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Monday, June 1, 2009

A Workable Teacher Facebook Scheme

I've been grappling with this: I'd love to claim a small fraction of the hours a day I know many students spend on Facebook, and be able to communicate with them through it. Kids, at least at my school, don't so much email. They Facebook and text. However, I would be uncomfortable friending students with my personal Facebook account. It's private space where I interact with my family and friends, and it needs to be separate from my professional life.

I don't know why I didn't think of this before, but over the past few days I'm liking the idea of a separate Facebook account for Miss Nowak, not for Kate Nowak, that I can use to friend students. Not that I would require it - some students don't even have a Facebook. But if they do, they will get updates from me like "Just posted grades from Trig unit test", and I can share interesting and useful links with them where they are most likely to see it. I also have to investigate the usefulness of creating Facebook "pages" or "groups" for classes, but I don't know much about them yet.

If you are using Facebook with your students, please let me know how you have it set up and how it's working for you.


  1. I'd worry about what kids might post on their own pages that, as a mandated reporter, I would then have to report. To me it just feels like blurring a line that could be dangerous. Even if you didn't go to students' pages or read their updates, I wonder if having access could be dangerous from a liability standpoint.

    I like the idea theoretically, I just wouldn't be comfortable with it practically.

  2. I'm also not yet comfortable with crossing the Facebook line with current students. I will friend former students (and then only once they've graduated high school), but I keep all of them on my Limited Profile list.

    I can certainly see the possible benefits to having a school-only account. A friend of mine has separate FB accounts for work (he writes for a tech magazine) and personal purposes. I would check to see if the school or district has any sort of policies about student/teacher online interaction. The policy at my school is that all electronic communication between teachers and students is to be done using the school email system. (I'm not claiming that everyone strictly follows that policy, but it is on the books so it's worth keeping those sorts of things in mind.)

  3. Have you investigating creating a "page" intead of an account? Though mainly used by companies and politicians, doing so would allow you to create a separate identity without a whole new account (pages can branch off existing accounts). Also, then you don't run into the issues of breaching student's privacy: they can see stuff on pages they follow, but not the other way around. In fact, it sounds perfect for your situation, especially since pages are designed for posting updates, etc.

  4. Morgante - I haven't investigated in much detail, but it does sound promising. Thanks.

    Probably I will try it with the remaining few weeks of this year with one class to work out the wrinkles.

    There must be a way.

  5. What exactly do you want to do with facebook? Could you create your own Ning account and incite your students to join? Would this accomplish the same thing?

  6. Or you could "invite" them.

  7. I can't do that, Dave. (ha!) The appeal of Facebook is that they are using it anyway. They might go to Ning to get whatever assignment done, but they won't spend any time there.

    The point is just communication - an efficient way to get their attention outside of class when needed. I already use an email distribution list for "check out this link" or "don't forget to change your calculator batteries before the stats test tomorrow", but not that many reliably get those messages in a timely manner, because they don't check email as a habit.

  8. I'm glad you have this post. I have felt the same way for a while. Unfortunately, a teacher at our school did have an inappropriate relationship with a student that was mostly conducted via facebook chatting. We were originally asked to remove any of our online profiles, but have since been told to just make sure we act professionally "in public places" (including local bars as well as anything online).

    I've adopted a policy similar to doug's just for my own safety.

    It does seem a shame, though. Maybe Morgante's solution is a good workaround. You don't see their profile and they don't see yours, but you can insert things into their newsfeed via updates and the discussion board on the page/group itself.

    Please post or comment if you find something workable as I'd love to know what comes of this.

  9. I actually think it's a good idea; it capitalises on what students are already doing but has a professional edge.

    As per doug's comment,I'd run it by school and if they say it's outside of the realm I would run a proposal by them (as my experience is that policies are often older than web 2.0 and written by people who don't understand). For instance, I use igoogle with my students. We use google docs, I have a MissMc gmail account (rather than a school one) and we use google sites. When I checked this the school immediately said 'no' because it wasn't a "school system" when I explained the provisions I had put in place and gave justifications (e.g. that students could send me attachments whereas our school memory limit won't allow it) they relented. Sometimes we have to keep pushing at the boundaries in the name of educational progress!

  10. It sounds like a great idea. The only issue I see with it are social/class issues you might have with students who prefer MySpace or who don't have an account at all (as described by danah boyd here.

    Whatever you end up doing, be sure to let us know how it goes.

  11. OK here's my page. The students were very helpful in a discussion about what would be more workable for the intention (they know their Facebook, that's for sure), and we decided that a "fan page" would be appropriate. I emailed the link to some students who volunteered to help me test it out. No fans as of yet (5 minutes later). I will probably be refreshing this page every 10 minutes until I go to bed.

  12. I allow facebook friendships with my students.
    There are a few terms, though, of those friendships.
    1) Student must ask me--either on facebook or in person.
    2) Student only receives limited profile access.
    I'm not yet into the 'friend lists' but I think that's really the way to use facebook for something helpful in class... for that matter, I'm not really into assigning things on facebook yet but I'm sure the time will come.
    I deserve to have a private profile and my students have much to benefit from seeing some of my profile...


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