Thursday, July 15, 2010

8 Real Ways Facebook Enriched Ms. Schoening’s First Grade Class

Today I got up early to attend a 7:30 a.m. session on a topic that is extremely intriguing to me especially in light of the fact that I was just mentioned in The New York Times - Friending Students on Facebook story.

This was a presentation from a first grade teacher named Erin Schoening who was using Facebook with her students, their families, and other targeted members in the school community.

In a world where there is such a fear of using Facebook in education even for high school, I wondered how she could succeed in using this as a tool with 1st graders????

Well, I wasn’t disappointed by my early rising.

Here are some ways this teacher used Facebook to enrich teaching, learning, and connecting with families.

8 Ways Ms. Schoening Used Facebook to Enrich a Primary Classroom

Providing parents and families a window to the classroom
About four times a day, student reporters update their Facebook page on something interesting that has occurred in the classroom and the teacher often comments on these updates with suggestions of things families can talk with students about at home. Additionally, families can comment right on the class page, providing advice, inspiration, and expertise to the students. They become part of the class community.

Celebrating student work
The class teacher can easily share student work by taking pictures of it and placing it into albums around the unit of study. Families can comment on the work of their students and under the supervision of their parent’s or teacher they can comment on one another’s work too!

Sharing events and announcements
The events section made it very easy to share celebrations, upcoming events and other activities with parents and families. It also allowed those invited to see who else was coming, and comment, and plan and converse. Another great use is for field trips. Organize the trips here. Know which parents can attend. Have conversations about how they can support the class during the trip.

Using Facebook Notes as an Easy Way to Update Parents and Families
Facebook Notes provide a terrific way to update parents and families of important notifications in the classroom. You may want to share a new school or class policy. You may want to inform parents of school closing due to inclement weather. The nice thing about notes is that you can tag many parents so they get a notification in their email account and...they can comment sharing thoughts, ideas, and questions.

Using Facebook Notes for Students to Share Writing
Next year Ms.Schoening plans to use the “notes” feature for students to publish their work. She might consider having tagged classmates, students from other classes, and/or parents comment on one another’s work and give some valuable authentic feedback by “liking” work with which they really connected.

Having Private Communication with Parents and Families
Ms.Schoening discovered that for many Facebook was the most effective way to communicate with student’s parents was Facebook. Many parents found this a great way to communicate and enjoyed that they didn’t have to log on to something else to connect with the teacher , students or classroom. Sometimes it was the teacher communicating, but other times, it was the student who had an important message they wanted to share with a parent, like, “Mom. I just lost my tooth!”

Use Videos to Share Tips, Advice, and Lessons to Parents and Students
Ms. Schoening is excited to begin using video on Facebook to extend learning and connection beyond the classroom. How do you move your child from a beginning level reader to intermediate? How can you extend science learning at home? Ms. Schoening can make a video to share with parents and students that they can view together at home.

Another great idea is to give students the video camera and let them video tape during a field trip. Parents who couldn’t join the class, can still see what they did!

Connecting with Other Classes
When Ms. Schoening began this project, the word began spreading and other teachers wanted to follow suit. She helped other teachers in her district get going, and those classes became friends. As a result of this collaborations could now easily occur across schools and classes. They had windows into one another classrooms and also were able to communicate and connect EASILY on projects.

Why Facebook?
Facebook serves as a one stop shop that more than half the parents were using already. With a ready-made audience that included most of the student’s parents, they were able to get going today on something without support. For the rest of the parents, guess what? The students could help them get going, or...they could learn how to connect on Facebook on Parent/Teacher night.

Was this worth waking up bright and early? Heck ya.

Does this interest you? If so, here are some resources to get going in your class.

Watch the presentation below.

Facebook guidelines/permission slips (with different levels of involvement) that they created for their district.
Friend the class at Schoenings Class
Friend the teacher at Erin Schoening
Follow on Twitter at eschoening

For further reading
Jeff Utecht's post - Facebook.

Using Facebook with Students Becomes A Global Conversation via CNN

Explore Togetherville, a
Facebook-like site that brings social networking to kids in a safe environment.


  1. Although I agree that Facebook, especially as it's used in the Prezi presentation, is a powerful classroom tool, I find that too many parents are still afraid of the social nature and of Internet predators.

    No matter how much we teachers tell them we can carefully monitor social media and control the privacy features, they are still afraid.

    Hopefully, presentations like this and more teachers "jumping on board" will help expand the level of awarness.

    Great post, as always.

  2. Though I applaud the teacher for creative uses of an available online communication tool, I have to ask if she mentioned --

    Registration and Account Security
    You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.

    Do best practices cancel out Terms of Services??

  3. @Anonymous, being under 13 refers to the age of the person registering for the account. The person registering is an adult who logs on to the account while allowing an attributed student to share feedback.

    My belief is that Facebook would not have an issue with someone under 13 providing input under the account creator's supervision.

    That said, I don't think this can be proved either way without a response from Facebook.

  4. Anonymous, I believe this is an important issue, but I do believe that sometimes best practice does render some agreements irrelevant. There have been many rules, codes, even laws that have been altered, modified and even eliminated because "best practice" proved that change was necessary.

    As someone who is involved in this Facebook in the first grade project, I think it is really important that we continue to think about these types of issues, and to address them.

  5. I am a secondary school teacher in the UK and use Facebook as an educational tool. I have a "Mrs G" site set up purely for teaching use. I only add students in my exam year classes and then use my page to post links to exam revision, pose questions on topics for them to comment on and debate. I also answer questions on coursework and revision via the page. The students have found the resource invaluable. I can reach pretty much all of them 24/7 with reminders about homeworks etc. They have started to upload images of their coursework (I teach a visual/arts subject) and comment on each others using peer assessment.
    I have a zero tolerance policy and tell student that if they abuse the facility then I will instantly remove them as friends; in the 2 years of having the site I’ve never had to do this even once!
    I have found getting in touch with parents easy too, and find they too will comment on links etc.
    My current school however is so wary of all the scare stories about facebook, that they have just changed the ICT policy for staff to include that no staff can have pupils (current or past) as friends on any social networking sites.
    ICT is an invaluable tool in communicating effectively with our ever techno-proficient pupils but we must use it with confidence and supported by ICT policies that support the use of and don’t restrict it. Otherwise we will find ourselves as practitioners falling behind out student’s techno-needs!

  6. I'm very impressed! Congratulations!
    I'm a preschool teacher and you offered me such an idea!!!
    I'm thinking of using maybe be very attractive for parents and motivation for kids of 5-6 years old, according the proposed use.
    I'll try it!
    thank you!

  7. Fantastic idea! It's most unfortunate that almost every school district in our state blocks Facebook and most other social media sites. Oh to get them to block by content and not arbitrarily by type. What educational opportunities we are missing. Sigh!

  8. I have been using Facebook in my fourth grade classroom for almost a year now and have had nothing but wonderful feedback from parents and students. I actually set my classroom Facebook up as a way to move students away from my personal Facebook, because most fourth graders already have there own.

  9. @Devin Schoening, you are so on the money. I recall a quote from one of the keynotes at #BLC10 that was something along the lines that we make up rules that make sense at the time, but often are slow/resistent to change them when they no longer make sense. There are so many cases of this when it comes to education.

    With that in mind, I want to share here the exciting update Erin shared with me. She shared that she received a message from a woman who works for Facebook. They read my blog too apparently :-)))! They weren't calling her to tell her to stop using Facebook in her primary class. Instead they are excited about the project (whew!) and want to interview her for a blog piece they are doing next month about Facebook and education.

    I applaud you, Erin, your principal and your superintendent in being pioneering leaders in education. Bravo! We need more educators and parents like those in your community to help prepare our students for their worlds and connect with their families too!

  10. At Energy Works Michigan we have been conducting extensive research to try and find out how students and teachers are using social networks and how we can connect with them and provide a hub for "green" conversation throughout the state of Michigan. We have decided to conduct a mini grant program and would to run it entirely through Facebook. We took a look at the Facebook Guidelines and Permission slips and feel that it is a great document that we could use as a resource to give to teachers who are not very familiar with Facebook Pages and need to get permission from administration or parents of the students. Is this a document that is available for public use as long as the author is given credit?

  11. How great is this? This post was sited on the Association of American Educators website in their Four Ways to Make Facebook Work for Teachers post at

    Love that more and more educational organizations are embracing and empowering students rather than banning the tools kids use to communicate.

  12. Have you considered creating a class/school group with parents joining?

  13. @Randee Deich, yes I have. When I first started the page (fall 2009), group postings did not show up on news feeds. I want the information we put on the page to be so accessible to parents that they don't even have to look for it (because some won't). I'm not sure how groups have changed over the past year though. It might be worth looking into again.

  14. Am I missing something? Facebook's user agreement is pretty clear that users need to be over 13. So how do educators have students under 13 using it? (especially as educators, how can we support this since it is against user agreement)
    I like the idea of using facebook with high school students- of course only if teachers can keep personal and professional uses separate. My other concern is that with the privacy settings constantly changing a teacher would have to be super on top of the settings to make sure students and teachers are aware and have their privacy settings up to date. (which of course is a great teachable moment on digital footprints)
    I see the potential, just wonder how educators get past this. I would be more apt to recommend edmodo for my elementary teachers.

  15. Dodie-

    The account is in my name. I am the only one who has the password and I supervise all student use of the account. I'll be honest, at first I was concerned that the people at FB might not appreciate the way I got around the under 13 rule. However, over the summer I was contacted by someone from Facebook and they were not only excited about the project, but were interested in hearing feedback in how they might adapt FB to better meet the needs of educators (although their number one priority is still social networking).

    The reason I chose FB as opposed to Edmodo or Ning is that with 500 million users, my student's parents are already on FB. The things we did at school appear on their wall without them having to go to a separate location to look for it. In fact, one of the things that prompted the idea of using FB in this way was the lack of visitors that my class blog got in the years before we started using FB.

    Erin Schoening

  16. I'm giving it a try! I added a page on my facebook account. Thanks for all the great ideas!


  17. This sounds and looks like a great idea. I teach fourth grade and several of my students sent me personal friend requests, which I had to deny. Our school district sent representatives around this year and said it was not a good idea to have social networking one on one with students. This is a way to teach students the correct way to use the technology in a safe way. I hope to learn how to set up a class account this year. I need to work now on a presentation that will persuade my administration tha it is safe and an effective writing tool. Thanks for the information!

  18. I am amazed at how she used Facebook with such young students. It is great that the school and parents were on board with her. I like the idea that students can only respond once the teacher puts in the password. This helps eliminate improper use of the program. I believe children need to learn how to properly use the new technologies they are introduced to. When they are left to explore on their own with little or no adult guidance it can lead to misuse. I am hoping to be able to persuade my administration to allow me to set up a class page this year. We had representatives come into the school this year and warn us not to join students as friends on Facebook. However, if there is a class page that the teacher controls it can be a great source of information, instruction and communication between the parents and the teacher. Thank you for sharing this idea!

  19. Perhaps I don't know to use facebook very well but I find a very big problem: If I have several groups and I post something about one of them, the post will appear in the other groups too, won't it?

    Don't you think this is a problem?

  20. I have also used Facebook in my teaching in Malaysia. I use facebook as a support to my website. Previously, most websites provide a forum for discussion of subjects related, but less well-received. I replace the facebook page for the forum and discussion and reception and discussion is encouraged. I have been using Facebook as a teaching since 2009. The following is a link my facebook group ..

  21. This is a mind blowing method. I always thought schools were 100% opposed to social networking but this is quite interesting. I feel like this is a great way to get the student more active in the classroom and the parents more active in their child's school. I am a bit skeptical though due to the way facebook is being used in bad ways by people. I do fear that some will try to abuse it. but it is an amazing idea and if we can perfect it i think it will really help bring classrooms and learning into the 21st century

  22. I love this idea! One question for Erin... Did you set up a profile or did you create a page? (I hope that makes sense.) I was thinking of doing a page, but I fee like I don't have as much control as to who looks at it. If it was set up as a profile (with name being my class) then I could control use has access to the profile. Right?

  23. Edmodo is a site very similar to Facebook, but it is created for classroom use. You can friend both parents and students. Like Facebook, updates are sent as notifications on Smartphones, so is user-friendly. One of the best things I like is that Edmodo sends me emails to add website links (educational games) that are relevant to the content in my classroom.

  24. I love this idea and I really want to try it in the classroom. I was curious to see how the permission slip was worded in order to help guide mine but the link isn't working. Any chance you can help me find it?