then previously written updates on behalf of that person in Historybook are automatically integrated into a students’ Facebook news feed. Clicking on their profile brings them over to Historybook where they are shown a Facebook-like profile page adjusted to the 106 year offset, perhaps with a button that allows the user to peek into the “future” from that point in history. The page might even include posts from the historical person’s Historybook Friends.

    Hmm. Sounds like a complicated project.

    1. Let’s break it down in simple steps. The goal isn’t to reflect history in Facebook in an undisputed way. The goal is to raise interest of the typical FB user in history. Having Einstein as a friend is coolness. That is the start. And if Einstein updates his status frequently with some interesting links to stuff he did, his FB freinds can become more curious.

      Or to represent the social network of Einstein by showing who he talked to, discussed with allows a new way to explore history – but only on the surface. It is not my aim to make FB a new wikipedia. Instead I hope this can be used to raise interest in history in a new way, by catching the people where they are. By attaching to their curiosity.

      Do not make it bigger 😉 I know perfectly well it wouldn’t work. But by focusing on people rather than focusing on lengthy, boring descriptions of Everything and the kitchen sink, I hope we can make some historical persons a new class of celebrities on FB.


  3. Jan,
    I like your goal to reflect history in Facebook and to raise interest of the typical FB user in history.
    However, you should clearly define the target group (e.g. young people with no history interest so far) in advance. And try to avoid that radical groups also benefit from this idea.
    Oliver Müller-Marc

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