How Professional Teachers Should Use Facebook At Schools
Many educators condemn Facebook for being a humongous distraction and waste of time for their students. However, if used properly, Facebook can be a great tool to enhance the learning environment at school and beyond. Here's how to properly use Facebook at school.
Facebook Is Here To Stay
First we need to accept that Facebook is here to stay, whether we like it or not. Some teachers and even whole schools choose to ignore its existence and avoid any connection between the education system and Facebook. Let's remind ourselves that the 21st century learner is encouraged to communicate and collaborate with others; so why not use the tools that are already here?
11 Tips To Help You Make Facebook Useful
- Facebook is free and is heavily used by everybody.
Some may have more than one account. If you need to reach out to students, colleagues, or parents, the message will be in their pocket within seconds, no matter where they are trying to hide.
- Availability: A 24/7 communication channel with your students, co-teachers, and parents.
Let's say a student has a problem with homework; he can contact you after school and even during weekends and holidays to discuss the problem. At first I didn't like the idea that students will bother me on my personal time. However, after giving it a try, it was very productive and not demanding at all. In most cases there are small questions that otherwise need to wait for the next day or Monday (if it's the weekend) till a simple answer could be given. A student contacted me once to tell me I gave the wrong homework. It was super easy to correct my mistake from the comfort of my living room (during commercials...).
Another example: It's Tuesday, you are on your way home to chill out and relax with your family. At the same time an important meeting is taking place at school. Due to a construction work in the school's area, your school will be closed tomorrow due to lack of access and electricity. Instead of calling all teachers and all students to inform them the news, try one simple post on Facebook; and BOOM! EVERYBODY gets the news within minutes (seconds, actually…).
- The need for speed.
Some classes may actually see you once a week. However, there might be an important message you would like to tell your students regarding a change in the exam next Wednesday. There is a good chance you won't be able to deliver the news to all relevant students. Maybe a student was absent that day and didn't get the message. Using Facebook solves this problem. Moreover, the speed in which ALL the students get the message in beyond belief.
- Improving language skills.
Teaching in an English program in Thailand: The students get a priceless opportunity to practice reading and writing in English. They can see the need to improve their English in order to explain themselves properly.
- Bring in the parents.
Often parents are left out of what's going on with their kids at school. By sharing school activities, competitions, and other social events, parents can get a good idea of the school's doings and may or may not get involved as well. It doesn't have to be personal nor intense communication; Most parents will just see the photos and be proud of their kid holding the trophy or know she is safe and having fun in the three days of English camp.
- Bond with your students.
Since Facebook shares people birthdays and events, you get the chance to send a small birthday message that makes a huge difference. It only takes a second, and yet the student feels that you care and can see you in a more “humanly” light…
I cannot emphasize enough on the importance of collaboration between people (that's what social life means to be, isn't it?) Here are a few examples:
- Students can collaborate with other students.
- Students can collaborate with teachers.
- Teachers can collaborate with other teachers.
- Teachers can collaborate with parents.
- Parents can collaborate with other parents.
- Even exchange students can stay in touch with their peers and teachers while spend a year abroad.
- Productive sharing.
Students can share their work on Facebook (such as videos for the science project, an essay for the English class, a PowerPoint presentation for social studies, and so on). The teacher can (and should) praise the students for their work or give constructive feedback for everybody to learn from. (Positive feedback is ALWAYS important here!)
Additionally, their peers can view their work, comment on it, and create a better version of it. (Some of my best moments as a teacher...)
- The teacher next door.
Teachers can get a glimpse of how their students are doing in other subjects and may identify a problem with a specific student. Many personal issues can be noticed via deterioration in students’ grades, and by using Facebook we can view personal pages what might indicate issues that need to be taken care of before escalate to real problems. If you pay a close attention to your students, you may prevent a cyber bullying scenario before it takes a nasty turn.
- Facebook Groups.
Make a proper use of the different types of Facebook groups:
- Private groups for each class: For messages within a specific class.
- Private groups for teachers to communicate with each other regarding issues the students need not to know about.
- Public groups for the whole program or school: Here you can show off students achievements, sports day, prom, and so on. I like to post students’ badges for everybody to see. The student who got the badge is rightfully praised by many other teachers and friends, while other students may try to improve themselves to get a badge to enter the hall of fame.
- Keep your private life private.
It is recommended to keep separate Facebook accounts so your students won’t get too deep into your personal life. After all, you should set an example. Seeing you drunk at a party won’t end up well the next day… Even though may seem as a hassle to run two separate accounts, you will regret it later if you don't. (Trust me, I know).
Personally I’m not a fan of Facebook (to say the least). However, since I've started to use it with my students (after I was reluctant to do so for a long time), it worked out pretty well. Everybody can benefit from collaboration via Facebook if done properly. The communication between colleague teachers and students has improved dramatically, and so have the achievements.
Since we are here, I think I'll drop in the The Do’s And Don’ts For Teachers On Social Media infographic:
Find more education infographics on eLearning Infographics
What is your opinion about using Facebook at school?