Facebook: Friend or Foe

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Nancy Willard of Center for Safe and Responsible Internet Use, writes in about Wednesday's post regarding an article in the Boston Herald about teachers getting fired over friending students on Facebook.

Actually, I disagree. I am the Nancy Willard who was misquoted in this article. I agree with the vast majority of the Massachusetts policy. The only aspect I indicated I found too big brother-like was the requirement that school administrators search for staff names online.

The risks associated with staff-student connections on Facebook and other similar environments include inappropriate flirting (both directions), disclosure of student personal information, pressure to friend, the potential of grading bias if you do not friend, the facilitation of connections between the students and the teacher's adult friends, and the potential expansion of the responsibility of monitoring to ensure student safety.

Given that Facebook is strongly promoting these connections, I think it wise for districts to have policies against these kinds of connections.

I do strongly encourage the use of interactive media for instructional purposes.

While I agree there are inherent risks associated with teachers and students becoming Facebook friends, I maintain that firing teachers for simply friending students, even those who haven't shown any inappropriate behavior, sounds far too drastic.

I tweeted this link yesterday, which lists ways educators are creatively using social networks as teaching opportunities (providing parents a peek into the classroom, sharing and publishing student work, connecting with other classes, etc.). Facebook has become the place where kids live, work, talk, and share, and it could be an opportunity for educators to meet them where they naturally congregate.

Setting guidelines is crucial in this period of flux, as we negotiate the tricky terrain of social media, whether it's with an employee and employer, parent and child, teacher and student.