The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All!

If you are one of those out there that believe that Facebook has no place in the classroom, then, well maybe this post isn’t for you. But please first take a look at just a few reasons why you should reconsider:

  1. The fact is, the majority of your students and their parents are probably already on Facebook
  2. Even when schools have a policy against being “friends” online, there are tools you can use that won’t violate policy
  3. Despite what you may hear, there are strong privacy options that you can set up so only those that you want can access your information
  4. We have an obligation as educators to model appropriate online behavior and learn right along our students
From http://www.mindjumpers.com/blog/2011/04/education-industry-infographic-2/

From http://www.mindjumpers.com/blog/2011/04/education-industry-infographic-2/

Where do we begin?

Just today, Facebook released their own sponsored Facebook For Educators guide, but we found that there really wasn’t enough “how-to” in this guide to make it worth it.

FacebookForEducators.org

FacebookForEducators.org

However, it is a good document to read through to get the philosophical stuff down and get familiar with some of the unique facebook vocabulary such as profile, page, groups, etc.

The rest of this posts seeks to lay out all of the options you have for using facebook in the classroom and connecting with your students, parents, and community.

Should we be “friends” with students?

This is certainly a hotly debated question.

Your school might have a policy that doesn’t allow you to friend your students on Facebook. We definitely don’t want you to go against any policy! But, we feel that done responsibly, you should absolutely friend your current students! Why?

  • Get to know them in a whole different light – students share their likes, hobbies, and more. Really getting to know your students transfers into a better experience in the classroom and a better ability to reach every student.
  • Create an open and supportive environment – if you are open to it, students could even send you a quick chat message if they are stuck on a homework question in the evening.
  • Keep up with students years later – there is no doubt you are one of your students’ favorite teachers ever. Keep in touch and communicate years after they leave your classroom.

Just one personal example from a former student that just posted to my wall last month:

facebook1

How to safely “friend” students on facebook

Option 1: Use Lists to keep some things private

To set up a list of all of your students you will want to take the following steps:

1. Click on Friends in the left sidebar after logging in to Facebook

facebook3

2. Click on Edit Friends at the top right

3. Click on +Create a List which will appear in the same location as the button from step 2

4. Add all of your students to the list you just created by clicking on “Edit List” next to their names

5. Click on Account > Privacy Settings in upper right corner

facebookprivacy

6. Click on Customize settings in bottom left

7. Use the drop down menu to limit your students from seeing what you don’t want them to by clicking on Customize and then type in the name of your list in the Hide these from these people: text box

limited profile
I limit everything under the “Things others share” category, as well as my posts, photos, location, and contact information. Really, when they visit my profile, all they can see is my profile image, school and work info, and that’s about it.

Option 2: Set-up a second account just for your students (and parents)

Many schools and experts are recommending that teachers create a whole new facebook account just to use in their professional lives.

This may work for you, but in reality, you are less likely to be able to keep up with more than one account and it kind of defeats the whole purpose anyway.

That being said, it may be a good option for you. Just create an account using your school email address and only let students and parents friend you there.

Why every educator, school, and organization needs a facebook “fan” page

Even better than friending students online is setting up a fan page.

Fan pages allow you to distribute announcements, blog posts, events, assignments, and more right into the “live streams” of those that “fan” your page.

This is better than using your personal profile because there is no need for parents or students to be your friends to get the updates, and it can really be used to develop an online community around your class or school.

An example of using a teacher page

An example of using a teacher page

However, many parents will have to be coached into seeing the benefits of a facebook page and there might be resistance. It is important to only post things such as names and photos if permission is granted, and announcements will want to be more generic in nature.

Here are a few examples to take a look at (and maybe even fan!):

Know of more or have your own?

Leave a comment so we can add it to the list!

facebook2

Other facebook pages for educators:

And fan pages for Educator Blogs:

How to create a facebook fan page

create page1. Login to your facebook account

2. Go to facebook.com/pages

3. Click on “Create a page” in top right

4. Choose “Artist, Band, or Public Figure” if you are a teacher and choose “Organization” if you are a school or group

5. Follow the steps on screen to get started

Adding the “like box” to your blog or website

One of the best ways of letting your students and others know about your fan page is to put a “like box” on your blog, wiki, or website.

Here is an example of a small like box for our facebook page:


It wouldn’t hurt to press that like button here either ;)

Here is how to get your own:

1. Go here to get the code needed for your box

2. Type in the URL or link to your facebook page

likebox

3. Choose if you want to show the stream – this will display the most recent posts to your facebook page’s wall

4. Change the size and decide on the other options available

5. Click on Get Code and copy the iFrame code from the top box

6. In a blog, paste the code into the HTML Tab of a page or post, or into a blank text widget in your sidebar

7. This code should also be able to be pasted in most wikis and websites – look for help info on embedding code for more

Groups – An alternative to Pages

Note: This section was added on 5/12/2011 and didn’t appear when the post was originally published.

After initially deciding to leave Groups out from the discussion, we received comments down below about how many educators prefer Groups over Pages.

The truth is, Facebook made some recent changes to Groups since the last time I played around with them – so maybe they are a good alternative after all.

So what are the differences between a page and a group?

Here is a chart that hopefully will make the differences (and similarities) a bit more clear:

groupsvpages

I think Pat McCullough sums it up best in his comment below, “My sense is that people would take more ownership of activity in a Group than a Page. In terms of what the two features signify to users, my impression is that a Group implies that the students are creators of content, while the Page places the instructor more prominently as the ultimate mediator of content.

So in deciding between a group and a page, you will want to think about your goals for setting one or the other up.

How to set up a group

Setting up a group is a quick process.

1. Sign in to your facebook account.

2. Visit facebook.com/groups.

3. Click on the green “Create Group” button in the top right and follow the on screen prompts.

You will want to be careful as you create your group to make sure that you limit messaging and other privacy issues if it is frowned upon by your school.

The great Facebook debate

Many educators and parents have their own (and valid) opinions about the use of facebook in schools.

Some say it is a distraction, an unnecessary mix of leisure and learning, and even dangerous.

Others realize the power of reaching out to students and understand how facebook can be the best way to keep parents informed and encourage their participation in the learning process.

So what do you think?

Leave us comments below with anything you would like to add.

Ronnie Burt

Works for Edublogs. Former secondary math teacher and wannabe musician. Follow me on twitter @ronnieburt!

152 Responses

  1. Laurie says:

    I wrote a book chapter that might also interest your patrons, it’s called “Face to Face in Facebook: Students are there, should we be?” In a book called “Teaching Generation M.” The chapter reviews several studies that have looked at student perceptions of faculty and teachers on Facebook.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      I think this is the link to the book?

      Just a little teaser, could you tell us if overall perceptions were good or bad? :)

      • Laurie says:

        It was all fairly positive – one study included student perceptions of three different Facebook profiles (one with almost no information, one with limited information, and one with personal information including personal pictures). Students thought he instructor who included more information would be the better teacher.

      • Laurie says:

        And, yes, that is the book. :) Available at your library or through interlibrary loan.

  2. Anne-Marie Gammon says:

    It very important to use the social medias to reach the students as well as young adults.

    The educational system need to upgrade itself in order to have a substantial impact on the target population.

  3. Rick Spiller says:

    Hi there; your article is good, but you don’t mention Facebook groups. I have a Facebook group for each of my classes and the Golf team which I coach. Once the group is set up students can join it and then I okay them to join and my personal stuff is kept personal and yet I can message all the students and even parents who join and they can message me. I find this a great way to be in contact, and not have to write in email addresses, and yet not be friends. As you say many students particularily gr 8-10′s have facebook accounts, but no email accounts, so its a good way to communicate.
    thanks for the info though.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hey Rick – thanks for the comment!

      I really debated including groups in the post – even wrote up a good chunk and then deleted. Your comment is making me wish I would have left in :(

      The reason I left it out is because my experience is that a group provides a bit more freedom to students and parents (which you are saying is a great thing – and I would tend to agree), but not quite sure if it would make the administrators and policy makers even more nervous than they already are. With a page you can keep complete control and private messages can stick to the channels many schools prefer – such as email. For whatever reason, student/teacher facebook messages are usually frowned upon.

      Also, another huge reason I prefer a page is that group updates aren’t seen in users’ live streams, so you have to rely on private messages, like you say, or hope they visit your group page.

      For anyone that is interested, I wrote a post on another blog that explains the difference between profiles, pages, and groups here.

      I applaud your use and will think of a way to edit this in future updates to this post or in a new one for sure!

      • Rick Spiller says:

        Hi Ronnie;

        I have not had any problems with the “private messages” aspect. I am not totally sure what you mean by this, but think I know. I find the live streams kind of useless, so many people and kids just natter and I really don’t want to see all that. If a kid wants to send me a message on Facebook they can and it gets sent to my email and I then deal with it. Often messaging back via Facebook, happened again just today. The school district has a record in their servers that that child messaged me so there is at least a record of the one way.

        It seemed to me to be more work to set up the Page and the group thing is easy and yet they are not my “friends”. I make it very clear to parents in letter at the beginning of the year that I am not “friends” with any student, until they graduate and mostly even not then, as I have taught in the neighbourhood of 5000 students and cannot keep up with them all. However, I am a friendly teacher and open to communication.

        I have provided my email on my website for years now and really find that it doesn’t get abused at all. As a matter of fact my phone message at the school refers them to my email address, which allows me to be in asynchronous communication with parents and then I can include attachments of their child’s assignments or current grade reports etc. It’s much more efficient and useful than phoning.

        Nor does the group page get used a lot, students could post photos and videos and initially I was leery about giving them permission to do that, but its not a problem, and the odd time they do post something, but its usually something funny or interesting.

        Above all, the increased communication in the last few years has meant better monitoring of kids progress in school. Thus Parents, Admin, Learning Assistance and Teachers can work together more efficiently to support struggling learners. In the last 3.5 years I have taught 619 kids (gr 9-12)and only had 4 failures. I did not have that kind of record before.

        Cheers

        Rick

      • Hi Ronnie, I was wondering about Groups as well. I have used it for a couple purposes thus far. I found that the old Groups setup was pretty much useless. But the new Groups is quite good — in fact, better than other “Groups” out there for my purposes (that is, better than Google or Yahoo Groups). I have found that the new Groups actually do show up in news feeds and send notifications.

        I have used the new Groups setup successfully for a hot button issue in an academic society (which was wildly active for about a month) and unsuccessfully for a long distance course (many older students who were standoffish about Facebook in general). My sense is that people would take more ownership of activity in a Group than a Page. In terms of what the two features signify to users, my impression is that a Group implies that the students are creators of content, while the Page places the instructor more prominently as the ultimate mediator of content.

      • Anna C says:

        I have a personal facebook, but I also opened a “classroom” facebook. I used my class “ESL” and my school name so I am not friending my students personally. I am providing a space that they can ask questions, post poems, etc. They are already there… why ask them to go somewhere else… our teacher websites are not working to get the intrigue that FACEBOOK does! Students that won’t participate in class are posting poems. They are asking questions and having fun practicing their English skills far beyond the bell! I love it, they love it. I not only have groups set up for the boys and one for the girls to allow me to mentor student more and create a safer environment for each gender to ask questions pertaining to school or whatever without fear of the opposite gender herassment.
        It is awesome! My students are participating and they are learning and practicing and loving it!

        • Gabe says:

          a group is inline so you don’t have to log in and out of accounts, plus it has great educational survey functionality and event reminders and updates that are fed to the individual members accounts. You as the admin have full control e.g. you can even design the group logo in clipart or fireworks. A problem is when you wanna close the group. That’s not that easy

    • Darla Ottman says:

      Rick,

      I tried to set up a group for one of my classes tonight. I was unable to do so without adding members from the get-go. How did you set up your group without having an initial member?

  4. Yvonne says:

    I could not think of a less subtle way of saying valid while obviously in every other sentence saying and meaning invalid

  5. Thank you for this timely post. A great resource for those of us who are a little Facebook shy but having to face the reality of Facebook in our professional life!

  6. Juanita says:

    Like the steps here, well laid-out. I’ve been using it enough to know MOST of the info in your article, but learned a few things too… and this is a great resource for my colleagues who haven’t dipped a toe in yet! lol

  7. Andi says:

    I set up a page to keep in touch with my community college students. It’s more for fun than for assignments, etc. I do it to post new research in science that we can discuss online because there isn’t enough time in class, and it’s fun! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dr-Joness-Monkey-Business/130613243678130

  8. Jay Barr says:

    Excellent article. I am not a school educator but I do help educate my affiliates in Worldprofit. The instructions were clear and precise. Thanks for the article.

  9. Anne Collier says:

    Fantastic resource, Ronnie. If your readers need a little support in this from the parents of their students, there’s our free PDF “A Parents’ Guide to Facebook” (fbparents.org), which can also be ordered in booklet form if they drop me an email (anne[at]netfamilynews.org). It’s a little primer, with screenshots and how-to help in optimizing Privacy Settings for teens. All my best.

  10. Anne Collier says:

    Great resource, Ronnie. If your readers are dealing with fearful parents, maybe our free PDF “A Parents’ Guide to Facebook” (fbparents.org) can provide them with a little support. It can also be ordered in booklet form if they email me via anne[at]netfamilynews.org. It’s a little primer, with screenshots and how-to help in optimizing Privacy Settings for teens.

  11. Valerie says:

    All contact in our district between teacher and student is banned including social media use.

  12. MaryRose says:

    This is a really informative article–so good, in fact, that I’m post a link for it to the California State Dept. of Education’s official teacher website, “Brokers of Expertise” (www.myboe.org) so that other teachers may become aware of it and read it. I really appreciated the idea of using a fan page rather than letting students “friend” me. I wish I had thought of this before I opened the friending floodgates!

  13. Hi Ronnie,

    This is fabulous! I’ve friended many formers students, and this helps me know how to customize what actually is shared to them.

    I use FB for my “personal” life and have been using Twitter more for “professional.” But, I almost feel badly if I don’t write on the FB posts to show support… Could you recommend a post on knowing what you use your social media for having those boundaries? I hope my question makes sense.

    Another question I have is, how would you compare Facebook to Edmodo? I know some of the differences, and speculate when I would prefer one over the other in the classroom… and wondered what your take on it is?

    Kind regards,
    Tracy Watanabe

    • Ok, I just have to say that by being able to adjust the settings for what is shared has not only answered the questions I asked above, but has made me so much more comfortable now about saying yes to friending former students/children of parents who are my friends. I live in the district I work for, my husband is a youth pastor in our town… so we are friends with many families/former students and … Thank you.

      Kind regards,
      Tracy Watanabe

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Tracy,

      Glad to see in your comments that you are jumping right in!

      As for your edmodo vs. facebook question, I do really like what edmodo does. My big beef is that parents and teachers don’t regularly have visiting edmodo as part of their daily routines like facebook, so I imagine the participation rates would be lower. The same could be said for blogs too, which is why we are fans of putting a link to blog posts on your facebook page or group to cover all the bases :)

  14. ALEJANDRA says:

    I´ve been using facebook for a year now. I´ve found it very useful in many ways. I could track past pupils of mine. I´m friends with all my pupils (let me share some secrecy sorrounding my job…: I´m the coordinator )I use my FB for professional purposes -mainly. My pupils prefer groups.Parents are in touch as well. FB Etiquette is sth that has developed naturally in the page and/or groups. If necessary FB is a great way to remind pupils of activities, hw, events, deadlines or whatever. I regularly post funny / interesting photos of all of us. We share music, literature,etc,etc, We are a closer community thanks to FB.

  15. Hi Ronnie

    thank you for this post. I’ve just spent the last hour making lists for all of the great facebook pages for education that I’ve “liked”. Previously I thought that lists were only for friends. This makes my news feed reading way more organised.

    There’s a Facebook group called FacingIT that I’ve set up for educators to chat about using FB in education. I’ve just posted a link to this post..thank you!

    http://www.facebook.com/#!/home.php?sk=group_204058342947209

    There have already been some interesting conversations and links to share. I’ve started to archive all of the information from this group in the FacingIT wiki.

    http://facingit.wikispaces.com/

    I welcome any educators to drop in and join the conversation with us.

    Cheers
    Penny

  16. I didn’t know about the option of putting friends into lists and it seems like a great way for me to keep my daughter and a couple of her friends (who I am facebook friends with) separated from my own friends (and their not always suitable for young people posts and photos)…but I’m not clear how this actually works. I’ve followed your steps but when I get to step 7 I don’t see how the drop-down options refer specifically to just the list – they seem to be the privacy options for all my friends. Maybe I misunderstood something??

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Heather,

      I added a new screenshot under step seven that I hope helps out. You have to type in the name of your list in the don’t show box.

      Is that better? :)

  17. AK says:

    >Option 2: Set-up a second account just for your students (and parents)

    Is n’t it against FaceBook’ s terms and conditions to create a second account?

    And you said that …just for an school/organization? How do you Create an account at FaceBook with a ‘non-person account ‘ ? FaceBook have strict policies and it allow only the legitimate ‘personal’ names . It strictly rejects the name if it seems as non-person :)

    FaceBook allow us to create a fan page/group and a lot more for our organization and maintain it as you need. However you need to create the account with a standard name and not as an artificial person :)

  18. Great article for Schools and Educators! Giving clear advice on using Social Media for Education.

    While there is huge debate surronding the use of Social Media in Education – it can’t be simply ignored and this article shows the way in which it can be used.

    I work for Eteach.com as a Social Media Strategist and we use our Facebook Page to connect with Teachers – and it is a great way to connect with others for events and provide up to date news! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Eteach/125298134985?ref=ts

    I have seen some great Teacher Blogs out there; they can provide a great resource for the kids by posting revision notes and class notes; and you see that more than just the class use these blogs to learn.

  19. jock boyd says:

    Hi,
    Another great way to use face book is to link it with twitter, twtpic, vimeo and audioboo. writing, speaking and acting all in one, leave the classroom at school and create virtual learning environments.
    It’s not amazing anymore

  20. Julia Simens says:

    I love using facebook as a way to keep a group of ‘liked minded’ people all together in a timely manner. I think we need to make sure as a school that we are consistent in our approach to ‘connections’ so a student is not out of step with what is going on. In my job as school counselor, I have worked with students who have one teacher who makes them use a planner, one teacher makes the use an electronic planner, one does facebook and one texts all homework assignment. What ended up in my office was a very stressed out student, confused parent and my inability to help them understand the technology needs he needed to be successful. I would love schools to move from ‘should we friend students or not’ to “how can we consistently connect kids” to technology so we (teachers) can all model the behavior and increase the child’s change of success.

  21. I love the idea of connecting with students on a platform that they are already familiar with. The only concern I have with “friending” students on Facebook is being able to maintain a professional rapport with students. Also, Facebook often changes privacy settings/layout etc. without warning or without clearly explaining that some information may therefore become available to ‘friends’ who previously did not have access to that information. A fan page, I think, might be the better route.

  22. Kelly Walsh says:

    This is awesome! I’m jealous though, you beat me to it (I’m working on an article like this!). Anyway, Facebook in the Classroom is more popular every day, and the your article provides important insights into to how to make it work well. Come visit EmergingEdTech.com for more ideas in posts like these:

    “Facebook In The Classroom. Seriously.” [URL:
    http://www.emergingedtech.com/2011/03/facebook-in-the-classroom-seriously/

    “Facebook Summit 2011, an Excellent Academic Use of the Popular Internet App” [URL: http://www.emergingedtech.com/2011/05/facebook-summit-2011-an-excellent-academic-use-of-the-popular-internet-app/.

    Thanks Edublogger!

  23. j roberts says:

    The district where I teach has made friending students on facebook against the district guidelines. I do have students who have set up club accounts and team interfaces that work quite well, however.
    I seems frustrating to not be able to be where the students are….you jyst need to be able to know where to draw the line.

    • Laurie says:

      Okay, friending students has been banned at your school — has creating “Pages” been banned? If you do a news search there are all kinds of stories and about schools banning Facebook use by teachers and the backlash.

  24. 6th grade teacher says:

    Can you please write something about twitter?

    Facebook’s policy — albeit lax on enforcement — officially excludes learners under 13 years of age from creating their own accounts. Any official recognition of accounts for students younger than 13, by educators or other adults, is a blatant endorsement of dishonesty (since new facebook users are required to provide a birthday).

    I started two new twitter accounts this year — one for science and one for literacy — with mixed results so far. Any and all ideas are welcome for using twitter to support learning!

  25. John Bidder says:

    It’s only a matter of time in my view – very good & timely article IMHO. Get Logged In launched ‘Social School Media’ as a service about 2 months ago as I believe primary schools can harness social media for parental and local business engagement to great effect if supported well in the early stages.

    It’s going well and lots of learning is going on with parents, leaders and business. Very very exciting. There’s a wider mix of tools in here too but Facebook is the hub.

    Critically the whole thing is focused on key school improvement objectives. The strategy is multilayered but the outcomes are about learning (everyone) and community cohesion. Social School Media uses a Facebook recognised Content Management System to make the experience engaging & interactive beyond the wall too.

    You’re welcome to like the page and probably ‘unlike’ it shortly after as it’s not terribly relevant beyond the locality unless of course you want to show some support! It’d be irresponsible to just post the link out here but if you’d like to see what the school is doing just pop your email in the Quick Contact box at http://www.socialschoolmedia.com

  26. Siobhan says:

    Great post and ideas Ronnie!
    I only have one question. What are some ideas for teachers plans for managing their fan pages? I’d like to be super informed before I start my own and end up with tons of resistance.
    Thanks for sharing!

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Siobhan – thanks for the comment!

      The big thing I would recommend, at least when starting out, is to make sure the privacy settings are set on the page so that only you can post to the wall of the page (the default is that anyone can). You should also turn on email notifications so you immediately know of any activity on the page to keep on top of it.

      Other than that, managing it is just like managing a personal facebook profile.

      I guess you are just going to make me have to write a whole other post on, “So you have your teacher facebook page, now what?” aren’t you? ;)

  27. I have created a Facebook account for my students and parents. http://www.facebook.com/pages/Mrs-Jeffersons-Classroom#!/pages/Mrs-Jeffersons-Classroom/172875369423033 I live in an extremely rural area but about 1/3 have joined. I really like having the page – because it keeps them informed and it’s a way that I can interact with them and not be FB friends.

  28. Derek Baird says:

    Hi Ronnie,

    Thanks for your mention of the ‘Facebook for Educators’ guide.

    We have a companion website that has free handouts on Facebook Groups, Facebook Pages and other features. We are working on How To’s handouts and will have those up soon!

    http://facebookforeducators.org/

    If you (or your readers) have any suggestions for the next version of the Facebook for Educators guide, we invite you to share them over on our Facebook for Educators Page over on the Discussion Tab.

    https://www.facebook.com/FBforEducators

    Thanks again!

    Derek Baird
    Co-Author ‘Facebook for Educators’

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Derek, Thanks for stopping by! I can only imagine that putting together the guide (and the upcoming how-to’s) are a lot of work!

      Hopefully more schools and educators will see the value and get on board, and guides like that make it easier for sure.

  29. Mike Reading says:

    Thanks for the post. I’m interested to know which countries allow students to access Facebook whilst at school. I’m in NSW Australia. Students in government schools are blocked.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Mike, I know that in the US, it varies by school and school district – but very few allow access while at school. More and more seem to allow access by teachers at school, but I don’t really have any evidence to back that up.

  30. Larry Magid says:

    As co-author of the free download A Parents Guide to Facebook (www.FBParents.org), I want to congratulate you for a job well done. You have some great tips and good advice.

    Larry Magid
    Co-director, ConnectSafely.org
    Co-author, A Parents Guide to Facebook (www.FBParents.org)

  31. Mark says:

    After listening to our Teacher’s Union lawyer it became very clear there are no reasons to ever friend any of your students. With respect to your post, the legal ramifications presented to us made it very clear that by friend-ing you are opening yourself up to serious issues. As for FB security, I would suggest reading some respected security and penetration testing sites before trusting their rather porous set up.

    Our dept uses a blog to keep everyone updated. All comments and posts are open for everyone to see.

  32. Mollie Dickson says:

    The Facebook Revolution: Do we ignore or accept?

    Ignore. Ignore. Ignore. As students continue to request my friendship on Facebook, I have no choice but to click “ignore”. No hesitation. This is the expectation. And for many reasons, it makes perfect sense, especially for what Facebook “has been”—a college networking site—the prime place to meet-up, catch-up, hook-up, and break-up. I can attest to this solely social indulgence that became the reality with the birth of Facebook, for I happen to be a part of the first class of Facebook users, as I was a freshman in college the year it launched for hundreds of universities around the United States. But the truth is, Facebook is rapidly evolving. Not only is it spreading across generations, from grade-schoolers to grandparents, it is now breaching the business world. There can be no denying, Facebook is revolutionizing the way we communicate, stay informed, and spend our spare time. It’s a one-stop shop, and like it or not, people are hooked.

    While the question of teachers communicating with their students through Facebook, even two years ago, was written off without a second thought (by myself included), the fact is, it’s an entirely different question today. So now I do hesitate. Jaime asks me last night to connect through this network, and part of me hates to dismiss the request. I am not disregarding the cautionary voice that is booming in the back of my mind about confidentiality in public education, but I also refuse to ignore the huge benefits—the potential breakthrough—for teacher and student interaction. For I see Facebook as a supportive, engaging tool that could spark a wave, launching 21st century learning to a whole new level. Now before you scoff and brush this off, please let me share with you my vision:

    Ms. Dickson: my professional “teacher” profile (entirely separate from my personal account). Here I will display information about my education/career background, interests/hobbies, favorite quotes, book recommendations, and other pieces of myself that will allow students to know me better; I will post videos, pictures, and resources to inspire and intrigue young writers; there will be links to poetry contests, online writing galleries, and blogs; I can promote upcoming events and workshops, create a variety of interest groups that engage kids in ongoing discussions, even invite students for an afternoon writing circle or book club at a local coffee shop over the summer; students can pose questions, inquire about homework, seek advice on a paper, tell me about a great idea for our next project, and publish their writing to receive instant feedback from their peers. As a bonus, Facebook offers teachers a chance to stay connected with students as they move on to high school and beyond… who knows, maybe I’ll even receive a college graduation announcement or wedding invitation from a former student. It’s a possibility that I can’t let slip away without pushing the question: why not Facebook?

    Now, for all those playing devil’s advocate, I will entertain the question: why use Facebook when “all of the above” can potentially be achieved through email, websites, blogs, and other approved technology? Two words: privacy and accessibility. Facebook offers enhanced settings that allow for the confidential sharing of information, pictures, and student work, unlike our school’s public websites. But most importantly, Facebook meets students where they’re at. Ninety percent of my 7th and 8th graders utilize this network on a daily basis—there’s already that level of comfort and ease that’s crucial for successful communication. And once this foundation is established, Facebook becomes a gateway for introducing adolescents to other valuable realms of networking and resources (blogs, wikis, podcasts) and acts as a catalyst for educating beyond the classroom walls and hours. It’s undeniable: Facebook possesses the power to enhance the quality, authenticity, motivational drive, and purposeful investment of students’ learning. So why not give it a shot? Let’s embrace Facebook as the professional, educational tool it’s proving itself to be, and use it to our advantage. Because I’m done ignoring my students’ requests. It’s time to accept.

  33. chris mcgee says:

    Great post, very thorough. I have a facebook page for my school and team and use it to communicate with students and parents. I teach facebook to my school and community and utilize all these great ideas. I appreciate you putting this out there for others to comment on. All I can say is “I Like this!”

  34. Thank you for such a instructive, detailed post! In Ontario, Canada, the College of Teachers has just released a new advisory on social media telling teachers not to be “friends” with students on Facebook. http://www.parentcentral.ca/parent/education/article/972519–keep-the-social-out-of-social-media-teachers-told
    We have quite a debate going on about that now in our online community. Our advocacy and research organization, works to support Ontario’s publicly funded schools. Today we launched a new survey in partnership with students. One question we’re asking both students and parents is:
    6. Is it ever acceptable for students and teachers to connect through social media outlets (e.g. Facebook)?
    It sure makes sense to me for teachers, schools and students to use Facebook and I’m very interested to see the survey results. By the way, this is our FB page:
    http://www.facebook.com/peopleforeducation

  35. Jon says:

    I had a supervisor friend me on Facebook and then use a comment that she saw on my Facebook page against me. So, I am totally against anyone having interactions on Facebook with anyone with school, including students AND even other co-workers. There’s already enough drama at work without adding more to the mix.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi Jon – thanks for dropping by and for sharing your perspective!

      In some ways, your comment reminded me of exactly why I wish we focused even more of teaching students about facebook and posting on the web. No matter what privacy settings we have, who are friends are, or how safe of an environment we think we are in, we should always post and comment like everything we say could and will be read by anyone – its just safer that way. Especially as educators in the public eye.

      Or, like you suggest, if we’re not comfortable with that, we make it extremely unlikely (by locking down our profile and limiting our friends).

  36. Ann Foreman says:

    Hi Ronnie,

    Just posted a link to this on the TeachingEnglish facebook page if you’d like to check for comments.

    Please feel free to post there when you have anything you think is relevant to ELT teachers and would like to share.

    Best,

    Ann

  37. Gabe the teach says:

    I have created a group with my first year German class and I believe it is the best solution as you have a facebook page dedicated to working with the students who are logged into FB on a daily basis. I as the admin can invite my students to join the strictly private group and then can post study help, extra material, interesting links and much more. The students also post comments, ideas and any questions they have. I can also post “tick the box” lists as well as primitive questionnaires. The event reminder and calendar is also a great function. Facebook needs to add more teaching tools however e.g. more sophisticated survey tools and added documents functionality (e.g. similar to MS Word)

  38. Jose Aguirre says:

    Facebook community page for my Earth Science High School Class. I post school photos, lab videos, links to NASA…I even used “discussions” to have them submit homework as an alternative to blogger.

  39. Jay O'Hanlon says:

    I am very glad I stumbled upon this topic. I am currently in the middle of trying to convince my school that if handled appropriately, Facebook can be an excellent tool. I will definitely consider all the resources listed here. Thanks!

  40. David says:

    Good article, thanks for writing it.

    Just on the point of teachers ‘friending’ students – your article suggesting one way of minimising the risks around that is for teachers set up two accounts, one for work, one for their personal life.

    FaceBook policy actually disallows people setting up more than one profile, so to do this would be breaking the terms and conditions.

    Setting up ‘pages’ for classes or schools might be the better way to go. Students can ‘like’ the page to get updates from it and interact with its wall in the same way they might with a teachers personal profile. You get all the benefits, with much less of the risk involved (personally and professionally) of ‘friending’ students.

    From a school perspective it is easier to write policies and manage the risks if they allow ‘pages’, but disallow teachers to connect via their profiles.

    • Ronnie Burt says:

      Hi David, thanks for the comment!

      I agree with that goes against FB policy to create a second account. I have read in places where FB is lenient about this if done for a good purpose (ie. educators for students). But you do run the risk of them pulling a profile down.

      My preferences is pages as you suggest – I can’t imagine keeping up with a second account! :)

      • Trish says:

        I think pages are a good solution if you want to use it as an educational tool. But however pages are not good to really get to know your students. A page is just another form of a digital learning platform to share content etc with your students. But if you really want to know how your students behave online, it’s problaby better to friend them (with the correct privacy settings). And friending is also better to notice first signs of cyberbullying, a matter than we can’t ignore anymore as a teacher. My 2 cts

  41. Don says:

    Great read. Interestingly enough, I saw one of my old high school teachers get into a heated argument with a former class mate who was a known trouble maker. If he would have read this article, I’m sure he would have avoided this whole mess! ;) will be forwarding him the link.

  42. new Facebook says:

    Facebook is good slave, but not master

  43. Willem says:

    This would indeed be better.Tell it to the Minister of Education.

  44. Miquel says:

    Interesting article! As an addition I would like that you can see what students see by pressing “View as” on your profilepage. This will prevent nasty surprises :)

  45. Kathy Seid says:

    Hi Ronnie,
    Thx for your post…having a sixteen year old daughter who spends a great deal of time on Facebook, I see huge value in her school and teachers jumping on board and figuring out how to use Facebook in the educational arena. Some times a teacher can light the fire of passion to learn for students…and Facebook could provide that opportunity for a teacher to connect with a student. I also would love to see my daughter using her time on Facebook more constructively.

    I am familiar with Facebook for Educators…as it is now in print as a MiniBük…a company I launched in July of 2010. It will be my pleasure to send you a sample of Facebook for Educators…Linda Fogg Phillips provided MiniBük permission to distribute samples.

    As I understand Linda’s brother, BJ Fogg, is a behavioral psychologist, works at Stanford and conducts research on the psychological impact of Facebook. Linda travels nationally speaking to educators and parents about Facebook. Linda and BJ also authored Facebook for Parents. Both are topics critical for parents and educators to understand…and I thank you for addressing.

    Please let me know of your interest in receiving a sample of Facebook for Educators…MiniBük is ideal for busy people looking for bite-sized information….of any kind. At 3 1/2 x 5 inches, most MiniBüks can be read in under an hour. I invite you to take a peek at minibuk.com to learn more.

    Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts/suggestions about the opportunities that await for Facebook for students, teachers and schools.

  46. ritheb says:

    As University Counsellor I often need to get announcements out to my students. Knowing that my students practically live on FB, I knew that I’d be talking their language if I communicated with them through FB. My director and principal were in full support of this. I decided on groups because I don’t have to be friends with my students (although now that I read about the privacy setting for a list, I’ll reconsider. Thank you for that.) It is a closed group since the posts only relate to our school. The students can invite friends, but I have to approve the membership. Just about every student became a member of the group instantly and the response is unbelievable. A very nice change after the “I didn’t get your email” routine. What I post immediately goes into their news feed and, thanks to their smart phones, they respond within minutes. I highly recommend this!

  47. blogcooperador says:

    Hi Ronnie,

    I have tryed to put a like box from facebook to my blog, but it have not worket. I have put the iframe code in a widget text … What is wrong?

  48. Peter Fogarty says:

    Just thought I would write and say what an excellent piece of writing this is. I have added to my blog at http://www.classroom20.co.uk/ under the Facebook page. At the moment I am also researching the 100 best pieces of software a teacher should be using the classroom… it is fun!

  49. Kelly Taylor says:

    Fantastic Article! Thanks for posting it for all of us educators!

    And, I’m doing my doctoral dissertation on the Perceptions of Facebook by Community College Faculty. If you teach, and are interested in joining my study, please email me at [email protected]. You do not have to use Facebook in your classrooms, or maybe you do. It doesn’t matter for this survey.
    Thanks!
    Kelly

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