Questioning Facebook in School

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."

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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?

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