Schools weigh risk, benefit of Facebook
Fears over bullying and improper teacher contact with students are prompting many schools to limit social media sites like Facebook, which critics argue may not be a wise educational move.
(Page 3 of 3)
Teachers like Collins worry that many districts will still create far too draconian bans, and that school boards and administrators will be more concerned with protecting the district than with how the bans might limit educational opportunities.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
New Milford does block access to Facebook and Formspring (another social networking site that has been used in a number of cyberbullying incidents) on school computers, although teachers can have Facebook access opened up for a designed lesson. But the school allows all other sites, including ones such as Skype that are often blocked by schools.
"We'd rather prepare our students for how society is structured, as opposed to [using] an education system that's geared for the 20th century," explains Mr. Sheninger.
Stories abound of creative social media uses in America's classrooms.
Don Knezek, CEO of the International Society for Technology in Education, recalls an English teacher explaining how she got better participation when she expanded classroom discussions of literature to the online realm. Shy students, or those who wanted more time to formulate their thoughts, began to "speak" up.
And when Stites, technology director at Montclair Kimberley Academy, takes students on an annual trip to Ireland, part of the curriculum involves building a blog that includes written content, photos, and videos, and then promoting that blog via Twitter. The posts often elicit comments from around the globe.
"We use social media to provide a feedback loop we'd never be able to do if we were constrained to the four walls of the classroom," says Stites.
SOUND OFF on Facebook: What do you think about these uses of social media by teachers?
Still, even Stites believes certain constraints make sense. The social media policy he developed for his school includes a ban on teachers friending students on Facebook or similar sites and discourages them from friending parents as well. It is partly a question of equity – not all students or parents have Facebook accounts – and partly a question of discretion.
He also thinks setting up a Facebook classroom page like Collins's is great – but would want the teacher to make sure all the students are already on Facebook before doing so.
"I don't want to make light of the issues that have come up, because they're real issues," he says. "But we need to make these moments teachable moments. These are lessons our students are going to have to learn, and if not [from] us, then who?"