From friending to research: Using Facebook as a teaching tool by Anne Pemberton - College & Research Libraries News
I ran across this article the other day and thought it presented some great ideas for using Facebook to help students understand what a database is. I tried using some of the concepts in a Writing 121 class yesterday and it worked surprisingly well.
First, I asked how many students use Facebook. Everyone raised their hand. Then I explained as the article mentions, "You know what a database is because you use Facebook." You can explain that students are records in Facebook, like articles are records in a database. Each piece of information about a person (name, birthdate, etc.) is a field, such as the article title, author, etc. in a database. You can also ask how many students are in MySpace, etc. to explain the concept that there is some overlap in content between databases, just as there is some overlap in social networking sites.
I also asked how students got into Facebook, and they replied that they signed up. Then I asked how articles get into databases and went on to explain that the database companies pay publishers to include articles from periodicals. Finally, I asked how pages get onto the web and we talked about how it is like Facebook, anyone can post anything.
I won't summarize the whole article here, but take a look. It contains a lot of great ideas to use in instruction!
I have to think more about using this with a class where there are students not familiar with Facebook, but I think you could use an online phonebook to explain the same concepts.