Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Innovative Educator in the New York Times - Friending Students on Facebook

When speaking with educators we’ve discussed at length in person and through digital media the appropriateness of Friending Students on Facebook . Lately, I’ve moved more toward the perspective of principals like Chris Lehmann and Eric Sheniger who believe connecting with students in mediums commonly used to communicate is powerful and adult presence in the worlds of students (online or off) is crucial.
I’ve established a bit of a digital footprint in this area, so, when New York Times reporter Susan Feinstein was assigned a story about Friending Students on Facebook it wasn’t a surprise she came across my blog and discussions on the topic.
The result was today’s story: On Facebook, Telling Teachers How Much They Meant.
From the story...

At a time when public school teachers are being blamed for everything from poor test scores to budget crises, Facebook is one place where they are receiving adulation, albeit delayed.

The site has drawn more attention as a platform for adolescent meanness and bullying, and as a vehicle for high school and college students to ruthlessly dissect their teachers. But people who are 20, 30 or 40 years beyond graduation are using Facebook to re-establish relationships with teachers and express gratitude and overdue respect.

You can read my input about my reconnecting with a special former student on page two of the story.


  1. Congratulations on thinking with a level head! You may be interested in my post on this topic (Australia - but the issues faced are similar i imagine).

  2. This is the direction that we may be heading in the future, but at this time, I don't think it is the reality of many teachers. At my district the "guidance" is to not "friend/follow" students with your personal accounts. The laws of liability and such stuff.

    At this point and time it is still about control for many schools and their administrators. They are afraid that sooner or later a teacher is going to do something inappropriate with a student through Social Media and then be held liable for that behavior.

    I personally do not want students in my "Facebook" account, and yes it is very boring. That is not the point, I prefer a bit of separation between work/home - I guess I am a bit old fashioned n that respect.

    If my school eventually allows teachers to include students friending in their guidance, I would quickly open up a second Facebook account and friend students, but until that happens I will go by my friend/follow policy on my blog that I feel very comfortable with under the present circumstances.

    Yes it is too conservative for many many out here in the blogosphere or twitterverse, but it is much less conservative in this rendition than earlier ones were. As we become more comfortable with Social Media, I believe that we all will loosen up a lot, but like any new technology it somethings takes time to build this comfort level


  3. Facebook has done the same for me. Several former students have been in touch with me and expressed the positive influence I have had on their educational career path. It really is wonderful to know that they are doing well and wonderful to hear the appreciation.

  4. Just came across a post from this teacher who agrees that friending students on facebook can work out quite well

  5. I would recommend creating a 'fan' page for your class(es). You would still have your private facebook account and wouldn't have to 'friend' anyone to interact with students, parents, or community members.

  6. @Taneshia, I think that is good advice, but I see a fan page as serving a different purpose than a personal page. I have a fan page for a specific purpose, i.e. for people to talk about using cells in education, but a personal to share general ideas.

    Today, my students are adults (educators, administrators, former students), but even if they were not, I think it's important to model responsible behavior and Facebook provides one more way to do that.

  7. While I agree that modeling appropriate behaviors on social sites like Facebook helps students wend their way through the e-verse, requiring students to use a commercial site with a checkered history smacks up against loco parentis.

    Here are five reasons I think using Facebook as a class tool is a mistake: