Thursday, February 3, 2011

10 Ways Facebook Strengthens the Student - Teacher Connection

In our data driven world of education today, we often forget that behind all that data real students whose hopes, dreams and desires are often left behind or unnoticed. Don’t be fooled by the data that points to success by numbers rather than faces.  When you scratch past the numbers, you’ll find many real kids who know these tests have been politicized and that what is most important is their connection with adults who care about them.  This was evident during my recent trip to Educon where I had the pleasure of attending a panel featuring students who shared the importance of, “teachers relating to them as people, not just students”  For them this helped develop a deep level of trust with their teachers who they knew really cared about them deeply and were looking out for their best interests.  

Some students told stories of running a marathon with their teachers, others shared how great it felt for them that their teacher who coached them in a sport or activity saw them shine in a particular area of their life.  The students also explained how the use of Facebook has help strengthen their connections with teachers and their principal.  They also shared, that, they don’t “expect” their teachers to be friends with them on Facebook, but appreciate it when they do.  Below are ways that they, their teachers, their principal and others have have found Facebook to be an effective tool in strengthening the educator / student bond.  
  1. Reaching out to a student in need
    Students shared that sometimes it’s hard for them to approach a teacher or even really reach out for help face-to-face.  Sharing a disappointment on Facebook can be easier. Students shared how touched they were by encouraging words from a teacher either on their page, or as a face-to-face follow up.
  2. Getting a peak into the lives of students
    Facebook provides a window into the worlds of students.  A look at a student’s Facebook page might explain a little something about how or why a student may have reacted to something on a particular day.  As one student said, “We are people, not just students. Facebook is a great reminder of that.”
  3. The family connection
    Students at the Science Leadership Academy explained the great importance of their peers and staff as family.  Facebook is a terrific way to share and keep up with family.  They appreciate having that opportunity.  
  4. Instant learning and homework support
    A student might notice a teacher online and use the pop up chat to ask if they mind giving advice about a topic they were studying. If their teachers (or principal) is available s/he can offer support. Luna, a student at SLA explained it this way, “We can still get teachers to help us while we’re at home doing our homework instead of having to wait until the next day. Teachers feel a lot more accessible and also approachable.”
  5. Snow Day - Update!!!
    Not sure if school will be open or closed on a snow day?  Check it out on your teacher and/or Principal's page on Facebook.  You’ll find the answer and a whole lotta comments.
  6. Facebook lets teachers create a no excuses environment
    This came directly from a student who shared that she liked that Facebook kept all students accountable.  When you’re friends with your teachers and students on Facebook, you generally best really be sick on a sick day, or you’ll be outed.  Furthermore, students like the idea that if you get stuck with school work you can always post it on your Facebook wall and tag some friends and teachers who will be able to chime in with advice.
  7. Snow days and sick days don’t hold you back
    Just because students are home doesn’t mean they can’t participate.  During a recent snow event teachers and students connected on Facebook about assignments and assessments, barely missing a beat.  For a student who is sick, she can post that on Facebook, tag key people, and get filled in on what she missed in real time.  
  8. Using facebook teaches you how to deal with the world and the way it works
    Students like the fact that adults are connecting with them using real-world tools that they’ll need to know how to use effectively to be successful.  At the writing of the article,
    Egypt’s Facebook revolt was taking place.  Kids are keenly aware of the power of social media and want to be empowered and trusted to operate in such environments.  They feel neither a school or government should ban them from using powerful tools to communicate and connect.  
  9. Facebook as a Learning Portal More and more students are using Facebook for learning and not just to talk to others about what they’re working on.  One Science Leadership Academy student shared that for physics a group of her peers created a Facebook page about motion.  They created it as a learning portal that contained, definitions, photos, videos, articles and discussions.  Not only was this a learning portal for these students, but it remains on Facebook as a learning tool for others studying the topic. 

    Librarian Michelle Luhtala helped break the ban on social media in her school. See what happens when students are given the trust and freedom to learn using Facebook.

    Facebook Group  as Collaborative Research Log from michelle luhtala on Vimeo.
  10. Mobilize in an instantWhen Science Leadership Academy students found out that a snow day was declared on the first day of their Educon conference for educators, they jumped into action on Facebook where their principal shared a note as well as words of encouragement to all students. The principal shared this status up date at 10:45
    Chris Lehmann There's going to be a horde of kids at SLA tomorrow. This is EduCon, and this is *their* school, and a little snow isn't going to stop them.
Both his note and status updates were met with plenty of comments from spirited students and educators.  

There are more and more educators and students like those at the Science Leadership Academy who are harnessing the power of social media to connect more deeply with students.  Unfortunately for some it’s an uphill battle, but one they plan to fight none-the-less in today’s 21st century world, we know life doesn’t just happen face-2-face.   

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Share your thoughts:  Librarian Michele Luhtala is one such teacher who does a good job of capturing the sentiment of students where Facebook is blocked in her post 'Tud-ish but true.http://bit.ly/yfilter and teachers can visit http://tinyurl.com/yfilter .

20 comments:

  1. Help us gather data!
    http://tinyurl.com/yfilter is actually a survey where educators - and others - can voice an opinion about filtering in the schools. What is your school doing about the filtering question? Do you agree or disagree? We would love to hear from as many of you as possible.

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  2. I love your points and ideas. I actually wrote a similar blog post not too long ago.

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  3. It amazes me that folks continue to confound social media in general with Facebook in particular. Facebook has a history of privacy abuse, and teachers have an obligation to protect their students.

    There are many easy ways to create channels via online social media that allow the advantages of FB without exposing children to the data-mining used by FB.

    I suspect many teachers who use FB as their internet classroom portal do so out of expediency. We have an obligation to go beyond mere expediency.

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  4. @doyle, the teachers aren't choosing Facebook. The students are there. This is one very effective way they are choosing to connect with their teachers. Going where the students and teachers are is working well for them. Not having yet another place to go is working well for them. Being in the online space their students are is one great way for educators to help protect their students.

    The teachers, students, and principal find it to be an effective, efficient, and free way to strengthen the student-teacher bond.

    Hell, our president used it to get elected, Egypt used it to over throw their government. It's a powerful tool that educators and students are using to improve learning. Sure there are alternative ways to do this, but as educators like librarian Michelle Loots will tell ya, that's not where the kids want to be http://mluhtala.blogspot.com/2011/01/tud-ish-but-true.html

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  5. @Katie, read your post. You make great points. You might want to connect with first grade teacher Erin Shoening to see her successes in using Facebook with students and parents at http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/07/8-real-ways-facebook-enriched-ms.html

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  6. I have mixed feelings about this due to the recent legislative action passes in our state of Texas. Communication among staff & current students is limited to discussion of school related work/homework/topics etc. The lines get gray in a hurry and social networking with students suddenly become challenging to stay within the black-white lines of the law.

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  7. @Pam, so Texas is legislating the ability of teachers to see students as more than just subjects in which to impart knowledge??? They're legislating the conversations students and adults can have??? A teacher can't connect with their students on social/emotional issues???

    Pam, do you mean you really have mixed feelings about this? I can't see how any passionate educator would have mixed feelings about developing bonds with students as people not just impartees of knowledge. My guess is that rather you are now concerned because your state has determined that students should only be subjects whose job yours is, is to pour state-mandated information into their heads.

    Ugh. Now I'm depressed.

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  8. While I think the term is vacuous, I do think there is something worthwhile to be said about "social" media. But, you aren't going to find me on Facebook (see http://www.fsf.org/facebook , in particular). Two movie quotes come to mind. From Spiderman, "With great power comes great responsibility". Facebook has enormous power and has been highly irresponsible. I'd sooner trust a government to do something honorable on my behalf than for Facebook to do so. Next, while there are many, many people already using (and being used by) Facebook (including many who are younger than 13 and violating the terms of service), and they are easy to connect with, I'd have to reply with this quote from Dumbledore of Harry Potter fame, "We must all choose between what is right and what is easy." I have turned down "friend" requests from people because, while there is much information I am willing to make public, I will do so on my terms, and not on the terms of someone who sees me as having information to exploit; further, I cannot, as a citizen in good conscience, encourage youth to make such a choice when they do not understand the ramifications. This is a great blog, and I find this view interesting, but I "dislike" Facebook.

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  9. @Clinton Blackmore, You certainly make good points about “disliking” Facebook. My stand however is that the teachers are going where the students are (or ask them to be) if this is what the teacher/student choose to do. For many this is working as one of the places they connect for the reasons I share in the post. They are both there already. As long as they’re in the same space many have found it to be an effective way to strengthen their relationship and that's a good thing.

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  10. Wow...the ideas on this list make it sound very appealing to use FB in those ways. I think that connecting with students A)outside of the classroom and B)on their terms/in their language are both powerful beyond measure. I have no doubt that FB would be an immensely effective way to do this (even from your own home), but I feel we've heard too many horror stories about teachers getting in trouble on facebook. Can you ease my worries about:

    1)being exposed to things you'd rather not be exposed to, like finding info on FB about kids drinking, partying, etc. Would you be under some obligation as an educator to act on every "tip" you stumbled across on students' facebook pages?

    AND

    2)If I befriend a student, how can I control or be responsible for anything my 'real' friends post on my wall/account?

    It all sounds good, but I feel I've been drilled by too many administrators (sometimes at the advice of their lawyers) not to touch this practice with a ten foot pole!

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  11. I think it comes down to how you view your career. At the Science Leadership Academy the principal and teachers who connect with their students online or face-to-face care about their students as people. If they see kids drinking and partying and posting it on Facebook, because they care about students, they’ll talk to them rather than looking the other way. Yes. The SLA teachers and leaders SEE THEIR STUDENTS. The students know they are seen as people, not just subjects into whom information must be imparted. The students know their teachers are on Facebook. They know they don’t turn their heads or look the other way. The adults want to be involved in the lives and development of their students. They want to know. They want to celebrate successes and be there to provide guidance and support.
    When dealing with students as people online or offline you come across important issues. You don’t avoid these people because you might be aware of their whole life/being. The teachers want to be aware and be supportive. The students appreciate it. This helps build the connection.

    You ask how you can control / be responsible for what your real friends post on your wall? What I do is tell my friends what I expect of them. I have nearly 1000 friends. Guess what? It works with all of them. If it didn’t I’d end our online friendship. Fortunately my friends are respectful and I have never had to do that.

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  12. I can see social networking being beneficial to building better teacher-student connections. We just have to be careful with how we do it, just like we have to be careful about how we communicate with students in face to face interactions. I know that facebook is not the ideal site for our kids to use, but they will certainly appreciate knowing that their teachers make the extra effort to get to know them on their own terms. I do not think it will work if we require students to create a new online profile because they will resent having to do extra work, so we have to put forth that little extra. If you are concerned about your students seeing you without the teacher filter on, then create a second online profile that is only used for interactions with students and keep your original restricted from your students.

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  13. Thank you for your thoughts. I hadn’t realized that Facebook was being used so much between student and educator. I am still processing this idea, but I have mixed reactions to using Facebook with my own students.
    First, I believe connecting whenever and however I can is positive. I know how shy some student can be and how hard it can be to connect with others. Using a social network such as this would really help me get to know all my students on another level and give them the opportunity to know me as well. Just as the student suggested, they are people not just students. I think that is great for students to realize about their teachers as well-we’re not just their teachers we are people. I also think it is another great resource for students to take responsibility into their own hands and let teachers know they are going to be missing school and catch up on homework or ask questions when they have missed. I think that if we allow our students this opportunity, many more will take those steps needed to keep up in school.
    The other side of the issue is that I feel like Facebook (or any social network) is a place for kids to be kids. I’m not sure all my students would want to be my Facebook friend nor would want them to feel like they had to be. They should be able to use that space to complain about school or homework and not have to worry about a teacher reading about it. I have also heard of teachers getting in trouble with the site- even being careful how can I be sure someone, a student or my own friend, won’t write something inappropriate? I also feel that by having our students use the site to ask questions or deal with problems, we are not allowing them to not take responsibility with face-to-face interactions. When they get out into the real world, they aren’t going to be able to go to their bosses with issues via Facebook and I think they need to learn that now.
    Either way, I’m on the fence about using Facebook with my students. I’d be willing to try it should that be suggested of me- but still probably won’t “Friend” a student until I know the school is on board.

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  14. Frankly, I'd be creeped out if I friended a teacher on facebook. It would be weird, and I know most other high school students feel this way. Especially in a traditional public school setting.

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  15. Ever hear that old wise tale, if you want to catch a fish you need to go where the fish are? Facebook is where the majority of students age 11-18 spend sometime each and every day. Did you know that you are not really in a relationship unless your Facebook status states that you are?

    Engagement and realizing what it is that students pay attention is instrumental to what and how students learn, process information and how they encode and store knowledge in long-term memory.

    When students are problem solving do we always know what their prior knowledge is? Would it be helpful to provide a platform where students can share their prior knowledge to activate their own learning and that of their classmates? What are students’ metacognitive skills? How can we create a platform that can help teachers engage and motivate students through technology?

    Through the innovative collaborative features of Facebook students can create, post, share content and build on classmates and teachers knowledge. Facebook tools are student centered and provide personalize content that has an emotional connection for students.

    Facebook is here to stay. It is as mainstream as you get. There are even thousands of Facebook groups for fishing. It is time for teachers to upgrade their fishing equipment and go to where the students now fish and spend time. Facebook provides lots of possibilities to enhance teaching and learning.

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  16. Ever hear that old wise tale, if you want to catch a fish you need to go where the fish are? Facebook is where the majority of students age 11-18 spend sometime each and every day. Did you know that you are not really in a relationship unless your Facebook status states that you are?

    Engagement and realizing what it is that students pay attention is instrumental to what and how students learn, process information and how they encode and store knowledge in long-term memory.

    When students are problem solving do we always know what their prior knowledge is? Would it be helpful to provide a platform where students can share their prior knowledge to activate their own learning and that of their classmates? What are students’ metacognitive skills? How can we create a platform that can help teachers engage and motivate students through technology?

    Through the innovative collaborative features of Facebook students can create, post, share content and build on classmates and teachers knowledge. Facebook tools are student centered and provide personalize content that has an emotional connection for students.

    Facebook is here to stay. It is as mainstream as you get. There are even thousands of Facebook groups for fishing. It is time for teachers to upgrade their fishing equipment and go to where the students now fish and spend time. Facebook provides lots of possibilities to enhance teaching and learning.
    MIchelle

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  17. Companies like HomeworkNOW.com have embraced Facebook giving teachers the ability to communicate homework and school and classroom happenings right to parent and student facebook accounts. Its pretty cool. Makes it easy for them to stay attached to their school and classrooms.

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  18. I was just thinking how I love seeing the interesting things my friends post on facebook. I was considering how this is one way we collaboratively find good and useful information. ONe of the most important abilities we all need in this age of information is to decipher good sources from bad sources.

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  19. As a teacher in the Joplin Missouri School District, I can tell you firsthand the value of teachers having students as Facebook friends. We were able to locate hundreds of students after the tornado ripped through our city last Sunday. If this had happened after August 28, we would still have hundreds of students unaccounted for since the Missouri General Assembly has foolishly decided to make it illegal for teachers and students to be Facebook friends after that date. And while the example I cited is an extreme one that hopefully no other school will have to go through, having students as Facebook friends offers many educational benefits.

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