Designed to resemble Facebook, “Fakebook” (https://www.classtools.net/FB/home-page) is an online resource that can be adapted for language teaching. Users can choose almost any famous or historical person of their liking, or even choose themselves, and create a fake Facebook page. As with most social media platforms, users can build a profile by filling in their personal information, posting comments, uploading links, and adding friends, and then save their progress with a password-protected account. Although designed to teach history, its versatility enables students to practice their writing skills in a general or more targeted language context. It can be used for just one lesson, or the account can be saved and built upon throughout the term.
It is by saving the account and building upon it throughout the term that the strengths of this website are found. Students can do their writing practice somewhere other than in their textbook or university-provided online platform. The use of authentic materials for enhanced language learning is well documented (Gilmore, 2007; Wong et al., 1995). Transitioning a writing class from the classroom to an online and asynchronous format can perhaps make the writing practice more realistic, as most writing today is accomplished online or on a computer rather than by hand.
One issue with online writing classes is that the majority of the writing is often completed on the university’s student management system; for example, students write a Microsoft Word document that is embedded within Teams. While instructors usually need a single place to collect classwork for class management and grading purposes, this is clearly not an authentic context. Though Fakebook cannot be said to be truly authentic, the way that it imitates a standard social media platform format makes it familiar and intuitive to its users.
Another strength is that it provides a place where students can see all of their coursework on one page, which is not usually possible with student management systems such as Teams or dotCampus. More convenient access to prior work can allow students to more easily draw on previous assignments for current ones, as well as act as a motivating factor as students see improvement (hopefully!) in their writing as the course progresses.
One predictable problem is the lack of interest that students will have if the website is used only once. A writing course may have a social media unit or lesson plan, and creating a Fakebook page as the post-lesson assignment for that lesson may seem like a logical choice. However, if students know they will only need to use this website once, they will not be invested in learning its various features and understandably will do the minimum to complete the assignment.
Another weakness, due to the website’s design, is that after the Fakebook accounts have been created and saved, each student will need access to every other student’s account URL and password in order to view their pages and comment on any posts. This is not an issue if the account is used as a private repository of writing accessed primarily by the student and the instructor, but if the intention is to encourage dialogue and students commenting on each other’s posts, this information will have to be provided to all.
Another problem—one shared by all online resources not provided by the university—is the danger of losing login and password information. If the account is made without registering an email, there is no recourse if login and password information is forgotten, so it is advised that instructors collect and store this information in a secure way.
Fakebook is an online resource that can be utilized for general and target language writing practice. By being aware of its strengths and weaknesses, instructors can use the website in a way that best serves their course and provide a more familiar and intuitive place for students to accomplish their writing. Those interested can email the author to receive an initial student handout with instructions on how to set up and save a Fakebook account. The official Fakebook Startup Guide can be found here: https://www.classtools.net/_FAKEBOOK/docs/fakebook_startup_guide.doc and an official Generic Marksheet can also be found here: https://www.classtools.net/_FAKEBOOK/docs/fakebook_marksheet.doc
ClassTools.net. (2020). Fakebook. https://www.classtools.net/FB/home-page
ClassTools.net. (2020). Fakebook Marksheet. https://www.classtools.net/_FAKEBOOK/docs/fakebook_marksheet.doc
ClassTools.net. (2020). Fakebook Startup Guide. https://www.classtools.net/_FAKEBOOK/docs/fakebook_startup_guide.doc
Gilmore, A. (2007). Authentic materials and authenticity in foreign language learning. Language Teaching, 40(2), 97–118. https://doi.org/10.1017/s0261444807004144
Wong, V., Kwok, P., & Choi, N. (1995). The use of authentic materials at tertiary level. ELT Journal, 49(4), 318–322. https://doi.org/10.1093/elt/49.4.318