Talking about Facebook

I started the day with a wonderful conversation with my MS administrator, talking about the possibility of getting a Facebook account to use as a teaching tool. The past policy has been that teachers may not connect with students on FB. I totally agree with this policy for my personal account. I have no desire for my students to know about my personal life, but as an educator who is committed to introducing my classes to the tools of the Web, I feel a responsibility to teach them how to protect themselves out there. My administrator understood. Three cheers for her! She said that in the past, it was forbidden, but that the world is changing, and we need to meet the needs of the students. I told her she would be my first, and perhaps last, friend on that account.

I set it up and went before the 8th grade. I pulled up my new homepage on Facebook on the SmartBoard. They immediately recognized the photo, as it is the one that I use on ning and edmodo, etc. with them. Then they realized that it was Facebook. I wish I could have taken a picture of their faces. The shock and awe! A definitely successful military strategy to get their attention. I explained my initial mission, which was to teach them how to change the various privacy settings on the FB pages. Only one of them even knew that they were there. I went through each one, describing why they would only want their friends to see their information. I talked about how they had a responsibility that in the past didn’t come to someone until they were an adult, but that with the internet, they were out in the adult world and needed to know how to take care of themselves and their information.

I asked them if they had ever seen a picture of themselves or someone else on FB that was embarrassing, told them not to raise their hands. They all smiled. Then I told them that even if that photo was taken down, it still exists at Facebook, that what goes up there is officially out of their hands and belongs to Facebook. They can protect it there, but they need to act. “Not  creature was stirring, not even a mouse!”

I ended by telling them that if they wanted to Friend me, they could. I am not expecting it, but it may provide a possible avenue for a child who is being bullied to protect herself. We hear about that going on a lot, and I am hoping to provide an escape.

I think that there may well be other ways to use the account for school, but right now, it is where I can show them ways to be responsible and engage with them where they love to be.

20 responses to “Talking about Facebook

  1. This is great! I teach high school and have taken the approach of not “friending” current students (I have a number of recent grads on my list). But I think what you are doing is very valuable to your students. I was a bit surprised that so few knew about the privacy settings.

    • Ann,
      I was equally as surprised. I had thought that some of them might take over the “instruction” of how to set Privacy Settings, but the one girl who knew was silent. The rest of the class just wanted to know how they worked. Very interesting! I think we make assumptions about what they know and can do online that doesn’t take into account the fact that they may be “natives,” but their interests are still those of 8th graders.

      Thanks for the comment!

  2. I have not shown my students specifically Facebook, but talk about on-line safety and etiquette often. I think it is important to hit all aspects as some students might choose a different on-line platform than Facebook but the general issues apply to all things.

    I like your approach and it sounds like it was effective. The other thing that I do is share real news stories about sexting, cyber-bullying, and people losing scholarships/ job opportunities because of on-line content they self-publish. Students are always interested in real stories.

    • Thanks! I like the idea of sharing real stories with them. I teach history, so we already do current events, but tying it in with them and their online presence is a good idea.

    • Thanks for the idea. I will keep my eye out for articles that are 8th grade appropriate. They know it is all going on, but to hear names and see faces goes a long way to make it more real.

  3. Congrats on the blog and on the post. I don’t know if it’s just because my teaching context is different from yours, but I’m not really that afraid of befriending students on social media websites. However, I do make sure I have a more private profile which I only share with friends and family. Just as they don’t know about FB privacy options, very few go through the trouble of trying to find out whether or not their teacher has another, secret profile.

    In order to try all we can to teach our students, we have to do all it takes to connect and bond with our students. Personalisation and bringing things to their reality and day to day life is paramount! Congratulations to your Admin as well, for letting you go through with your plan!

    I’ll be looking forward to your next posts!

    Henrick Oprea

    • I totally agree with you that the key to reaching the students is to build a connection with them, to make them feel “seen” in the classroom. When they know the smile and the greeting are genuine, it goes a long way to turning them from passive to active learners.

      Thanks for the comments!

  4. What a wonderful way of explaining the world to your students. Everything is so complex, so interconnected, and so often things are not what they seem (privacy settings that don’t protect one’s privacy, for example) that it is good to have a wise, experienced and gentle guide.

    I, too, teach middle school but, alas, not technology. I wish we could do a lesson like your lesson at our school, but Facebook is blocked and our tech teacher is not so interested in teaching much other than PowerPoint.

    Oh well.

    • I actually teach history and am an 8th grade advisor. After a Twitter conversation on Monday night, it seemed like a chance worth taking. I am fortunate in the school where I teach.

  5. Way to start blogging. Congratulations – the layout and more importantly, the contents are really good. I love how you went from our PLN talk to implementing it right away. Thanks for responding to my question on twitter! It’s not a lonely world, after all!
    I like your approach to creating a student-friendly account and leave it to the students to befriend you for whatever reason. You and I both work at a close-knit community where students do feel close to the teacher and trust each other. I value this as you do. It was very clear during last night’s thread that if you and I don’t share these pertinent information, our students are most likely left alone to fend for themselves.
    I will be sharing with my MS classes about FB first week we get back from break 🙂
    So here’s a hearty hug from me! Merry Christmas!

    • Thank you so much for commenting! This is an exciting and slightly unnerving experience. I had been thinking about starting this for awhile, but the last few days and the #edchat conversations helped to focus what I want to blog about.

      I can’t wait to hear about your experiences with your MS classes. I want to think about what is the next step, now that they know about the privacy issues. I may have them actually get laptops and go through the steps together, rather than just leave it with them listening to me.

      Merry Christmas! Enjoy your Winter Break!

  6. I think what you did was great and brave (I wouldn’t dare open a FB account! Too shy) -not to mention that you actually addressed issues that more often than not are absent from the curriculum. Yet, don’t we (I think) make it part of the curriculum and set time aside to warn younger kids over and over about the dangers of talking to strangers or accepting gifts from them, for example? I think it’s great that teachers are beginning to address issues like these openly.

    Bullying is also an issue I’m glad to see being addressed in earnest -I teach English as a Foreign language, and this year it was the first time I saw a unit partly devoted to bullying and another one to body-image.

    Looking forward to reading more about your experiences.

    • Communicating with people around the world, people I know only through Twitter, has opened my eyes to what the world of 2.0 collaboration can be. It is a bit scary, but the conversation and sharing that goes on makes up for the energy needed to overcome the fear. I have learned so much outside of the walls of my own room.

      I want to think more about bullying online. My students often seem to see it as just a part of life, but they would expect us to intervene on the playground. How we develop a presence in the part of cyber-space is an important question.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  7. Welcome to the wonderful world of blogging!!

    I encourage you to look up a few classrooms that are using FB in curricular ways as well. Although I’m not teaching currently (graduate school for administration), its something that I’m excited to implement when I’m back in the classroom. I think that students need to see social networking sites as places to CONNECT with friends but also places to LEARN (I’m assuming that you’re vision of Twitter, FB, Ning, etc has changed as a result of your work and the growth of your PLN).

    Here’s an example from an AP history classroom –
    It’s probably not the best, but the teacher does a good job explaining/showing what the implementation looked like in the classroom.

    Good luck – I look forward to following your work!!


  8. Hello and welcome to blogging.
    I tried to post a comment earlier with my iphone, but I guess it didn’t go through.
    so now I am here to look at your lovely blog.
    So you teach middle school? I am a library media specialist in a middle school.
    Don’t you just love those kids? They always make me laugh.
    Blogging is so much fun, and is a neat way to learn about each other’s work.
    How do you like wordpress? I find it a bit difficult…I used to blog with Blogger, but am now trying out WP.
    And I know your students freaked out with your FB.
    Keep us posted with the FB thing.

  9. Hello fellow newbie Blogger and Middle School teacher. I’m an Ontario teacher, teaching everything to my gr. 7/8 class (except French) and I have also just started my first blog. Similar to you, I use a lot of technology in my classroom since I have a Smartboard, class wiki and blog. We have been using GDocs where each student has an account under our board, and they use a # instead of a name. I don’t friend them as well, but lately they’ve started to follow me on Twitter. This has once again, opened discussions to safety.
    I hope you’ll check out my blog and class wiki. My students would be thrilled to see your dot show up on the Clustr Map. Also, if you’re interested, it would be great to have our classes meet (skype, mutual project on GDocs, wiki, etc.).
    My class wiki is My blog is

  10. You’re off to a fantastic start with your blog!

    I focus on the elementary level, so this wouldn’t be something for me, but I think it was a fabulous plan for eighth graders. Will you repeat this lesson with the younger grades, or just stay with eighth grade?

    • I will probably stick with 8th grade, because I am an 8th grade advisor, but depending on how it goes, I might talk to the other MS grades.

      Thanks for the encouragement!

  11. Pingback: The Edge of Education Carnival. Issue 3 | We Teach We Learn

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