Districts are still fearful of teachers communicating with students using Facebook

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I just heard from the superintendent of yet another school district that’s struggling with whether to allow its teachers to connect with students using Facebook. Here’s my reply to her:

Speaking as someone who has a law degree, attorneys (like IT staff) are inherently conservative. The bottom line is that Facebook is just another mechanism to communicate, like the phone and written mail (in fact, Facebook is arguably more public than either of those other two). Do you have policies prohibiting teachers from using those to connect with students and parents?

I’ve written about this before (and here’s a post from Doug Johnson arguing against format bigotry). Other districts – that operate in the same legal and regulatory environments that you do – are figuring out how to make use of social media tools while still maintaining appropriate relationships between students and staff and also doing their best to keep students ‘safe.’ Why can’t your district be one of them?

Finally, if you don’t trust your own staff, you’ve got much bigger problems than whether they use Facebook pages to connect with students…

Hope this helps. Please keep me posted!

The Facebook-as-bogeyman phenomenon has waned considerably over the past few years as more and more ‘grown-ups’ use it. What used to be unfamiliar and scary is now ubiquitous and comfortable. The hysteria that accompanied social networking when it first came out was downright embarrassing in hindsight. You’d think we would have learned by now that just because a technology is new doesn’t mean that it’s evil. But, human nature being what it is, perhaps that’s too much to hope.

How long will it take schools and policymakers to come to grips with the new world of social media? At their current pace, a l-o-n-g time (unfortunately)…

Image credit: Firewall

5 Responses to “Districts are still fearful of teachers communicating with students using Facebook”

  1. Dear Mr. Mcleod,

    I read your post “Districts are Still Fearful of Teachers Communicating with Students using Facebook”, and I personally agree with you that schools have much bigger things to worry about then Facebook. Honestly, emailing teachers is a real pain in the neck because a teacher may or may not respond to that email until it’s too late. Look, being a high school student it’s absolutley crucial to stay connected with teachers, especially when you are absent. Economically speaking facebook doesn’t charge a dime unlike some web address companies, and Facebook has a quick and easy chat. Which makes talking to teachers less stressful and horrifying, because it’s nerve racking having to tell a teacher you forgot an assignment. Obviously, that is a negative side to Facebook. It isn’t eye to eye contact with somebody, so you can say whatever you want. However, I don’t believe many students would use that too often for an advantage. Facebooking teachers could be a world wide thing soon, which could eventually end up to only internet schooling!!!!! Clearly that could take a very long time, so until then teachers and students should be able to talk on Facebook for school matters only, and eventually social matters because there is nothing wrong with getting along with a teacher.

    Sincerly,

    Scott

  2. Dr. McLeod – Your article about Facebook is extremely interesting. Since about 7th grade I’ve always had a Facebook, however I never really picked up on it till about High School. Currently at my school we cannot access Facebook, but maybe that isn’t a bad thing. I know for me it can be largely distracting when I’m doing homework. Then again, it can be very helpful to connect with family and friends that I don’t see every day. However, you mentioned students connecting with teachers on Facebook, to me that might be a little intrusive. Teachers make judgments upon your academic and physical appearance, and I know several people that post stupid or ignorant posts. If teachers were to connect to students through Facebook it might be a faster way to talk to students through chat and get help with school work. I believe it could be helpful, but Facebook is where you can disconnect from school work and become a little social. While this may be mean; I don’t want a teacher filling my top stories with homework or graded work. A much better option would be a school oriented Facebook that is for academic use. Maybe being called “Schoolbook” where you could sign in with a designated account and access teachers through it. I know for me when I have a deadline on a project and get confused, it would be great to be able to talk to my teacher and have him or her answer it for me. Technology is advancing and so is social networking, so it wouldn’t surprise me if soon somebody created a school oriented Facebook. All it takes is one idea to start a chain reaction, and if one school succeeds maybe many more will follow it. Facebook is good when used in the correct purpose. If this “Schoolbook” could be used correctly by students and teachers, I believe they will both prosper. Facebook may not be a good option for students and teachers alike, however if an alternative was made education would be brought to a whole new learning experience.

  3. Scott… First of all as a VP of Information Technology for a large enterprise I find your work inspiring and your technology message compelling. We need YOU in every state and every school district. Information technology is the key to our future and our livelihood and education programs that ignore or minimize that fact (yes FACT) have their heads in the sand as you have said over and over in your materials.

    Regarding Facebook and your previous YouTube commentary. While they appear to have a similar theme “don’t shoot the messenger”, they are really quite different. We deal with similar issues at a corporate level.

    Facebook is all about content and information delivery and you are spot on; whether it is FB, Twitter, email, txt messaging, don’t penalize the delivery systems, embrace them, exploit them, use them to your best advantage. We have strict and written policies on content, ethics, harassment, conduct etc which must be adhered to regardless of the medium.

    However, I struggle with your YouTube argument because that is more about the content then the delivery technology in my opinion. Indeed we do not want to fall into the censorship rabbit hole, but common sense also must prevail. We did not fill our school libraries with pornographic, racist, or violent magazine material and just hope that the good students would pass that by and excuse the few bad students that didn’t.

    So it is a very slippery slope you are going down when you mix the technology advocate message with content censorship.

    YouTube is a very powerful and ubiquitous medium for creating and delivering content on demand. It is available anywhere, any time on any device. But be careful what you wish for.

  4. Hi Bruce,

    Thanks for the kind words and the thoughtful comment.

    It’s as easy to come across an ‘inappropriate’ YouTube video on Facebook as it is on YouTube itself, so I’m not sure the content v. delivery distinction holds as well as we might hope it would. I get what you’re trying to say here but I think a better solution than simply blocking some sites but not others (which ignores the ubiquity of media everywhere due to easy sharing) is to educate our students and to exercise reasonable supervision as educators. What other solution do we really have? To ignore the issue? (see http://goo.gl/Co2Kq)

    Right now, we send messages of distrust to both staff and students and we pay multiple prices for that, both internally within schools and as a society. See http://goo.gl/y7lrS & http://goo.gl/wLcUL. I think we can and should do better.

  5. Dr. McLeod,
    My name is Morgan Clark I’m a student at the University of South Alabama majoring in Elementary Education. I’m also enrolled in Dr. Strange’s Edm 310 class. You have made very great points on this issue. In my own opinion I believe Facebook can be a great source of connecting and communicating between individuals. I can also understand why the schools are struggling with this at hand issue. Yes, it’s just another tool and way to communicate, but how it’s used is the question and problem. I think the schools see it as no line boundary or not professionalism between students and teachers. It’s important to have interaction and communication with a student but to what extent? The schools and parents if it’s all school related communication. As the Alabama Educator Code of Ethics states under standard “4: :Teacher/ student relationship:“An Educator should always maintain a professional relationship inside and outside the Classroom.” This Is Alabama I don’t know if it will be the same for all states but I wanted to provide a reliable resource. Key word: Professional, which is the main concern of operating through Facebook. If it was a classroom page strictly concerning school related problems, questions, announcements, assignments or issues I see no problem I don’t think the schools would either. If it’s talking about relationships, students, drama, and personal made issues or comments it could be crossing the line. I can understand Graduated students and teachers keeping in touch without a class page no problem. Facebook can be such a great social networking tool, but it has its disadvantages just as any technology does. I think this was a great post and has its pro’s and some con’s. It’s a very common important issue in schools and society today. I will be glad will it becomes addressed finally. It all comes down to how you use it, and having certain set rules when using.

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