There are probably hundreds of different ways to use Facebook in your classroom. We’ve written about a number of them, and we know that a lot of educators out there are using the tool for everything from classroom projects to keeping in touch with parents. But before you jump into using a social media tool that’s made for sharing, it is important to take a look at some considerations. Understanding things like social media privacy concerns and potential issues can help you ensure that you’re leading your students into an online safe space. Helping your students understand their digital footprint is a big one, too.
So what guidelines should you follow when you’re bringing Facebook into your classroom? We’ve set forth a few examples below. There will be obvious differences depending on whether you’re using the tool with an older or younger group, but the basics can remain the same.
This is your job, after all. If you already have a personal Facebook profile, it is better to keep everything personal and professional separate. This way, you don’t need to worry about what to share and if it is appropriate for sharing with your students or not. There will be no issues of allowing some students to be ‘friends’ and others not.
You can either choose to allow your students to be friends with your professional profile or not, but know that you don’t need to be friends with them to interact with them using Groups and Pages (whether you’ve created those groups and pages or not). Many teachers find it useful to use the ‘all or nothing’ approach to friending students, even if it is on a professional profile that doesn’t share much. We’d tend towards the ‘nothing’ part of that approach – because you really don’t need to know what your students are doing in their online life, either.
Making a page is one of the ways we mentioned above that you can interact with your students without needing to be friends with them. When you’re deciding if a page is appropriate for what you might want to use it for, remember that Pages are public – anyone can see them. You might use a page you’ve created to keep people (both students and parents) up to date on classroom and school events, showcase the students’ work and accomplishments, and share what would be considered ‘public’ information.
Creating a group, on the other hand, is the more private way to interact with your students (and you still don’t need to be friends with them to do so). Thus, this makes groups more appropriate for sharing classroom work, collaborating, sharing ideas, hosting discussions, posting class notes, scheduling reminders, and other items that are not as suitable (or necessary) for public sharing.
While social media is generally a much ‘safer’ space when it is classroom centric (as opposed to the free for all that is the rest of the internet), you’ll still need to implement some rules. Give your students some guidelines for interacting: they can be basic (no mean commenting!) or they can be more in depth (requiring students to give constructive feedback, respond with supporting outside resources, encourage other students, etc).