Thursday, February 5, 2009


Facebook has surged in popularity not only as a social ground for students, but also as a meaningful networking tool for innovative educators. Joining a social network is becoming less of an option and more of a necessity for success in the 21st century education arena. However, I’m sure like me, many of you know a few holdouts who hesitate to accept your Facebook me! invitation for fear that others (colleagues, students, mom, etc.) will be able to peer into their lives. The non-adapters, resistant to hop aboard, unfortunately, may have another fear to confront as the tide moves ahead without them.

Here's why....

Innovative educators and leaders understand that a digital existence and savvy-ness is moving on the pendulum from novelty to requisite. The inability to operate in the digital environments in which our students (and a growing number of peers) flourish is being seen more and more as a weakness. Individuals without a digital presence and literacy who are unable to interact and navigate these waters are considered, by some, "washed up,” “out of touch,” “irrelevant.” For innovative educators, our clients include our students and not being in touch with how our clients operate is career suicide. Furthermore, Facebook provides educators with an amazing window and communication vehicle into the lives of our kids.

Because social networking sites like Facebook have a learning curve, those without a developed network and fluency with apps, settings, etc. are seen by many as already behind. Being digitally illiterate and lacking the ability to successfully navigate the 21st Century social and professional environment is quickly becoming an insurmountable liability. Innovative educators who are savvy networkers know it takes some time to learn the ins and outs, develop friends, grow your network, find the right groups, and learn appropriate procedures, practices, and protocols. Furthermore innovative educators understand and take on the responsibility of their moral obligation as an educator to serve as a role model and begin setting acceptable standards and practices for students and their colleagues.

That said, there are some viable fear factors. We've all heard of people being fired for emails, texts, or blog posts. It is also true that people have been Fired for Facebooking, MySpacing, Blogging, etc. However, closer investigation reveals that these outcomes could have been avoided with a little bit of common sense sprinkled with some savvyness thrown into the mix on both sides – There are unfair punishments by the digitally illiterate employers and educators such as Student Faces Academic Charges for Using Facebook Groups for his Class. However, with those key ingredients (common sense and savvy) allow users to stay connected, while keeping their livelihood safe and serving a role model for colleagues, students and family. The key is being responsible and creating a purposeful and respectable online presence.

Here are some recommendations to keep in mind…

Facebook makes you an online celebrity.

  • Yes, you are now being watched and are accountable for your actions. Do not post anything on Facebook that you would feel uncomfortable having others see or write about. Recently a friend and colleague had his Facebook Page posted when receiving a new career appointment. The page was clean and represented who he would want his public self to be. It is important to realize that anything you post online becomes part of your digital footprint and is a historical record of you. While there are privacy settings that you should use, ultimately like anything online, Facebook is public. Anything you post could end up anywhere. Be professional, responsible, and considerate.
  • If someone does post inappropriate information on your wall, you can and should delete it and politely ask them to refrain in the future.
  • If there is someone who you friended, but realize is just not the type of person you want to be publicly associated with, you can block this person usually, without their knowledge (see Friends, Until I Delete You). If that seems too harsh, use your privacy settings to control how they can interact with you and what they can see.
  • If you join a club or group that you do not want others to know you are a part of, don’t do so on Facebook. It is right their on your info page for all to see. Not only will others know about this potentially secret hobby, it may end up resulting in inappropriate posts to your wall, where friends, family, students, will be reminded of your membership.

Professional work practices.

  • Don't tie your Facebook account to your work email. You don't want to have your professional email box flooded with Facebook notifications giving the appearance of a barrage on possible non-work related activity.
  • Do remember that social networking has valuable and important professional networking benefits. From the obvious opportunity to have a group of colleagues process, interpret, and make meaning from a recent news clipping or article shared, to the ability to find a common bond between colleagues, to the forming and/or joining of groups and causes. Remember to create lots of those kinds of interactions.
  • Balance is key to a happy and productive workforce. It is okay for your employer and colleagues to see the whole person. Just make sure you're not spending an unreasonable amount of time during the day on non-work related updates and comments. Think about how you may treat personal calls during work hours. A post or two, like a personal call or two, is fine.
  • Do remember that social networking is an excellent and time-efficient way to keep up with colleagues. How many of people work in large departments often unfamiliar or out of touch with what colleagues are up to. Facebook provides a way to combat this.

Connecting with students, colleagues, friends, and family.

  • Do realize Facebook is an extremely powerful networking tool that allows you to access, collaborate, and share ideas in ways never before possible. Commenting on others posts provides a virtual way to develop bonds, connections, commonalities, and relationships never before possible with such great ease.
  • A social networking tool like Facebook enables employers, family, and friends to see the balance of the whole person that you are. Use good judgment and you’ll be in good shape with getting and giving the whole picture of who you and your Facebook friends are.
  • Both person al and professional information can help build bonds and develop deeper relationships with those in your life. For instance, I often post news clips about issues of great interest to colleagues on which they can comment and reflect. I also come across great resources that I think others would find useful or join groups or sign up for events that colleagues would be interested in, but would perhaps never know of, if not for this tool.
  • Facebook has great features to help users set up events and groups that would be of interest and beneficial to you and your friends. Organize events and invite friends. Start groups. Join groups. Invite others.

Ultimately if you are an educator, parent, student, or employee who stands behind what they are doing Facebook is place to proudly set a strong model for online networking, If you’re not sure what that looks like my best advice for learning more is to become friends with other educators using Facebook and see what they’re doing. My suggestions for people to “Friend” include an invitation to Facebook me! or connect with some of the innovative educators I’m friends with like (alphabetical order) Paul Allison, Vicki A Davis, Lucy Gray, Mike Hasley, Bud Hunt, Chris Lehmann, Angela Maiers, Sylvia Martinez. Kathy Schrock.

Related posts

Why Every Parent and Teacher Should Learn MySpace and Facebook and A 30-Day Guide To Losing Your Digital as a Second Language (DSL) Accent

Keep Your Students Connected This Summer with A Social Network


  1. Great post!

    Just yesterday I blogged a response to Steve Tuttle's article "You Can't Friend Me, I Quit" in which he details his decision to leave fb because it was wasting too much of his time. Unfortunately the author and so many others fail to see the powerful networking and learning possibilities within social networking. Your post and tips are so useful in helping the apprehensive take the leap!

  2. @Shannon, thank you so much for your comment and link to your blog. Great post that readers of this blog will definitely find of interest.

  3. Great article and timely as I still find myself debating social networking with work colleagues. I will be sharing with many who let their fear inhibit them from becoming digitally literate. Your messages continue to inspire. Thanks for sharing.