I offered my opinion in that discussion. It is a difficult question for me. Certainly the caution is called for. It is the same caution we take in all our relations with students. My students (and parents) have my school email address. This provides a far more private medium of communication than social networking sites like Facebook. I have allowed a few current students to follow me on Facebook. My first act is to limit their access to my profile. I often drop them after a time when I see they have no real interest in communication.
We are collectively learning that these social networking sites are not about friendship and privacy. They are public places not so very different than bumping into someone at the store. Discretion is called for everywhere.
Interesting thoughts everyone. Last fall, I had to do a term paper for an ethics class I am taking in grad school. I did mine on facebook and education. This is one of the subtopics I got into. The vast majority of teachers would say it is a bad idea--not so much for what is on my page. (My page is very much G rated...maybe PG on a rare day!)...but what I see on theirs!
I don't want to see a bunch of kids at a party and have to go turn all of them in Monday morning.
There is a group of teachers that believes that it increases the rapport with students. However, we are NOT their friends, we are their teachers...
We don't have a policy, but a recommendation to not do it.
I do not think students and teachers need to be friending each other. Here's my latest cause though--txting and phoning while driving. I've used computers in the classroom for 20 years (so I am no a luddite)--but there are some things I'm concerned about regarding the increasing use of 'screens' and this distracted driving is on the top of the list. I've emailed by sons, their wives with my concerns. I do not want to be the one on the phone with them when there is an accident.
Latest study says kids in front of 'screen' 8 hours a day. That's going to have consequences.
As a new educator (who is young) and still trying to gain a separation between myself and my students I feel that these sites are very inappropriate and can send the wrong message. It's ok to be less formal with your students but facebook isn't necessarily the answer. Many teachers have created their own wiki sites and they have a page about themselves so students can inquire if they want to. You can also create a classroom blog site to communicate with your students but there is still a clear line that they know that they can't cross when it's your site. Going on a public site like facebook and myspace is not just a means of communication, students are making a statement when they write on your wall. This can be dangerous territory.
I notice this morning another class member has tried to 'friend' me on Facebook. I'll probably add her to my limited list. She is nine so I don't think I will see too many drunken parties on her wall. She will see none on mine. This is a shy girl who contacts me through our school email accounts, Ning Network, Twitter and wiki discussions. I think in almost every case she has simply said 'hi'.
I am a product of my generation of teachers. When I began teaching in rural Saskatchewan in the 1980's I was reluctant to enter the local bar or be seen leaving the liquor store. My life was so private that I was finally called into the principal's office where I was confronted by a school trustee who apologetically confided that there were rumors I had a private drinking problem. I was surprised. The community was more relaxed about teacher behavior than I thought I think. I became more open about myself. I enjoyed the staff parties until I had one of those likely all too familiar moments when a drunken colleague decided that it was time to have a frank discussion with our administrator. After that I was back to discretion. We talk about teaching our five hours and needing to return to privacy; keep things separate. Facebook is a billboard beside the freeway folks. Nothing you do there is private and the world tags you. You're in the mall so if you decide to share a tantrum with your three year old be aware someone not so very close to you is watching.
I'm a product of my environment. How small was your town? My town was so small the main drag was a transvestite. My town was so small the local bar was the town's only restaurant so if you went out for a drink your fourteen year old student might be at the next table with his parents scarfing chips and gravy chased with a coke. You really have only once choice in that circumstance: be a responsible adult.
Alam, your town sounds a lot like where I live--we are all together...at the school, at games, in the grocery store, the cafe, and yes even the bar where the main evening meals are served.
Someone made the analogy earlier that facebook is more than hi, it's like having the kid show up in your living room. Well, for the past ten years because our own kids have friends, guess what? they are in our home. they live across the street, across town, and that is prett much the way it is in a real small town.
I think the side benefit of all that is that parents get to know you, kids get to know you as a human being, and a deeper level of trust develops--provided you do exactly what Alan mentions, which is act like a responsible adult!
I began teaching in the early 90s, and a lot of those attitudes were also prevelant in rural north dakota...it has changed a lot. i think when people see you out in the community, they get to know you as a person and see you as more "real" (if that is the right word!)
Yep and there is quite a downside to all that too. What I think people don't understand is the capacity for social networking to emulate that interconnected society. I frequently read observations that we need to discard the industrial model of education. The managerial relationship of teacher to student should be shunned in favour of a more egalitarian model where teachers and students are 'co-learners' collaborating together. If that is to be so, then our attitudes toward communicating with young people need to be modified. I hasten to add that I am speaking about communication, being receptive and responsive to innocuous conversation. I am not insensible to disparities in power between young and old people, I simply don't think that social networking adds a unique dimension to the older person's responsibility, nor does it excuse the older person from exercising those responsibilities.
actually, the 'safest' thing to do is nothing at all. Student facebook networks are broad and include many younger students. So while you might think it 'safe' to wait until they graduate, you'll still open yourself up to indirectly connecting with current high school aged (and younger) students from your school. You also may be exposed to college partying pictures-what will you do when your current students, even though you are not directly connected to them because you maintain a 'wait-till-they-graduate' policy, comment on those photos? What will you do if one of those comments is not to your liking?