About Face

At 5:28 p.m. on Jan. 16 Alisa Houghton ’08 posted “nice work…some true collaboration” on the wall of the “Study Group for NORMAL [U.S.] History – study guides, study buddies, and more!!!” on the networking site Facebook.com. Then at 8:00 a.m. the next day, she went into take her U.S. History midterm.

At 2:52 a.m. on Jan. 18 Houghton posted on the wall for the group “AP Spanish Language” saying: “i’m gonna let it go in favor of a little sleeeep. GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” She again woke up to go take her Spanish test.

Finally, at 4:12 p.m. on Jan. 19, the day before AP Environmental Science final, she repeated herself (with fewer exclamation points) saying: “GOOD LUCK EVERYONE!!!!!! ” on the wall of the “APES Midterm Study Group!” a group that she herself had created.

Houghton used these groups as a utility to aid her studying processes in the days leading up to semester exams.

“It’s more effective than groups studying in person,” she said. “You don’t get caught up talking, and it’s not like a social gathering because it’s online.”

In these groups students can ask questions, post study guides and discuss the format of the exam.
“When are you going to get 32 people together in one place?”  said Samir Chaudry ’07 who was a member of the AP Environmental Science group.

The first study group appeared long before finals. It is for students in AP Chemistry, a class that has always yielded student collaboration because of its difficulty level.

Still, some teachers were unaware that the groups even existed.

“As long as people aren’t copying each other’s work then it’s fine,” AP Environmental Science teacher Dietrich Schuhl said. Schuhl also mentioned the problems with doing anything online.
“E-mail speak and real speak are two different things,” he said. “There’s great potential for miscommunication.”

History Department Chair Katherine Holmes-Chuba also expressed doubts.

“There’s always a danger when you don’t see people,” she said. “You can’t see somebody’s reaction.”

While sharing study guides and notes is not against the school’s Honor Code, Holmes-Chuba is skeptical because they can be used as a last resort for students who have not done their own work and can be misleading. Both students and teachers realize that if the groups are used in the wrong way they could become a problem with the administration.

“If people respect the Honor Code I think Facebook could really help,” Houghton said.

Students such as Stephanie Da Silva ’08 who created both an AP Spanish Language study group and an AP Physics B study group recognized that the tool worked better in classes that were more reading intensive. 

 “You can’t put formulas down,” she said.

Recently, Chaudry created another group regarding AP Environmental Science: the “Song for the Blue Ocean Group.” “Song for the Blue Ocean” by Carl Safina is required reading for AP Environmental Science students.

“It could be taken the wrong way if someone didn’t read the book,” he said.

“I worry about the ‘Song for the Blue Ocean’ group,” Schuhl said. “It will be really easy to cut and paste.”

When creating the “APES Midterm Study Group,” Houghton had no intention of creating something that could act in place of hard work.  

 “I wasn’t advocating an easy way out,” she said.

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