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What do principals need to know about Facebook?

At a recent principals' meeting in our district, I was asked to prepare a short training on Facebook just for them.

We've done what I think is a fairly good job of informing teachers in our district about the benefits and concerns over using Facebook both professionally and personally. We've written a set of social network guidelines which led to a board policy.

But what, specifically, should building administrators understand and be able to do when it comes to Facebook? My sense is that the bulk of what most older adults, including principals, hear about this popular site is negative. Yet its importance and use/usefulness in both society and the schools is growing.

How then, might a workshop provide a "fair and balanced" look at social networking and give building principals some ideas about how to harness the power of these tools.

Here is my broad outline:

Part One: Social networking - what it is, who uses it, and how it's used - even if I don't "get it," why I need to know about it

Resource: The Social Media Revolution (Socialnomics)

Part Two: A Guide to Facebook - evil incarnate or a tool for world peace or something in the middle? Does it have a place in your school?

Resources: Facebook for Parents (Common Sense Media), A Parent's Guide to Facebook (ConnectSafely), Facebook Scams You Need To Know About: The 9 Most Common Hacks And Attacks (Huff Post Tech), 2011 Facebook Statistics (

Part Three: How can and how should your classroom teachers use Facebook? what guidelines are necessary? what are they actually doing?

Resources: Why social media tools have a place in the classroom (GigaCom), How teachers Facebook and Tweet for Students (NetFamilyNews), our district's board policy on social networking

Part Four: Using Facebook and its cousins to communicate with parents and the public - how do you set up a fan page? how do you know if people are reading? 

Resource: “Social Media in the Workplace“ (Common Craft), 12 Reasons Your Need a Facebook Fan Page (Social Networking Pathways), Facebook Pages FAQ (Facebook)

Granted, this is a sketchy outline. I'd welcome other suggestions about what it's crucial fo building administrators to know about Facebook and social networking in general. Keep in mind, I'll be lucky to get an hour.

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Reader Comments (5)

This is a great resource for administrators. It's interesting to see the educational considerations of social media as you travel through the different grade levels of schools...primary, middle school and beyond. Thanks for the post

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered Commenter@principalberry

This is the most important point about Facebook, to me:

"In truth, Facebook started out with an oversimplified conception of social life, modeled on the artificial hothouse community of a college campus, and it has never succeeded in providing a usable or convenient method for dividing or organizing your life into its different contexts. This is a massive, ongoing failure."

And in particular, one reason Facebook can be a trap for educators.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterTom Hoffman

I don't like to discourage educators from using Facebook or other social networking tools because a lot of good can grow out of appropriate use - but I always remind teachers and administrators that whether they like it or not, they are public figures. To that extent they need to think about their public persona and how they represent themselves online.

Keeping in mind this caution for social networking is not a lot different from how school personnel would think about their behavior in the physical world. Depending on the size of the community, they may or may not want to be seen hanging out at the local bar in a state of alcohol-induced confusion or participating in a wet T-shirt contest during Potato Days - so just bearing in mind how they want to be seen in their community can take them a long way in having a positive personal or educational social networking experience.

July 1, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterMary

Hi Mary,

Good points as always (and a good reminder to take down my wet t-shirt photos - although my were from Bullhead Days).

Don't do anything online you wouldn't do offline is the main message for both staff and students. It's a message that needs to start coming from not just tech departments but from all administrators.

Hope your summer is going well and they got nice computer for you at TIES.


July 5, 2011 | Registered CommenterDoug Johnson

Thanks for posting this - I'm about to tread down a similar path in my own school, would you mind if I used your outline as a starting point for my own presentation?

Common sense. That's what using social media in education comes down to. In becoming a teacher, I put my hand up for public service and, as such, I have a public profile that I need to maintain. That could be at the Shopping Center(Mall), if I meet/see parents, at the local sports field, not just online.

Our students are growing up in an environment where their 'real-world' and online profiles/image/reputation are becoming of equal value. By blocking social networking in schools we are effectively saying - 'we are not going to educate you on this'. As an educator, I feel morally obliged to disagree with that mentality.

Thanks again!

July 12, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterDavid Simpson

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