The moment a new semester starts, Facebook groups for specific teachers begin to pop up, and there’s a mad dash of students to join them. We may complain about all the notifications we get because of the groups, but most of us are guilty of the same actions. There is one for every class and for every teacher. The groups serve as study aides and class guides, every student’s lifesaver.
As the groups have become more popular and students have become more vocal about their us
age, some teachers have voiced their opinions about them. While many may not mind and often joke about students posting to one another, others do not like the idea of their students sending answers back and forth over the internet. They say that it takes away from the essence of learning and promotes cheating.
Some of their arguments are correct. There are students who abuse the groups, using them to share answers for homework and cheat on assignments. Documents with completed homework begin to circulate, and on busy nights it’s temptingly easy to copy and paste someone else’s answers as your own. The groups can become forums for spreading test answers and giving classmates an unfair advantage. Teachers have also expressed the sentiment that going on these groups is considered a waste of time when the teachers and AIS tutoring are available for help.
The teachers have a point. There are many flaws to these groups. However, if used correctly, the groups can be a powerful educational tool.
By bringing together whole groups of people who, despite having the same teachers, may have them at different periods, these Facebook groups allow new bonds to form. The students are able to interact with fellow classmates they may not have known otherwise and help them with their troubles. I first became aware of these groups sophomore year when I was added to the AP European History group, and since then I’ve joined many more. As a junior, there is literally a group for every one of my classes. At first I didn’t see their necessity, but I soon found out why these online circles are so popular. When it’s time for an essay or an assignment, the group turns into a giant think tank. On nights before tests, there is one big study session in which students post methods, definitions, and other forms of help. We peer-edit, ask questions, post helpful links, give (and get) homework reminders—all of these undeniably good things. In a school reputed to have a harsh and competitive culture, the willingness Stuyvesant students have for helping their peers continues to astound me.
At some point in their Stuyvesant careers, students will find themselves in need of a moral boost—and the groups provide a forum for that. Before a hard test, encouraging posts saying things like “We got this!” and “Good luck!” pepper communal walls. Students share anecdotes about their classes and there is a sense of friendship and support that isn’t usually found within a more impersonal and restrictive classroom environment. Any questions the students are too shy to ask their teachers can normally be answered by their peers.
Certain students, such as myself, learn better when the problems are explained using relatively simple terms rather than the complex ones some teachers use. We students tend to see problems from the same angle, and therefore may be better at explaining them to each other. Students tend to be more motivated to learn when they grasp the course material. These groups help the students to better understand concepts taught in class, and encourage a better work ethic in the classroom.
While it is understandable that some teachers may frown upon the use of these groups, their benefits far outweigh their disadvantages. In theory, at least—it’s important not to let a group simply become a safety net for your average lazy student. These forums are not just about getting the homework and copying the answers. They’re also about helping each other and sharing your understanding of the subjects with others to help them do better in class. If students take teachers’ concerns to heart and stop posting answers, maybe any worries about dying work ethic and a lack of learning may fade. After all, we spend time on Facebook regardless. We might as well spend time helping each other out.