Put together the words "Facebook" and "teacher" and generally what most people expect to see is a news report about an educator being fired or put on probation for something or the other. As a result, quite a negative stigma has emerged regarding education and social networking sites. Despite this attitude, I am a strong proponent for utilizing social networking - specifically Twitter and Facebook - in the classroom. I've compiled a list of rules and reasons that accompany my opinion.1. Rule: Keep Your Private Life Private and Your Professional Life Professional
I have two facebook accounts and two twitter accounts. In both cases one is public and one is private. The public accounts are my "professional" accounts. It is where I communicate with students, network, etc. The private accounts are my personal accounts. That is where I talk to my friends, make plans for the weekend, and post pictures of my New Years Eve celebration. There should be a very distinct line between your public and private lives, and you should never allow them to blur. 2. Reason: Everyone is on Facebook
This is not a "jump on the bandwagon" plea so much as it is an "appeal to the masses" reasoning. I could (and have) build a class website on a server that is made for educators. Your best students will check the website frequently and participate. But what about those students who are not among the most motivated? Odds are that they will not go to the webpage and eventually will forget that it even exists. Facebook, though? They're going to go to Facebook. They have to catch up with their friends, post their status, and take a bunch of menial quizzes! So when they are checking their News Feed they can't HELP but notice that Professor H. posted a homework reminder. 3. Rule: Utilize Your Page Effectively
Don't turn you professional page into a place to post what you're eating for dinner, or how excited you are for the trip to Vegas you're planning. Save that for your private, personal page. Instead, post homework reminders, questionnaires, contests, quotes, book reviews, etc. Keep it relevant to the subject you teach and the students you teach. 4. Reason: Technology is Relevant
5. Rule: No Stalking
Thank God the old ways of teaching are on their way out the door. No longer is a classroom about the teacher reading off a bunch of irrelevent information while the students write it down verbatim. We live in a world where you can post your homework assignment online. Where students EXPECT their curriculum to utilize technology, because they use it constantly. Just as an example, I had at least ten students last year in my Advanced Placement classes who took their notes by typing them onto their cell phones instead of hand writing them.
I'm not talking about peeping Tom-type stalking (although you shouldn't do that either). What I'm talking about is when you check your News Feed and see that your prize student has posted a photo album entitled "Spring Break 2009 - CRUNK!". A word of caution to all of you: DO NOT CLICK ON THE ALBUM. When you go through the album and stumble upon the inevitable picture of said prize student doing something they shouldn't be you take on a moral and legal responsibility to alert someone. Don't get sucked into finding out everything you can about your students lives. It's just a bad road to go down; trust me when I say that you'd rather not know.
These are just a few general guidelines and reasons behind using Facebook. Really, it's up to teachers to maintain professionalism when in contact with their students, whether it is in school or out of school or online. So please, use your best discretion, but be open-minded! Technology is not all bad!