Using Facebook as a teacher

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:

  1. Providing reminders of deadlines and homework
  2. Providing further reading materials in the form of links to online resources and engage in flipped learning
  3. 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.

http://nca.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/03634520601009710#.We71IGhL9dg

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 Education56(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 1

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).

facebook 2

Resource List

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 Education56(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).

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9 thoughts on “Using Facebook as a teacher

  1. Credibility is the key. I totally agree and also believe that we as educators have the right to a private place online away from work. I have a personal email and a work email. I have public and private forums for keeping work out of my life and vice versa. It’s also about sanity…. I don’t need my work creeping into every aspect of my life.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. A great article Chris, I thought it was a pertinent step to include two other teachers on your page. With all the horror stories, it is a practical step in protecting yourself as a teacher.
    Have you thought of creating an online assessment component where you encourage students to comment on the news links that you are posting. It would be nice to see them engaging with the text rather than giving it a ‘like’ for the benefit of the teacher.
    How do you gauge whether a student has actually understood your links?

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    • I guess at the moment much of what I am adding to the facebook page is wider reading or extra credit type activities. I hope to make more a key focal point in the future but at the moment not all my students have access to facebook and I need to be happy that students will all focus on it when necessary. I cannot say that right now. But baby steps. Facebook was blocked at my school until only last year…

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  3. Hi Chris, I am pleased to see that you use Facebook as a resource in your teaching, just like how I use it to communicate with my young learners. I see that you have mentioned that social learning theory, which I think is relevant to the social context we live in. however, what is more important to me as an educator and a practicing artist is that the future of education will be depending more on online social networks as authentic learning will be the key to developing meaningful and purposeful learning. The teachers and young learners share the responsibility of being accountable to their actions and this will have to become an accepted social norm in the future where the professional and personal boundaries will be blurred for the benefit of a sustainable future. This we have to make them aware and it is our responsibility.
    cheers
    sudhir duppati

    Like

  4. Hi Chris, I am pleased to see that you use Facebook as a resource in your teaching, just like how I use it to communicate with my young learners. I see that you have mentioned that social learning theory, which I think is relevant to the social context we live in. however, what is more important to me as an educator and a practicing artist is that the future of education will be depending more on online social networks as authentic learning will be the key to developing meaningful and purposeful learning. The teachers and young learners share the responsibility of being accountable to their actions and this will have to become an accepted social norm in the future where the professional and personal boundaries will be blurred for the benefit of a sustainable future. This we have to make them aware and it is our responsibility.
    cheers
    sudhir duppati

    Like

  5. I agree we share the responsibility of accountability. But the teacher has the responsibility to provide the opportunity in the first place. We have to model this and utilise these technologies and stop being a barrier to change.

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