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Facebook for Teachers

This post is a revised version of a post I wrote in January of 2010.

Though there may be some positive outcomes from connecting with your students online, there are also hazards. Every teacher should consider the potential unintended consequences carefully, before becoming online “friends” with any student.  I offer one warning and three suggestions asking you to keep in mind that this blog represents my own professional research, experience and opinion.  Teachers should be aware of their district’s policies on employee and student Internet Use.
Facebook is an example of a popular website for social networking.  Many high school students are regular users, and since 2009, many other Americans also discovered the site.  The site provides a place to connect and share information and photos with relatives and friends. Though the age limit for Facebook use is 14 years, many students in the elementary grades have set up accounts for themselves.  Parents should be aware of their child(ren)’s Internet use and have ongoing conversations with them about Internet Safety, privacy, kind and courteous online conversations (netiquette) and digital reputation creation and maintenance.

But this post is meant to address issues teachers face as they consider the use of Facebook or similar social networking sites with students.

Teachers have asked me the following question:
How can I use this medium that is so popular with students to reach out to them and communicate with them where they are?
Here is the one warning and three suggestions I have for you, keep in mind that this is my opinion and you need to know the policies of your own district.
Warning:  Don’t “friend” your students using your own personal Facebook profile. This can put you in a tricky situation for multiple reasons. First of all, if your students are under 14 years of age, you are implicitly suggesting that it is fine for them to be on Facebook, though they have lied about their birth date to sign up for the site.  Second,  If you are like me, you have interesting friends who post comments and take interesting quizzes that you may not want your students or their parents to associate with you. You should be aware that in some districts, teachers have been fired for inappropriate online posting of images or text, in some cases, the teacher was tagged in an online friend’s photo that was deemed inappropriate by the parent of a student.  If you choose to friend your students you have to be that much more aware of what you post in your Facebook profile and what your friends post.  You also need to be more aware of how to use blocking technology, and hope the blocking technology works!!!
Other bloggers recommend creating a group for students and blocking that group from seeing some content in your profile, but again this puts you in a position of having to monitor your use of the program carefully.
Now, here are my three suggestions that may help you reach out to students aged 14 and over via Facebook that will avoid the potential problems above.
First:  Create a Facebook Page, and have your students “Like” your page.  In this way, students can easily access information you post for them via Facebook, and you can send them messages, but you don’t have to be “friends” to do this.
Second:  Create a separate “Teacher Profile” in Facebook and make it the only one you use for connecting with students.  In this way you can connect with students who want to “friend” you and post things in that profile that are “teacher appropriate.”
Third:  Set your own personal Facebook profile to be completely private.
Here are some other bloggers thoughts on this topic.

Here is an article published in June of 2012 on this topic:

Minnesota Article

These articles are from fall of 2009, if you have any links to new resources on this topic, please share them in a comment below.
Why Can’t We Be (Facebook) Friends?
Teachers and Facebook
CNET News

2 responses to “Teachers and Facebook

  1. Karen ⋅

    Setting up one’s own ‘teacher profile’ is a great idea. It allows safe use of FaceBook while protecting one’s privacy. In the name of protecting both teachers and students, I would think that using the messaging function, which I believe is a one-to-one form of correspondence, should be avoided. Instead, all correspondence with students could done using one’s wall, where the comments are public.

    What’s a teacher to do should a student post a comment that is inappropriate?

    • szykanov

      Inappropriate comments are exactly the kind of thing a teacher will inevitably deal when using social media in this way. In Facebook, one can remove and report inappropriate posts, but it may have been there a while before the teacher can remove it.
      Cyber citizenship, politeness and courtesy need to be discussed with students as well. Great discussion on Edutopia along these lines. http://www.edutopia.org/groups/technology-tools/101768

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