Last week, I posted an article by OnlineCollege’s Carol Brown listing reasons to bring Facebook into the classroom. But as the comments reflect, educators are wary of opening what could be a Pandora’s box — and whether it’s worth the tradeoff.

With last week’s news about Missouri banning teachers from private communication with students on social media sites, the issue becomes even more complicated.

Reader Mdcromp points out one prevailing reason why Facebook will always be a contender in this space: Because that’s where most kids already live online, thus that’s the best way to get their attention and become more seamlessly part of their lives. And though there may be more protected spaces for social networking, as he puts it: “Everyone already has a Facebook account.”

Except, of course, students under the age of 13, who are legally barred from signing up for an account, as reader Andrew Bills points out. (But do keep in mind that 7.5 million kids under 13 are already on Facebook — for better or for worse — according to a Consumer Reports survey.) “While Facebook does have potential for good in the schools there is just too much about it that doesn’t work,” Bills writes.

But if educators don’t teach students how to negotiate social networking sites, who will? Reader Eug_carizma writes: “Unfortunately many parents don’t know how to teach them in this instance because they didn’t grow up in the digital age. It is our job as educators to teach children the things they won’t or can’t learn at home.”

A recent Christian Science Monitor article makes a similar claim, quoting Michelle Manafy, author of Dancing With Digital Natives. “It’s missing an opportunity, an obligation, for us to guide young people in the appropriate use of technology. I think we abandon that role as teachers, mentors and parents at our own peril and at the peril of our young people,” Manafy said.

Another reader takes issue with the commercial nature of Facebook, claiming that Facebook is actually not free, because it’s dependent on market profiling and advertisements. Agreed — Facebook is lousy with ads, but doesn’t part of teaching online literacy include lessons about marketing and ads?

As for concerns over privacy and relationships between teachers and students, perhaps reader Robin Sellers’ suggestion could provide a solution:

“I suggest using Facebook Pages or Groups, not private profile accounts with students. This way, you don’t see your students personal posts and they don’t see yours.”

Have any teachers tried this approach?


  • Eloise Constancio de Castro

    The use of social media in teaching is a very new and complex issue. Only after many trials and errors, experiments and analysis of results will we be able to reach a conclusion. For now, discussions like the one proposed here are a good way to share experiences. My high school students here in Brazil love technology, being connected and such, but they, at first, do not like the idea of using tools they use to have fun in order to study, They seem to think it will spoil the fun. I read the comments on the other article and I agree that programs specifically made for education would be better suited than an open program like Facebook.

  • Catlintucker

    Facebook may be the “place kids live online” but that doesn’t mean it is the best choice for integration into the classroom. The norms associated with communication on Facebook are very different from what most teachers are trying to cultivate in their classrooms. For many students, I wonder if including FB in an academic context might actually spoil the fun of the space for them. 

    If teachers worry about control but want to teach digital citizenship and cultivate 21st century skills- online communication and collaboration- there are a variety of free educational learning platforms available. 

    When I integrated Collaborize Classroom into my curriculum 2 years ago to engage students in dynamic discussions and group work online to complement our work in class, I had address many of the FB habits that were not conducive to academic dialogue. Students have no idea how powerful their words are, so I had to provide them with a great deal of scaffolding and support. I made my expectations for their involvement and participation clear by providing everything from my “Dos and Don’ts of Students Communication Online” to examples of sentence starters that model respectful language to support resources that teach them how to say something substantial. 

    It is critical that they understand that their communication in a space must be reflective of the goals of that particular environment- online or in person. I do not think I would have experienced the success that I have if I had used FB with my students. 

  • It seems logical to have page that can be used for teacher/student/class communication. Obviously, it couldn’t be a requirement or used formally (for many good reasons), but simply a public, safe place where they could communicate or ask questions if needed. As stated in another comment, it would prevent private messaging between student/teacher but still allow for quick issues to be resolved.

  • Pat

    I’ve been using Facebook in the classroom for about half a year. And I appreciate the article that was previously posted ‘100 ways to use Facebook in a classroom.’

    I’m not saying that there are no limitations but I believe that is effective in some ways. For examples. Sharing online articles with students, using discussion forum, using poll or even quizzes.

    And I totally agree that if parents aren’t able to teach their child to use the social media tools safely, teachers use do so.

    And after all, even if we don’t leverage on such tools, it doesn’t mean that the child will not use them. And if that’s the case, why not use it purposefully and teach them the correct way to use them.

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