This week, I sat down in a Hangout with Deborah Lemon to learn about how she uses a private Facebook group to teach spanish fully online and in a blended format.  I must say, I was impressed and inspired!  I’ve found myself thinking long and hard about some of the examples she shared in the Hangout.  Deborah’s point, to me, is that Facebook allows for her to seamlessly and fluidly interact with her students but also, and perhaps more importantly, the students can spontaneously stream their lives and experiences through their feed updates, functioning as authentic assessments.

As Deborah explained to me, this type of fluid connection to students is essential when teaching a foreign language.  For example, (you’ll see this in the video) Deborah showed a video of a student who set up her smartphone phone and recorded herself interacting with customers at her place of employment — using the spanish skills she had just learned in class.  Deborah likens the video clips that the students share in the Facebook microblog feed to an ePortfolio.  Nearly all college students are on Facebook already so having them shift to a private FB group to share their spanish skills with their phones makes a lot more sense than requiring them to get to a computer and log into Blackboard or Moodle.

To me, I had always been a bit stand offish about microblogging because it’s so fragmented but Deborah demonstrated how the Facebook Group function provides a simple way to sort the contributions made by each student.  This gives a comprehensive view of the students’ activities in one place.  Deborah covers a lot of other important topics including dealing with reluctant Facebook users (which is very rare, she says) and archiving content.

I find myself thinking about how using social technologies push us, as teachers, into new and unexpected territory.  We might start using a social technology for one particular reason but what blossoms from there is the exciting and unimaginable part — that’s the piece that we need to be cultivating and that’s the piece that will not happen in traditional course management systems.

Finally, Deborah invites you all to join her Facebook Group “Using Groups for Teaching.” In this group, you’ll find lots of tips and resources for learning about how to teach with Facebook, as well as the chance to interact with other like-minded educators.  To check it out, go to, sign in, search for “Using Groups for Teaching” using the search box at the top, and click “Join group.”

Enjoy the video!

3 Comments to “Teaching with Facebook: a Hangout with Deborah Lemon”

  1. Lori Rusch

    Michelle & Barbara…Que magnifico! This is such a great example of meeting our student where they are. I wonder what kind and how much resistance you met with your institution when you proposed this idea?
    Lori Rusch

  2. Hi Lori,
    Thank you! I did meet resistance at first. Mostly, there was concern about archiving & tracking S-S/S-T contact. And there were a couple of skeptics who thought that while Facebook was "cool", it couldn't be a serious educational tool; and many others who thought I absolutely had to use Blackboard because everyone else was. After quite a few presentations, workshops, and successful students, I've demo'ed pretty thoroughly how powerful FB can be. To be honest, I pretty much just determinedly plowed ahead and dealt with concerns & resistance as they came up. But it did take a couple of years to get most of my colleagues to buy into it. 🙂

  3. Hi Michele! You might also find Colingo ( and Verbling ( of interest. These websites use the Google+Hangouts platform for language teaching. Some teachers use documents or weblinks as props, others don't. There is a chat sidebar on both. Feature: up to 10 people plus the teacher can be on video at the same time. Downside–I think it is limited to 10 or 11 people maximum. Below are some examples of pre-recorded sessions. Fast Forward to about 10 or 15 min into the video; they spend a lot of time on introductions.


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