Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Friend Feed in Education

Friend Feed is a microblogging platform that for some reason hasn't gained traction in the edublogging community the way that Twitter has. That's a shame because Friend Feed has some great features that make a superior communication tool compared to Twitter. I talked to a few people at NECC about the lack of Friend Feed adoption in the edublogging community. From those conversations it seems that people just aren't aware of what Friend Feed offers.

Here are some of the key features that Friend Feed offers.
1. More than 140 characters. There is a good argument for Twitter's character restriction making you choose your words carefully, but sometimes you just need more room in order to complete a conversation.
2. Commenting and "like" system. Similar to Facebook's commenting and "like" system, Friend Feed's system allows users to comment on any of your posts. This makes it much easier to hold and track a conversation. With real-time updates, whenever someone comments on any of your posts, that post rises back to the top of your stream so that you can see it without having to search for it.
3. Room/ Group creation. Friend Feed allows you to create as many rooms (also referred to as groups) as you like. The purpose of creating a room is to have a place to hold a conversation around a specific topic or event. For example I created a room for NECC 2009. I've also created a room for people to share thoughts and resources about technology in education. Rooms can be private (you control who can join, view, and comment), semi-private (only you can post new items, but anyone can comment), or public (anyone can join, view, and post). Setting up a room is very easy, just go to your homepage select "browse/ edit groups" and create your new group.
4. Embeddable widgets. Friend Feed offers a good selection of widgets that you can embed into your blog or website. You can embed your main Friend Feed stream or you can embed the stream of updates from a group. In the right hand side bar I've embedded the widget for updates from the Free Tech 4 Teachers group. If you're a Friend Feed user, you can go an comment in it right now.

Applications for Education
The option to create a private Friend Feed room could be a great way to create a back channel for your classroom or for any workshops that you may lead. You could also create a private Friend Feed room for your students to use as brainstorming area or a book discussion forum. Because Friend Feed's commenting and "liking" system is similar to Facebook's, most middle school and high school students should quickly figure out how to use it.