Thursday, 24 February 2011

Facebook and social networking in a school environment.

 I heard on the radio the other day that there was a couple in Egypt who had named their newborn child, Facebook. This prompted a major discussion on the social networking site that has taken over the world. The website's membership was initially limited by the founders to Harvard students, but was expanded to other colleges in the Boston area, the Ivy League, and Stanford University. It gradually added support for students at various other universities before opening to high school students, and, finally, to anyone aged 13 and over. The information that was originally designed to be shared between university students, is very different to the information that is now being shared through Facebook, with an audience of followers that now varies in age from 13 (and younger for those who lie about their age…) to those who are old enough to be my grandparents. What are our students risking but putting their personal information on such a social networking site? What are we risking by having our own personal Facebook (or other social networking site) accounts as teachers? Do we really want to allow our students even the remotest possibility of being able to access our personal information?

Then I began thinking about some of the endless possibilities that could come from tapping into the generation that learn to be tech savvy by the age of three. What if you set up a separate Facebook page that is designed for school purposes? Use your teaching name, and allow the kids to add you as a friend. You can then use this as a tool to communicate with them in a way that is familiar and comfortable with them. Create events for homework assignments. Send them a message to remind them that their project is due in two days. This would also allow teachers access to their Facebook profiles. Is it an invasion of their privacy if this happens? Or does it allow another form of supervision and the possibility to prevent and monitor cyber-bullying? By having this second created page, are the kids going to be less likely to go looking for your private page, satisfied that you are already ‘friends’ with them on Facebook?

While setting up something like this would need to be approved by the powers to be in schools, I honestly believe that there could be some good come from the evils that are so commonly associated with social networking sites.

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