The use of social media as a high school teacher is fraught with danger. You are walking a very fine line here and a professional relationship between a teacher and their students must be very carefully managed when using this medium. Personally I created a Facebook page for my senior Geography class to use. It’s purpose was to enable another way for me to stay in touch with them outside of school time. This has been used by me in the following ways:
- Providing reminders of deadlines and homework
- Providing further reading materials in the form of links to online resources and engage in flipped learning
- Answering questions posed to me by other students
I have been using Facebook for over a decade and I have heard several scare stories so I went into this with my eyes open. Nonetheless I read this paper first.
Much of this paper focusses on the benefits to the student of social media as a communication tool. I was interested in the pitfalls of using Facebook with a class of school students. The paper uses the term ‘disclosure’ to talk about how much access students might have to the teachers ideas, thoughts, photographs etc. Does the teacher allow students to see their private Facebook page or not. This quote sums up the author’s thoughts on this:
“Teachers decide what information they want to reveal to their students in an effort to create a comfortable classroom environment that fosters student learning. At the same time, teachers must also determine what information to conceal from their students in order to avoid the negative ramifications of such communication and to protect their credibility in the classroom.” Mazer, J. P., Murphy, R. E., & Simonds, C. J. (2007). I’ll see you on “Facebook”: The effects of computer-mediated teacher self-disclosure on student motivation, affective learning, and classroom climate. Communication Education, 56(1), 1-17.
Credibility is key here. I have heard far too many scare stories in the past about how this can go wrong. So I eventually created a private class Facebook page. All my students joined the page but I had to give them access individually. They can all post to the page but I have a moderation role and much of the content on the page is created by me. I also asked two of my colleagues – one my HoD and another the head of Geography at the other high school in town – to also join and keep an eye on things. This video gives some more information and mirrors my own thinking on these matters – https://vimeo.com/49216520.
As with anything there has been mixed buy in to the Facebook page. Several students habitually ‘like’ or comment on the links or posts I make to the page. Others ignore it completely.
Facebook is also a source of useful informal PLD for me. There are several Facebook groups that I belong to that enable me to engage in social constructivism. With other people of like mind (Geography teachers, Across School Lead teachers in other Communities of Learning etc) I am able to discuss lesson ideas, assessment practices, change management and leadership possibilities with people all over the nation and overseas. Social Learning Theory states that people learn from others and Social Media gives us access to many millions more people than we would normally come into contact with in our daily lives. However, there is a need to take this form of informal PLD and integrate it better into the landscape of traditional PLD opportunities. This was a key finding of Melhuish, K. A. V. (2013):
“Educators need to understand how to strategically integrate networks such as the VLN Groups into their professional inquiries, and schools need to explore more deeply what potential exists for teachers to be both strategic and self-driven, in an era when information and colleagues beyond school are easier to reach.” Melhuish, K. A. V. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning (Doctoral dissertation, University of Waikato).
Mazer, J. P., Murphy, R. E., & Simonds, C. J. (2007). I’ll see you on “Facebook”: The effects of computer-mediated teacher self-disclosure on student motivation, affective learning, and classroom climate. Communication Education, 56(1), 1-17.
Melhuish, K. A. V. (2013). Online social networking and its impact on New Zealand educators’ professional learning (Doctoral dissertation, University of Waikato).