With more than 1 billion people on Facebook these days there is a great chance that if you are a teacher most of your students are on Facebook, and so might be you. Since everybody is connecting with everybody how do you respond to the presence of your students and how you can use the social networking website to your advantage? This blog post on Mashable has some useful tips on how you can use Facebook meaningfully as a teacher. Here are a few highlights of the blog post:
You need to understand the dynamics of the social networking platform
Whereas Twitter is used for information dissemination, Facebook is mostly used for networking and connections. Strangers are not welcomed and people normally know each other. Consequently, interactions can become personal and this might be a problem especially when you’re sensitive about the teacher-student relationship. Would you like your students to see your Christmas party photographs and vice versa? Would you like them to know your political opinions and your views on the economic policies of the country? Do you want them to know how religious you are or what atheistic feelings you nurture? These are very sensitive issues and you will need to be cautious of them.
Setting boundaries and creating forums
Since Facebook is a great social networking tool you can use it to your advantage by creating subject-specific pages for your students instead of allowing them to add you, or adding them as your friend. When you create pages for your topics and subjects they can follow those pages and participate in fruitful discussions. Suppose you teach English literature and you need to discuss Hamlet actively. You can create a page on Facebook and your entire class (or whoever wants to) join in and participate. You can also encourage them to post interesting links and videos on that page.
You can also create unique pages for different activities going on in the school. For instance you can use a Facebook page to coordinate effort between different students for an upcoming annual musical.
Just like you can create circles in Google Plus you can create groups in Facebook so you can post certain content only for certain groups. This way you will be able to decide what content you would like to share with your students. But then you need to keep in mind that once you make your photographs and opinions public, and if people want to access them (your students in this case) they can do so.
As a teacher it might be awkward and a bit odd for both you and your students to befriend each other on Facebook so it should be left on personal discretion. The blog post rightly suggests that don’t send friend requests to your students. Let them make that decision. And if you’re excepting friendships from your students, don’t be selective. Another way of connecting with your students is becoming their Facebook friend once they have graduated and moved on to another class, but then you are not interacting with them via a student-teacher relationship; your interacting with them just as two individuals do.