This week, Maple and I collaborated together to learn more about the pros and cons of using Facebook in the classroom. As you’ll see from this Google Document, we wrote on behalf of a teacher and a principal. The teacher is interested in being progressive, as she is a new teacher, and she wants to try to teach digital citizenship through using Facebook to connect with students and parents. She feels that her personal Facebook is professional, and she’d like to create a page to add students and parents to in order to keep everyone up to date.
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The principal seems reserved about the idea of social media in general and offers many compelling arguments against using Facebook as the new teacher’s primary way of contacting parents and students. The principal is mostly concerned with privacy and sharing, as she should be. As well, the principal is aware the community is involved with the school and feels that the newsletter and email system already in place is much more suited for the school’s culture.
They compromise using the school newsletter and email system, BUT they allow parents and students to connect with the teacher on Twitter. Twitter is where the teacher keeps her professional information. On Twitter she would like to give reminders and due dates to keep everyone up to date. This pleases both parties. The compromise eases the community into educational uses for technology and social media. Lastly, it’s also a great way to teach digital citizenship to the students.
Please read our dialogue on the Google Documents link or continue reading below.
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Teacher: Hi Ms.Chinook, I’m wondering if you have moment…?
Principal: Yes, Ms.Terrific, come into my office. What can I do for you?
Teacher: Well, as you know this is my first year teaching. How do you think I should communicate with my 5th Grade parents this year?
Principal: As you already know, you have a school email account where you can communicate with parents. If you want, you can send weekly updates of upcoming events via email just to remind everyone of what you’re doing. For those families without internet access you can print hard copies. The school newsletter is published once a month, and I would like you to contribute to that, in this way parents have an overview of what the school is doing. Grandparents, and other family members love to see our monthly newsletters.
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Teacher: I would really like to contribute to the newsletter too, thank you so much! I know that some teachers at other schools have used platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and teacher-specific resources. However, I like the idea of using Facebook. This resource I found explains many ways and benefits to using Facebook in schools… What do you think?
Principal: I have many reservations about using Facebook and social media in the classroom.
My major concern about Facebook is the privacy issue. The Facebook scandal is a huge issue especially when you want to set up an account for our students. According to the article “Facebook privacy scandal explained” “Cambridge Analytica ….. Lifted the Facebook profiles of tens of millions of users without their permission”. This brings about “renewed questions about Facebook’s ability to protect the privacy of its users”. I know that Facebook has updated it’s privacy guidelines, but I don’t trust them with our students information. Nothing is private on the internet.
The “Facebook privacy scandal explained” article also suggests that “Facebook ….. Believes most of its 2.2 billion users have had their public profile information scraped by “malicious actors””. Those “malicious actors” are the bad guys; they are identity thieves and scam artists. I don’t want to put our students at risk.
Facebook also tries to target marketing to it’s users. The article “Facebook Marketing” states “the business is able to raise brand awareness deploy and track advertising, [and] collect detailed audience insights”, I don’t want to promote Facebook products, and I don’t want our student responses tracked. Student privacy needs to be protected.
We also have students whose parents don’t want their children’s photos online. When posting photos into Facebook you’ll have to take this into consideration. There’s also the inclusion, exclusion factor. If students see their friends on the class Facebook page and they aren’t; they may feel less important and inferior to other members of your class. All students need to feel included and they belong.
The article “5 pro’s and con’s of social media in the classroom” explains that Facebook is a social media platform and students affiliate it with fun. If we bring it into the classroom they will be easily distracted. It will be difficult for students to stay on task as their Facebook friends are just a few clicks away. Plus, it’ll be difficult for you to notice if they are completing their assignments, or socializing. In the article “Facebook in classroom, bad idea?” John Bowman quotes Pychyl saying, “Facebook is like taking a person with a gambling problem to Vegas. It’s just too easy to get doing other things rather than the hard work of intellectual work”.
Facebook and social media has become as popular as it has because of its instant feedback and reward system of ‘likes’. The article “The Secret Social Media Lives of Teenagers” explains that “teens can quickly get caught up in the feedback loop, posting, and sharing images and videos that they believe will gain the largest reaction”. When students aim for the biggest reaction they are doing something outside social norms, which can have devastating ramifications for themselves, their families, and our community. “ Teens seeking external validation become intoxicated by sensationalist engagement sometimes sending compromising photos or comments”. We need to teach and protect our students.
The article “The Case Against Social Media In Education” explains that School Board’s don’t want to accept liability risks of students who misuse social media. It also states that “technical infrastructure is still lacking in most locations”, and our infrastructure in Saskatchewan is poor. For us to use social media in the classroom we, “need devices for all students and adequate reliable bandwidth to connect them”. Now, as you know, not all parents at our school are from an affluent socio-economic backgrounds. Asking students to use tablets or iPad’s to complete homework could cause financial hardships for some families. I understand these students can check their Facebook profiles at the library, but these students may face bullying because they don’t have internet access. Also, their parents won’t get the information you were originally wanting to share. On the website “Digital Citizenship” Mike Ribble suggests “Digital exclusion makes it difficult to grow as a society increasingly using these tools”. We need to make all our students and families feel included at our school.
On the website “Digital Citizenship” Ribble says “learners must be taught how to learn in a digital society, and I agree with him. I don’t think Facebook is the right platform for teaching digital citizenship though. Ms. Brown is starting an online blog with her Grade 8 class, which I think is much more appropriate. I think your Grade 5 class would also do well having their own online blog. I know you will do an excellent job teaching all areas of digital citizenship. Ribble says “digital citizenship is the norms of appropriate, responsible, technology use” and I know you are more than capable of this.
Teacher: I’ve also found this resource for sending emails to parents about alerts and reminders… I could always use something like SmartSend instead of Facebook but I really want to be more personal. I mean, maybe I could even be friends with the parents since my Facebook page is so professional? I really want to make a good impression on them.
Principal: To be professional you aren’t friends with the parents, you can’t be. As soon as you friend someone in Facebook, they have access to all your private information, friends, family, and other aspects of your life. These aspects are yours and yours alone.
Teacher: Ok, that makes sense to me. I guess why I’d want to make a page on Facebook for the parents is because the students could practice doing positive digital citizenship… It’s a good way for both me and the parents to watch what they’re posting on the page and for us to see them using the platform appropriately. Also, to make a page you don’t have to be friends with the students or the parents on Facebook, so I think we could keep it professional.
However, I respect your opinion and I think I will use my Twitter to remind parents and students about events and assignments, but email to be more in-depth and to communicate more broadly. My Twitter is already public, and I use it to teach about digital citizenship. Since it is my professional network I wouldn’t have to change anything anyways, or become “friends” with students or parents. I could simply just share the link with them in an email, and if they choose to follow they will. I found this article on using Twitter in school and I think you and I can both agree that it brings up four reasons that it’s a better social platform to use than Facebook for connecting with students and parents:
1. Enhances student engagement in the classroom
2. Engages the community
3. Connects parents about the good news
4. Broaden our school’s reach
How would you feel about this compromise, Ms. Chinook?
Principal: I really like this idea, I think if you’re adamant about using a social platform in the classroom and to communicate with parents, Twitter is a much better option. I appreciate you using the school email system and newsletter to talk with parents as they respond well to these methods. Let me know if there’s anything else you need from me, maybe I’ll even get a Twitter page!