Last month, I moderated a chat on social media in education so when I saw a post by a local TV station asking if there was a reason for teachers and students to connect on Facebook, I wanted to give a counterpoint to the “teachers shouldn’t use social media ever” stance that many people seem to have.
Schools that have taken the “don’t ask, don’t tell” approach to the social media curriculum are neglectfully choosing to look the other way as students communicate, collaborate, and connect in worlds devoid of adults.
~ Lisa Nielsen, The Innovative Educator
I’m not naive. I know that educators can act inappropriately, and unfortunately sometimes they do. However, I also know that there are ways for Facebook and other social media to be used effectively as a teaching tool, for communication between teachers, parents and students, and for the pure “social” aspects that Facebook and other social media platforms have to offer. According to a 2009 Community College Survey of Student Engagement (CCSSE), when polled about why they chose to stay in school, almost all students named a specific student, faculty or staff member who gave them the support and encouragement they needed to keep going. What better way to keep in touch with that teacher than via social media?
As a marketer, I have seen the value of social media by being a part of the community and conversation happening online. Not that long ago, marketers had to justify to the C-suite why companies should be active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and other social media channels. My response to that has always been that the conversation is happening, don’t you want to be a part of it? And don’t you want the social media profile found in searches to be yours rather than one that was made for you? There have been several cases where students have posted made-up social media profiles for teachers and administrators. If you’re not on social media, or actively monitoring the channel, how will you know?
Connecting with students and their families on Facebook gives teachers the perfect opportunity be a part of the conversation where there students (and parents) are, rather than attempting to force the communication into a less often visited channel like the school’s website, etc. The CCSSE study found that most students are already using social media tools such as Facebook, Twitter, texting and instant messaging outside of the classroom – and that was in 2009, so you can image the adoption rate for social media now!
Connecting with educators on social media also gives the students a chance to see how social media should be handled (assuming the teacher is socially responsible with their posts). Leading by example is a great way to get students to understand that they need to manage their digital footprint and only post in ways that they will be proud to see themselves and have others see them. It is vital that young people learn that their social media interactions WILL impact their future. College recruiters are checking Facebook pages and so are Human Resources Departments when you’re ready to get a job.
With all of the “pros” for increased social media interaction between students and teachers, I do have some caveats:
- Teachers need to post responsibly, but then EVERYONE should post responsibly!
- Teachers should be trained on the proper use of social media. Sort of a “train the trainer” session on why it’s important to only post things that are appropriate for public viewing, and that once something is posted online, it will never go away. This training should be updated as privacy changes are made as well as when new social media platforms are introduced (like Google+).
- Teachers don’t need to “friend” students on their personal social media page. There are ways to set up pages for “public figures” where teachers can post what they want their students to see, and still keep their personal profile separate.
So what do you think – SHOULD teachers connect with their students via social media? What tips would you have for them? Do you have any positive examples of teacher-student or teacher-parent interaction on Facebook, Twitter, etc.? Please comment below to share your opinions and experiences.