At this point, the fact that more schools and teachers don’t use Facebook in some way in their practice baffles me. Educators can surely show their technology and social ineptitude by treating Facebook as irrelevant trifle. Facebook is a tool educators in any school can use to connect students to learning. While some out-of-touch voices go hoarse screaming about the dangers of Facebook, many are learning how Facebook actually works, and finding extremely safe, appropriate, and easy ways to share information and curate ideas. Here are some ways actual teachers I know (or myself) are using Facebook:
- Facebook “pages” are push-out only. They are just like a standard website. Comments can be left on or off. Many schools allow teachers to create a classroom page in order to share information. Students subscribe to the pages, and posts appear on their own timeline. They do not have to “friend” anyone to get these notices. Furthermore, many school districts have begun using Facebook pages as a connection site.
- Facebook “groups” allow for a closed group of people to participate in a space on Facebook, without having to be friends with one another. For instance, my student council and I share one such group. Students have to be invited to join, and can only interact with one another on the group page itself. The group allows for files, pictures, video, interactive documents to be stored so others in the group can view them. There is a live chat room that can only be used by people approved in the group, and only when they are present in the group. This is particularly effective for clubs, teams, groups, and higher functioning classes in high school. Still not sure? Invite parents to the group as well. Ask them to stop in to say hi at any time.
- When I work with upper-classmen, I have students create a secondary Facebook account (same with Twitter), as a Personal Learning Network (PLN). I suggest that students begin the process of moving professional and employment contacts, if they have any, to the new account, and close the personal account to outsiders. With an “open” PLN account, and a “closed” personal account, future employers, contacts, and others checking up on the student will find an account that shares the most marketable aspects of the student. This new account should be used to connect to anyone the students finds relevant in a mature, professional setting. An additional challenge, is for the student to find and post relevant resources and materials as time goes on, gaining followers who do the same. Of course, all of the personal information should read as a resume would. [Yes, this is essentially what LinkedIN is, but more people at this age use Facebook, so the transition is natural.]
There are certainly many uses for Facebook in education, if we can just get past the negative stigma. If we do a better job of helping students understand Facebook, settings, and capabilities, we can make them safer, and still offer relevant educational connections.