Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Being Facebook Friends

Should teachers friend students on Facebook? For some reason, since I work with technology, people seem to think I'm a good person to ask. And since I mentioned Facebook in my last post, perhaps it is relevant to address it here. My depends.

Let's ask a different question. Should teachers/educators be on social media? Yes. No question. If we want to connect with students and meet students where they are, social media is the way to go. Educational research tells us that we need to be relevant to engage students effectively. It also tells us that if we can extend our time spent on learning and our curriculum, then achievement goes up. Now put those two together. If we engage students with relevant questions/topics and use a medium that they are using outside of school for socializing, we are likely to extend school related discussions that promote learning, inquiry and authentic application of concepts in the real world. Many have unpacked this much more than I am here. This is only 1 aspect of leveraging social media to benefit learning.

I think the "friends" on Facebook is a bit more complex. Some people advocate 2 accounts...1 professional and 1 personal. I think you have to think about how you use social media. I have some accounts that are personal and my friends/links reflect that. I have other accounts that are solely professional. Based on our roles, this can be easier for some than others. For me, Facebook is personal. There is nothing on there I'm ashamed of. Actually, I don't post much. Rather, I use it to keep up with friends across the world. I also don't have a class of students that I work directly with right now with my given role. Twitter is my professional account. Don't get me wrong. The personal nature of who you are bleeds over into the professional as well it should. It is reasonable to keep the two separate. Bottom line, if you are posting things that students should not see or might be better left to their imagination, don't friend them on Facebook.

No matter what medium you use for social media and connections, your life is more transparent than it has ever been. We know more about each other. Modeling and making good choices is paramount. So is self-control. You can't post confidential or "soon to be public" info before it actually is public. Many people have had some heavy consequences for mistakes in this area and it deserves due caution. All said, social media is a place to extend learning and leverage for the good of both student learning and professional learning. Don't be scared. Jump in but do so with some thought and foresight.


  1. In agreement with you, but have you considered social networking channels and media could be an extension of what Dewey conceptualized, "school as a form of community life." What is important in schools is the experience and the human connections and process, not simply the preparation for future activities and ambitions. Social networks seem to be an extension of that. I also have to ask myself, if I don't want my students seeing it or aware of it, should I be doing it or saying it at all? Most likely even aside from social networking online students know what teachers are like and where they go and what they do by reputation.

  2. We need more of a community perspective and less of an individual perspective in today's schools. I think you are right on regarding the importance of relationships and connections in the learning process. As Fullan said, "learning is the work." It is about the process and not just about the outcomes.

    In regard to the authenticity, I agree that teachers should be who they are in front of the students. As a matter of fact, rarely do they fool the students. In a Christian school, this has obvious implications if students see a teacher living a double standard. The authenticity of teachers' lives relates very much to being a true community and living out some of the messiness. At the same time, I have seen some teachers that need some maturity and growth. They need to think more and talk less. A danger of social media is making a poor decision(s) public and irreversible. Young teachers in particular would do well to consider the implications here. Although in theory I would love transparency, I'm not sure the reality always matches. This is one reason that I say we need to
    extend more grace in a transparent world.