Sunday, June 5, 2011

Using Facebook in Education

Do we want schools where leaders ban and block or empower and prepare?  While banning and blocking certainly is more convenient and makes the jobs of adults easier, is this really best for kids?  When we complain about students using social media or technology irresponsibly can we really blame them if they've never been taught how to responsibly use these tools for learning? 

This presentation features school leaders who ban & block (Anthony Orsini) as well as those who empower and prepare (Chris Lehmann and Eric Shenninger).  It also provides examples of a teacher (Erin Schoening) and students from The Science Leadership Academy who have had success using social media in education.  

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 Here is the presentation.  Check it out.  Share it.  Let me know what you think.


  1. The extreme view of totally banning social media in education is short-sighted and intellectually lazy. It allows administrators, teachers, and parents "off the hook" because it's easier to say No and push the subject away than to revise materials, methods, and policies to integrate modern communication. It's too much work (or they feel too insecure) to plan and implement a curriculum that models, teaches, and guides the practice of responsible network interactions and privacy/safety habits, along with covering core academic content.

    I would guess that most of those who panic and jump quickly to ban the media do not use it themselves, do not understand current privacy features, and have never considered or explored the benefits of sites such as Facebook.

    Embracing social media in education actually extends the class content into students' personal world. Students pay attention to content delivered in “their territory" because it is less formal and less intimidating -- it's also two-way and interactive; they're not just lumps sitting in desks being lectured to.

    Facebook allows authentic, relevant communication that helps form connections and a sense of community. A teacher can create a private group for a class in which students' interactions are monitored. Parents can join the group, as well.
    Imagine teachers being available for conversations about class content with students outside of school hours, with almost immediate response time. Imagine teachers modeling responsible use of the medium, and providing links to websites and videos that offer online safety tips, as well as links to broaden the topics covered in class. Imagine teachers getting to know their students on a more individual level (learning students' interests/hobbies, etc.) Imagine students getting more involved with the class because Facebook is one of their personal "hangouts" and it seems easy and natural to meet others there. Imagine students feeling valued because the teacher shows interest in them as people and not just as students. Imagine parents being able to keep up with class topics, assignment deadlines, activities, and their child's responses. Imagine parents being able to interact with teachers quickly through private chat or messages about their child's class performance or family issues ... and this is only the beginning.

    A warning, however: I believe teachers need to maintain a separate account with a different username for classroom pages and should "friend" students and parents only through this second account. Teachers' personal activities on Facebook should not mix with educational activities. Teachers need to be accountable: I would even go so far as to suggested that administrators should have access to the private classroom groups to monitor teacher’s interactions with students. (Of course, administrators have NO right to be involved with a teacher's personal Facebook activities!)

    Additionally, teachers should go through extensive training and programs that not only instruct and model best practices in using social media, but more importantly, help them establish a balance between their professional role and their "friendship" role with students. Boundaries need to be clearly understood by all involved. Without awareness of the dangers of blurred boundaries, teachers may become too personally engaged with their students and give the wrong impression of intimacy or -- worse -- actually carry student-teacher relationships to inappropriate levels. (This is one of the primary fears that many naysayers have about classroom use of Facebook.)

    Thanks for sharing this. The prezi and video are wonderful! You've provided a provocative post I intend to share with other educators and administrators.

    I have just one criticism. (Sorry; I’m a grammar nag): "penalize" is misspelled as "penilize" in the prezi.

    Thanks for listening!

  2. Are you promoting the product "Facebook" or the concept of "social media" in education?
    Let's move to the next chapter of the discussion. What are all the social media products created by K12 companies who understand the issues of student safety, want to work with children under the age of 13, and allow a school or teacher to determine how much is public and how much is private? Some of these are robust, enterprise-grade platforms that allow for batch upload from a student information service, allow formation of groups from a teacher's classes, and more that are very real administrative issues and concerns when a district wants to use social media. (I am a former ed tech director of the fourth largest district in the US, and these administrative issues are important too.)

    When the International Baccalaureate wanted to leverage social media with its students, they rejected Facebook -- it doesn't have the robustness for academic use, doesn't allow students under age 13, and more. They did an RFP and chose from 10 responses the one that best met their needs and issues across 140 countries, ages 5-19, and in multiple languages. They wanted to build an online learning community of IB teachers, students and alumni and were conscious of issues of unknown adults interacting with students.
    Here's a three-minute video of what they ended up with: You need to be an IB educator to get full access to the site: They licensed the platform ePals LearningSpace.

    It's time to move past the "why/why not use Facebook in K12 schools" discussion and get to the core of the pedagogical issue:
    How can robust, safe, enterprise-grade social media be used in schools? What changes will these allow in the classroom? What cost savings might be effected by a district moving print documents into a social learning platform, cutting down on paper and duplicating costs? If administrative costs are decreased, these funds could be used for more staff, upgraded technology, field trips, more books or ebooks.
    Facebook and other general market social media tools are great to harness to make parents and the local community aware of events and to discuss local issues. But so much of the exciting activity in social learning networks is being ignored if the discussion is only whether to use or block Facebook.
    It's time we move on to serious discussions about how social digital engagement can change pedagogy and not be hung up on one product. A lot of former teachers are working hard to create great K12-focused products from multiple companies. Let's broaden the discussion to include them.
    - Rita Oates, PhD
    formerly Miami-Dade County Public Schools
    formerly chair of educational computing and technology graduate program, Barry University

  3. Good presentation. Very creative. I got lots of ideas from it.

  4. Thanks for the presentation. I always like learning new ideas from others. I also appreciate hear from the other side of the "We must protect our kids from internet" debate.

  5. Trying to prepare students for their future without interactive Web 2.0 technologies in school would be like trying to teach a child to swim without a swimming pool.

    However, it is exceptionally important for schools to carefully consider what technologies they will embrace. I strongly encourage people to review the materials posted by Rita, as they demonstrate the kinds of robust interactive instructional environments that can truly support effective education.

    The reasons Facebook should not be used for classroom instructional interactions are:

    1. Facebook does not respect personal privacy. Educators have a legal obligation to protect student privacy. Keep FERPA in mind.
    2. Facebook is focused on profiling and marketing and to the best degree possible, we should keep these activities out of the educational environment.
    3. Facebook is only appropriate for high school age students. Schools need to establish a Web 2.0 environment that will support all student learning, as well as a vibrant environment for staff.
    4. Facebook is used by students and staff for socializing and therefore it would be more difficult to focus student attention on instructional activities.
    5. There are no easy mechanisms within Facebook to ensure effective oversight of instructional activities by administrators.
    6. Facebook does not have the tools to effectively support the kind of high quality instruction necessary in an educational web 2.0 environment - such as wikis and blogs.
    7. There would be a conflict over what policies govern activities - school policies or Facebook's policies.

    With the exception of a lack of respect for privacy, the same things can be said about use of Google +, MySpace, BeBo for instructional activities.

    If schools or extra curricular organizations want to use Facebook for outreach, fine. If teachers need to have students do research looking at material on Facebook, fine. And they need to be able to easily allow access for this.

    Schools should be encouraged to adopt the use of web 2.0 instructional environments that are designed to support instructional activities - not Facebook.

  6. this is great; it opens the conversation up to social media beyond fb, and the web/tech beyond social media....i have quesiton, though - how did the teachers/schools handle pictures and videos of kids on the web? in my district, admins would have a CIPA heart attack if they saw this and we'd be trying to revive them, snap them out of a thousand-yard stare as they just repeat, "waivers...waivers...what about the waivers?....waivers..."

  7. I read the original article "8 Real Ways Facebook Enriched Ms. Schoening’s First Grade Class" and was amazed at what she was doing with her class! Too often such access is denied and teachers are not able to instruct students in the proper way to use such technology. Parents often buy their child cell phones and computers with little or no guidance as to the proper way to use them. They are not taught what is acceptable and what is not. I believe if teachers had access to these websites, they could instruct students in the proper way to communicate with these technologies. In looking at how Ms. Schoening used this in her classroom, she was able to keep her parents abreast of what was going on in the classroom. She posted videos and students' work for parents to see what they were doing. Students also posted comments on classwork. I really liked the idea that students could only post comments once she had entered her personal password; this prevents them from posting unsupervised comments. Parents were also kept abreast of events, cancellations, and delays for school. When students were absent parents could check on missed assignments. Yes, all of this could be placed on a class web page, but many parents have Facebook on their cell phones. Accessing web pages can take time and are not always accessible through cell phones. I believe if teachers were allowed to use these new technologies within the classroom, they could instruct students in the correct way to use them and we would see less on line bullying. Blaming the programs for bullying is like blaming the pencil for misspelled words; it does not work that way. Everyone has to learn the correct way to use any new device. The classroom is the perfect place for this to happen!