No Facebook for you!

Over at the On Our Minds @ Scholastic blog, Tyler Reed is pondering the recent announcement by the Lamar (MS) County School District that it will prohibit teachers from communicating with students via social networking tools such as Facebook or MySpace.

The question in my mind is:

Why treat social networking spaces differently than any other means of teacher communication?

The issue is actual inappropriate teacher communication and/or behavior (which I’m guessing is already covered by board policy), not the method by which teachers communicate with students. A prohibition on use of social networking tools does absolutely nothing to prevent inappropriate teacher communication with students via other channels. So the district either needs to implement similar policies for telephones, snail mail, written notes, instant messaging, cell phone text messaging, e-mail, online video, blogs, wikis, podcasts, and the like or it needs to justify why social networking sites are so evil compared to all the other ways that teachers and students can communicate.

Facebookisthedevil_2 If the district is going to ban social networking and other 21st century communication tools, it’s going to be awfully busy making policies since new tools pop up every week. Also, one of the first things you learn in law school is that you should never make a rule you can’t enforce. How on earth would the district ever monitor this?

Facebook and MySpace are the 5th and 7th most popular sites on the Internet, respectively. Instead of exploring how teachers, students, and parents can use these sites productively, the district instead has turned into the social networking Nazi: no Facebook for you! Just for kicks, I took a look at the performance of the Lamar County schools. My suggestion for the school board is that perhaps its time and energy would be better spent raising the low academic performance of the students in the poorest school in the district rather than passing unnecessary and unenforceable policies.

This whole thing is just goofy…

14 Responses to “No Facebook for you!”

  1. Maybe school districts would rather remain ingorant of all that is published on such sites as Facebook and MySpace? Parents might also be shocked to learn what is published there!

    We can’t keep our whole heads stuck out of the 21 Century! So much for preparing our students for the “real world,” when many of us can’t stay caught up with the younger minds of today!

    This is such a great way to contact students…needed to get a message to a student this summer and didn’t have phone/email…got an almost instant response, for that is the now the way many are staying in touch with each other.

    I had a student ask why I would want a Facebook account, and I replied, “I want to know how you communicate.”

  2. Again a wonderful example of our inability to effectively deal with human behavior. If people are not using something in a manner the masses feel are appropriate, we take it away. Kids are drinking to much pop and eating unhealthy foods, take them away. A few students have their phones go off in class, (like this never happens to adults)create a policy that allows us to take their phones away. I thought we all entered this profession to educate. Why don’t we put programs in place that will teach responsible use of such things are cell phones, face book, my space, etc. Why don’t we teach responsible eating habits and provide better choices for students?
    When Francis Scott Key wrote the Star Spangled Banner, our national anthem, each verse ends with o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.
    I think that our fear has caused us to be willing to give up many of the freedoms we formerly enjoyed. The first ammendment provides us all the freedom of speech and the right to express our views. I understand that there are some limitations on how far these freedoms should be allowed to go until they infringe upon the rights of others, but to begin limiting how and when people can communicate with one another is quite concerning. I know that there are ligitimate dangers out there and that we must be cautious and try to protect our children, but this is just ridiculous in my book.
    I am considering the encouragement of this type of communication among staff to reach some of the digital natives we digital immigrants are having a hard time establishing relationships with.

  3. As the “computer teacher” in our district I’m the go-to for questions by parents, staff, kids, and community members. I set up accounts in these “new” platforms to better understand & to better instruct and inform. I have since learned that some of those students who reach out to me through this avenue are ones who don’t connect with any other teachers in any other way. If I can make a connection while also teaching them appropriate ways to use the technology I’m preparing them for the future and the present – isn’t that what I’m called to do?

  4. What would be really thrilling to see would be a district that actively ENCOURAGES teachers and administrators to join these networks and USE these “21st Century communication tools,” as you so aptly call them, to engage students. Not to just lurk and snoop. And not join them thinking they are some sort of online playground for the youngest generation. It will help them build better relationships with their students, gain their trust and extend the learning experience beyond classroom walls.

    Thanks for the linkage, Scott!

  5. Kia ora Scott!

    “Naethin’ cams alane” is an old Scots saying that means nothing comes on its own.

    Here we have (the so-called) educated authorities blatently displaying their naivety and ignorance of what communication and learning is all about.

    Authorities did a similar sort of thing when books were invented. There were ramifications of the same theme on the use of Internet in schools not too many years ago. Banning mobile phones is another of that ilk. “We can’t keep our whole heads stuck out of the 21 Century!”
    @Tammy – I like the line!

    You have to smile even if it is just cynically.

  6. I agree totally, one of the first things you learn in law school is that you should never make a rule you can’t enforce. I am a professional and should be treated like a professional. I also agree that fear is running this scenario. So where else will this fear take us. I e-mail the students who graduated and enjoy the communication. They tell me how college or work is going and I tell them to keep up the great work. I also wrote letters to my elementary students during the summers. Is a hand written letter or e-mail message any different?

  7. Scott
    I couldn’t agree more, but I think the last line was a cheap shot. Connection between the perceived academic performance as ranked by the government can be very misleading and I don’t see how it relates to the issue. There are undoubtedly many things the board could focus on, not just test scores.

  8. @mrwarner1968: Undoubtedly there are many things the board could focus on, but student achievement (however you measure it) probably should be high on the list. Sorry if you thought it was a cheap shot. Like I said, I just checked it out for kicks. Although they’re NOT AS BAD AS ACADEMIA, schools still spend a lot of time and energy on stuff that’s not very important in the grand scheme of things. It would be nice to put those time and energy resources to better use.

    Thanks for the comment (and the challenge)!

  9. Another agreement…

  10. I hope this doesn’t become a trend, because as my former students uncover my facebook account or my goodbooks account, they ask if they can friend me. I IM with my students almost daily, and I would hate to give that up, as well. It impacts my classroom very positively, because it allows me to have a personal connection to a student that time and volume of students preclude during the course of a normal school day.

    That being said… what are some valid reasons why interaction on facebook or myspace might be problematic? I suppose the appearance of impropriety is the main concern for administrators and other educators. My colleague (very popular among the children) will IM with any student, but says that he allows our students to friend him on facebook only once they are not his students anymore. He does contact former students himself and ask to add them once they are out of his classes, so that he can keep in touch. But, he doesn’t allow current students to friend him to insure no conflict of interest perhaps. As much as we might like to diminish power relationships (much like a boss who acts like she’s your friend), the fact is that at any time necessary, a teacher has something a student wants and can pull rank on that student, or need to. So I guess his feeling is that he doesn’t want his current students informally contacting him where that relationship still exists and being “friends” online may blur for the students what his responsibilities are as it relates to them.

    In my case, I tell my students they can contact me by IM and I have an AIM account for that purpose. If they contact me, I will maintain as much contact with them as they want. If they don’t contact me, I generally do not contact them. If I feel (and I have on occasion) that the student is attempting to engage in an improper relationship, I stop contact. I’ve allowed students to friend me on Facebook if they aren’t my students, following my colleagues guide, as it seems a sensible and fair one

  11. This is a tough one. There are good arguments for both sides of the debate. Obviously, we all know the reason behind “no online contact” is to prevent any funny business from ever happening. However, there are many positives that can result. For example, many children in no so ideal family situations often reach out to teacher for help in their personal lives, and I commend teacher for doing this. However, because so many pedophiles and sex criminals have slipped through the cracks of the education system, banning this form of communication might be the safest bet for a few years. There isn’t really a fine line between offering advice and motivating a child versus soliciting them for sex. Unfortunately that’s what this is about.

    Hall Monitor

  12. Actually, I believe that this type of interaction is BETTER than such items as the traditional “office meeting” with a student. There is a digital trail that can be followed if it is inappropriate-a clear, factual trail. It is NOT the technology or the methodology of the message that should concern us, it is the message itself. Much like “guns don’t kill people, people do” thought processing, we need to stop blaming tools for the actions of individuals. Texts and e-mails do both as they allow the communication and simultaneously create a case in support or opposition to the user. Text on, educators, text on…

  13. I agree – “The issue is actual inappropriate teacher communication and/or behavior (which I’m guessing is already covered by board policy), not the method by which teachers communicate with students.”

    I think boards have no idea how to monitor such public instances of teacher communication/behaviour. So the easy way out is to ban it.

  14. Totally agree with the digital trail that is left. Makes this a safer method of communication than in-person, phone or written notes.

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