I will be the first to admit that I don't really understand the attraction of Facebook and its ilk. Yes, I have a Facebook page and have some professional colleagues and family members as "friends," but the site is not something I check or use on a regular basis.
I mentioned Facebook today in a workshop I gave here in SC during a "Tool Talk." (!0 web 2.0 tools in about 20 minutes.) When I introduce Facebook, I basically say the same thing I said in the first paragraph - I don't see the fascination, and more over, I don't see its educational usefulness. Other Web 2.0 tools, yes; Facebook no. But I do believe educators need to have a familiarity with Facebook and even use it personally, just to know what kids (and a rapidly growing number of parents) are up to.
A question was raised I had not before considered: Should a teacher "friend" his/her students on Facebook? My off the cuff response was absolutely not. I thought it violated the teacher/student relationship and could lead to actual or perceived inappropriate interactions.
So it was a relief to see Nancy Willard's strongly worded email to WWWedu today second my opinion. She writes:
Any teacher who links to a student on MySpace or Facebook is an ABSOLUTE FOOL!!!!! I strongly support and advise district policies against this for 2 reasons:
- There is a vast amount of flirting that goes on on these sites. Student get crushes on teachers. When a teacher gets a flirtatious message from a student, that teacher is already in trouble. Respond back with warmth and you are an online predator. Respond critically and the student could exact revenge. The teachers who are most likely to get into major trouble are the younger ones – who have not had to deal with student crushes before and who may still be in the flirting online mode. The risks include arrest and life as a registered sex offender.
- People on these sites send friendship requests to friends of people they have linked to. A teacher would become the “guarantor” of all of his or her online friends – including all of the material these friends post and the friend’s interactions with students.
This being said, it is exceptionally important for teachers and student to be communicating in these interactive environments. Which means schools must set up carefully managed and monitored interactive environments.
Are we confusing social and educational networking? Again, Nancy warns:
There is – and should remain – a vast difference between “social media” and “educational media.” When educators blur the distinctions, this causes significant problems.
Are schools making this distinction in policy-making?