Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Facing Facebook

"Facing Facebook" is the title of an interesting post written by Dave Truss blog. Dave's thinking on facebook is that "When facing the issue of Facebook,our students are there,and we should be there too!

I am not advocating for necessary presence, and I am not advocating for us
taking on a burden of responsibility. I am saying that we should have the choice
to be there and we should have the choice to interact with students on social
networking sites such as Facebook.

Some educators will choose to be on Facebook, some will choose to interact
there with students, some won’t. My concern is that I’m hearing instances of
student teacher faculty advisors, teachers and principals, and even districts
telling educators that they should remove their Facebook profiles.

His Reflection:

If we (educators and parents) don’t participate with students online, then we run the risk of having misguided or inexperienced friends, or worse yet bullies, becoming greater influences than us in their lives. Gordon Neufeld calls it ‘peer orientation’ in his book: Hold On to Your Kids: Why Parents Need to Matter More Than Peers. This does not mean that we get ‘chummy’ with our students online… we are simply a significant adult presence, modeling appropriate behavior, and connecting with them in a meaningful, respectful way. The Internet is no place for an unsupervised playground!

Principal Bruce Carabine and Technology and Curriculum Coordinator James McConville worked on some advice for educators who use Facebook. Here is what they came up with:

Be sure your profile is set-up in such a way that it is private. Only those you invite to be your friends should be allowed to view the content of your profile.
Make a decision about who is going to be in your friend’s group. If you are including current and former students, it’s a good idea take a conservative approach to the content of your page. Imagine the parents of one of your student’s were looking through it. Would they be comfortable with what they saw?
Perception is everything. You may want all of your students to be your friends on Facebook. Don’t be the one to invite them. Wait until they invite you to join their Facebook as a friend. Also, when they invite you, send them a ‘thank you for inviting me message’ so that you have a record of who invited whom.
Don’t download pictures of current and former students onto your hard drive.
Monitor regularly what others write on your wall. If there is anything that is inappropriate, remove it promptly. Be sure you deal with those who put questionable content on your site. Repeat offenders should be removed from your friend’s list.

We are thoughtful and intentional in our engagement with students in our schools and our classrooms… and we should be thoughtful and intentional in our engagement with students online.

The irony of it all is that I don’t really like Facebook, and I don’t really use it that much. I choose to show students a limited, and rather boring profile on Facebook. So the reality is that since I have a large digital footprint, students can find out a lot more about me in many other places besides Facebook.

What I do like about Facebook is that it has allowed me to have some really amazing interactions that I may never have had otherwise: Students sharing something they have learned with me; A former student that I was really worried about reconnecting with me, and thus I’m able to see him doing well for himself; A former student telling me that as a teacher I made ‘ the biggest difference in her life’.

…And I’ve been able to teach some impromptu lessons about appropriate online behavior along the way. So far, every time that I’ve mentioned something that I thought was inappropriate in my Facebook community, I have received an apology or removal of the inappropriate content, and not once have I been removed as a friend as a result.

So I ask you… should we be told ‘as educators’ that we should remove our Facebook profiles? Is this something we should fear? Should we engage with our students online? Or should we just police the bullies and support the victims after the fact?

I know that many of our students use facebook and so I think this article can reflect on teachers, parents and themselves on how to use it responsibly.

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