In this upcoming age of technologies, the teaching profession has once again undergone a sharp shift in its student-teacher communication tools. With the rise in social networks, this new generation is less prone to interacting in a one-on-one fashion with teachers. The latter will, in the near future, have to adjust to this reality; students are more at ease when interacting with others while sitting behind a screen. Are teaching and social networking really that distinct nowadays? I don’t think so. In my opinion, they go hand-in-hand. But then, you may say, how do we approach such a risky tool and use it in class?
By setting boundaries. It’s that simple.
Including social networking in a classroom situation can be risky, especially when it comes to facebook. Privacy settings can be lengthy, but it’s worth taking your time to set them properly. I personally have a profile so private people cannot look me up unless we have a friend in common. And even then, they cannot see my pictures nor my posts unless I accept them as friends. I also prevent my friends from seeing some pictures by dividing them in categories (a tutorial of which can be seen here); my real friends can see everything, my colleagues have access to some stuff, my classmates have access to other things, etc. Filtering is key. Another cool tool is having to approve which pictures and posts appear on your timeline (when friends post stupid things on your wall or tag you in pictures), so I can once again check what I want others to see and what I want to go unnoticed. I also have a friend who created another facebook account just so she can verify that nobody can access stuff on her real profile.
The best tool on facebook, I believe, is the groups we can create. Creating private groups allows the members to only see what is shared on the group without having to friend the other members (here, the students). They may click on your name, but all they’ll encounter is your profile page, which you’ll have toggled a bit before thanks to the privacy settings, right? Right.
So hang in there, my friend! Facebook is not that scary. Actually, it can be quite useful. Students love how interactive an online group can be, and there’s tons of ways to use it efficiently. You can check some of those here. And, needless to say, the internet is not limited to Facebook! There are many other social networks a teacher can use, from Instagram to Twitter to Livejournal! Heck, even forums are easy to set up nowadays and the personalization of a unique profile and username for each student can be a thrilling experience. So go and explore with your “digital natives” all the possibilities because trust me, they know social networks more than you do.