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I know that Facebook’s been taking a bruising in the press these days, with the privacy setting problems and all, but I’ve had a few recent (and revealing) occassions to be impressed, all over again, with Facebook’s reach.

Betty White as host on SNL

My observation here has to begin with the terrific Betty White story.  You’ve all heard it by now.  The Facebook group page “Betty White to host SNL (please)?” received over 200,000 fans, all urging the producers of Saturday Night Live (SNL) to hire the 88-year old actress as a host for the show.  Here’s the video of her SNL monologue  – arriving fresh on the request of some quarter of a million fans who voted – abnd applied pressure to television network executives – with their keyboards.

My next example comes from a high school teacher that I admire feverantly – Kim Foglia.  She’s an extremely dedicated AP Biology teacher in Pennsylvannia who manages to keep up with her science and keep up with the times.  She makes regular posts on a biology teaching listserv that I follow and I always find her advice worth following.  Last week she posted this:

I moved to Facebook for student communication out of necessity. Before this
year, I could send an e-mail to my students and be assured that they
would get the info in a timely fashion. But I quickly discovered this
year that students don’t check e-mail anymore… they check FB.
So I moved to where they were.
I made my own account, but I didn’t ask my AP students to make unique
FB personas for themselves.
I don’t hang out on FB with them. I swoop in and send an e-mail
(updates on assignments or class info) or post an article and then
swoop out.
That’s worth repeating…”I moved to where they are.”  If only more teachers felt that way.

And finally, from my soon-to-be college freshman son (who checks Facebook as reflexively as most of us check our watches). He was working his way through the byzantine system that his college-of-choice has set up for roommate selection in the dorms.  There was a questionnaire (“Which of the following is most important to you….a) academic success  b) meeting new friends  c) staying up late to party….you get the idea) and a complex method for pairing yourself up with someone who shares your interests.  After a few hours struggling with it, my son announced that it was ridiculous and that he’d rely on Facebook instead.  Sure enough, there were Facebook groups already set up for finding like-minded roommates at his college – along with every other college on the planet, it seems.

Privacy settings are no laughing matter, and I’m still sorting out what it all means (as should our schools and teachers – and parents).  But one thing is crystal clear, there is tremendous power in our social networking tools.

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