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Monday, August 23, 2010

Advice to Teachers in Florida: Don't use Facebook with Students

So rather than teach teachers or students how to intelligently use social media tools to communicate(like people do in corporations or in everyday social interactions), a school in Florida decided to advise against such silly and dangerous Web 2.0 behavior without supervision.

According to the article Teachers asked to 'unfriend' students on Facebook

"Everyone knows that there are teachers nationwide that may have inappropriately communicated with students through email, text message or Facebook —and even some cases, those teacher-student relationships have been taken to an even further level of inappropriate behavior," Donzelli said. "We are advising teachers to make good decisions online so they don’t get themselves into trouble later."
It seems to me that Facebook just made the inappropriate actions public, those teachers doing inappropriate things aren't going to stop doing those things just because they aren't on Facebook. This is going after the symptom and not the root cause.
( Joseph Donzelli, referred to in the article, is the director of communications and printing services at Lee County Public Schools. Is that an academic position?)

Far be it for the school district to train teachers on the use of this media, on its benefits and advantages as well as possible dangers. Instead, they are asking teachers not to use it with students. Stay way...danger. Thank goodness, the cavemen did not adopt the same philosophy with fire or we'd still all be really cold.

Teachers are being asked not to use Facebook, even though more than 500 million active users are on the site and 50% of the active users log on to Facebook in any given day and the average user has has 130 friends and people spend over 700 billion minutes per month on Facebook. Facebook Statistics

"Educators just need to unfriend students immediately to prevent incidents like this from occurring," Donzelli warned. "There’s no reason why an employee should be friends with a current student, especially when there are other ways to communicate with them through school-based websites or e-mail."

As social networks continue to grow, many teachers are utilizing these sites to get news out to students and organize activities. Although the Lee County school district recognizes this growing trend, it’s asking teachers to refrain or notify supervisors when they use social media sites for education-related reasons.

"There are other ways to reach out to students that doesn’t involve social networking," Donzelli said. "Teachers should work with their school’s Webmaster to set up Web pages where people can interact and discuss projects and events."
Right, let's take a giant step backwards and use 1980's technology to communicate with students of the 21st century...really?

So, as school starts today for my two sons, I look at academic institutions and still think, we have such a long way to go until the technology of the youth is integrated into their instructional curriculum. I was reminded this weekend by a brother-in-law that the academic calendar with three months off was created for an agrarian culture of the 1800th century and not for our information rich culture existing today. Advising teachers not to use Facebook to communicate at all with students is a reinforcement of that 1800th century paradigm.

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Jane Bozarth said...

Hi, Karl. This one is especially maddening since the people who made the rule obviously haven't spent much time on Facebook. Simply using lists to limit which of your friends sees what is one solution. Beyond that, using Facebook Groups or Fan Pages is a great way to support a course or provide activities without anyone sharing personal information. You do not have to 'friend' your students, and they do not have to 'friend' you, in order to participate in groups and pages. Thus,no one has to be given access to anyone else's information. Shame that the school chooses to keep the students (and teachers) from an easy, familiar, friendly place for collaborative learning.

Heck, I'd teach the teachers to safely use Facebook for learning if the school would rethink its position.


Douglas Green said...

I like to compartmentalize my online activity. For me, Facebook is for friends and family. Twitter is for professional activity. I encourage students to use Twitter, email, or go to my blog (DrDougGreen.Com), but I do not want to see them when I go to Facebook. It would seem weird to me if I went to a friend's site on Facebook and had to wade through their relationships with their students. Also, I don't think my students have any business sorting through my friends and family relationships.

annb said...

I am frustrated by people that feel facebook is all or nothing: How about using facebook groups or fan pages to communicate with students? For me, that method allows my personal facebook wall to be just that - personal - and still allows me to communicate with students through a that's convenient for them.

Mark T. Burke said...

Karl - couldn't agree more. I've recently run into a few "Facebook" haters. Each one felt so strongly about how Facebook is a violation of privacy. In each case, after explaining that Facebook only shares what we all want it to share, their tunes doesn't change. They still feel Facebook is an back alley in the scariest place on earth. So for sure, when we teach these tools, we have to teach the benefits by showing or I believe those who hate Facebook will continue to do so.

I recently received a strong email in opposition to one of my posts on how I believe teachers should be required to use technology tools or risk loosing their jobs. I make no apologies...we need to teach using tools for tomorrow, not teach today using tools from yester-years. The response I received was from a past professor of mine who stated..."I don't have to use technology to be a top shelf teacher." Oh how wrong that is. That view is so teacher more about the teacher's skills than the real impact on kids.

There are so many points to address including revamping teacher prep programs, teacher supervision, unions (I am sure fit in there somewhere, somehow), virtual schools etc. Maybe we should plan some future co-operating posts between our blogs?

Unknown said...

My district is actually trying to fire me simply because I had students on my facebook.

It's become ridiculous that we are all being punished for the sins of a sick few.

My career may be over just because the country has decided to go on a witch hunt, where every teacher that has a facebook with a student on it is guilty.

It's a scary time, and I'm getting out of teaching, because I'm not going to have a horrible life just because some people are uncomfortable with change.

Karl Kapp said...

As Jane mentioned, the great thing about Facebook is you can create groups or Fan pages and not have to allow students to "friend" you as an instructor. There are many creative ways of using Facebook without having to "get personnel" or even "friendly" check out Jane's new book (I am a reviewer)"Social Media for Trainers" which explains all that!!

Anonymous said...

The issue I think is not Facebook specifically but the concept of Social/professional networking. I'm in Florida too (different county same blocks). Perhaps the answer is professional development, using digital tools to enhance instruction and good old fashioned supervision and common sense.

Guy Boulet said...

First of all, there is a world between corporate training and school. I regularly go for a drink with my co-workers but I don't think a teachers should hang out with his students.

That being said, Facebook is a "friend" network and although it may be quite useful at the corporate level, I don't think it is appropriate for teachers to be "friend" with their students and share with them whatever they do outside the classroom and vice-versa.

On the other hand, I can understand the value of social media to support education and this is where I think school should have their own closed social networking tools.

So I totally understand the school position in that matter. There are legal issues when a teacher interacts with students, whether is is live or virtually.

Saul Carliner said...

A few random reactions:

From a teacher's perspective: there's an admittedly eeeewwww factor in being "friends" with the teacher. But hey, if a student invites me despite that, well--that's the highest praise they can give me. (In general, my feeling is that students need to ask me to be their friend on FB and LinkedIn; but if they do, I'll do it.)

From a general cynical perspective: wait until there's a bullying situation on FB that are even 1/10 as serious as the ones that made the national news last year. Then teachers will be in trouble for failing to track it.

From a cynical management perspective: it's nice to know that the school system so highly values the judgment skills of its teachers.

Jane Bozarth said...

Mark Burke: I'd like to see the post/comment you mentioned? My life is spent trying to understand why teachers/trainers don't want to use technology even when it's in their own best interest.