We live in the digital age. Routine reminders of almost anything come now in the form of texts, tweets and emails. Your bank might send you an alert when your account is running low, and your airline emails to let you know your travel plans have been confirmed. You can set a reminder to get your car’s oil changed and to have your regular checkups, so it only makes sense that educators should be able to use Facebook professionally too.
Facebook gives everyone the power to make the world more open. It is the world’s largest social network and one of the fastest-growing businesses. People use Facebook to connect with old friends, share news about their lives and in business, to maximize their brand’s social reach. Facebook’s capabilities are directly applicable to education professions as well. With nearly all high school and college aged students and 900 million others signing up, teachers and administrators can take advantage of Facebook and emulate how to use it positively as a communications tool.
Education professionals have the power to positively impact their classrooms, schools and communities via Facebook. Having an online presence allows teachers to promote school initiatives, to develop learning communities, to serve as digital role models and to extend the walls of the traditional classroom in a format both familiar and attractive to students.
Teachers are role models for their students. In the age of cyberspace, it is more important than ever that educators be present on social media so that their guiding influence may continue virtually too. While we were taught early on how to behave appropriately in society it is important that teachers facilitate learning good digital citizenship too. Teaching students how to properly use social networking sites should also be included in their character education. As more schools shift to tech-centric curricula and resources, all teachers should be encouraged to use Facebook in their classrooms.
Teachers are coworkers and mediators too. As the world shifts and more parents sign up for Facebook accounts, phone and email methods have become antiquated forms of communication. Educators can promote activities and conference with parents and colleagues more efficiently with social media. An educator can notify hundreds of students, parents, and colleagues of changes—in let’s say a football practice or the location of a Christmas party—instantaneously using the social networking site.
Mark Zuckerberg created Facebook to make the world more open and connected. While this may seem frightening to some wanting to stay private, the positive effects of global digital connections are just as great. One tech-centric school in Massachusetts encourages the use of Facebook as a tool to expand learning. An English class at Beaver Country Day School once posted a video to Facebook, inviting author Mary Karr to the school to speak about her new book. Karr saw the video and then made a last-minute change to her Boston book tour schedule to go on campus and meet the innovative English class. Being open to social media allows educators to build professional relationships with organizations, schools, other educators and any other positive entities around the globe to broaden their audiences and increase teaching resources.
Exposure to resources
While expanding the reach of the classroom is a possibility, educators can also use Facebook to expand the reaches of their professional brand. The English class in Massachusetts shows that Facebook can reward the educator who creates the coolest content. Facebook fans the flame of gluttonous content consumption and having a presence online can be a benefit to educators striving to do more than the norm. For example, the District of Columbia Public School Facebook page brims with content. In a recent post there is a photo of students preparing to take the SATs. DCPS engaged sixty-seven “fans” through another video post of their parent-teacher ambassador initiative and several parents left comments on the video, expressing appreciation for the school system’s brand.
Administrators will likely agree that while schools are committed to the development of students, schools need to run like a business too. Education systems would do well by following the model of the DCPS Facebook page. Promotion through Facebook shows the public that DCPS wants to be open about what they do; using a social networking site shows they want to be visible in the daily lives of their students and families. The transparency of Facebook lends itself to positive results: maximize your school system’s reach by engaging parents and students, turning those parents into ‘fans,’ and by always minding your content.
Appropriate use is not a threat to productivity
Some local schools prohibit teachers’ use of Facebook on their school computers, citing a decrease in productivity during school hours or potentially sharing inappropriate content with students. According to an online article, more than half of employers now block Twitter, Facebook, and Myspace. Harassment of students, quality of work and idly surfing are certainly negative possibilities. It is true that employers are still trying to define a practical policy for social media use in the classroom, but one can’t deny that there are positive effects to social networking. In a contemporary light, completely banning the network is restrictive and bordering on censure. Instead, the logical suggestion would be to encourage and enforce appropriate use.
Understanding the atmosphere of cyberspace is just as necessary as understanding the atmosphere of the real world. Your actions in society can have positive and negative consequences and online posts can potentially reflect poorly to your school or a potential employer. Educators should therefore always be mindful when exploring the benefits of all educational resources. While Facebook does focus more on the individual and some users are too liberal in their personal online expressions, educators should be expected to exercise good judgment with access to their public content virtually just as they would exercise it in the physical classroom.
Bree McEwan, assistant professor of communications at Western Illinois University believes it is important to manage boundaries in the web classroom: “Review carefully your privacy settings and let students come to you. You don’t want to want them to feel awkward about making decisions regarding accepting or denying your requests.” There is a wealth of information available on Facebook but by committing to appropriate use and exercising good judgment, educators can model appropriate use of social media to have a positive impact on their career.
Using Facebook Pages
In The Teacher’s Guide to Facebook, the author writes “a simple and popular workaround for awkward or potentially unprofessional interactions is to use Facebook pages, groups or separate accounts in the classroom.” Facebook pages help businesses, organizations and brands to share their stories and connect with people. Educators can use a Facebook page to make announcements for the students to like, share, and forward using the popular communication system. As in the case of DCPS, school administrators can use Facebook pages to expand the reach of their school communities, communicate and share with parents (the consumers) and highlight the work of their unique educators (producers).
So in short, education professionals can use Facebook to return a wealth of information and endless pages of resources that can help them enhance their instructional experiences and their careers. Trinity Washington University’s Office of Continuing Education has a Facebook page and we encourage you to like us there. For more information about our professional development for educators, become a fan of our Facebook page and visit our Trinity webpage. Our short-term, intensive, and graduate-level courses are open for enrollment to meet your certification needs. To accommodate a more flexible environment and to extend the reach of our own classrooms, we offer online courses in multiple subject areas. We look forward to seeing you in class this semester—virtually or physically.