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Facebook and the Connected Educator

Being a connected educator not only means being connected to other educators, but also connected to the families and communities we serve as well. Facebook is a way to accomplish both things. Let’s take each one separately.

First, Facebook is a tremendous way to help build your PLN and get quick information from many sources on nearly any topic. Perhaps an example from my own recent experience will help shed some light on just how powerful a tool Facebook can be. I recently began doctoral studies and have had to re-hone my APA writing style skills. In the time since I last wrote in APA style the 6th edition of the “rules” was released in which it originally called for two spaces after a period. I purchased an editing program that helps format papers in APA style automagically and it had a pop-up reminding everyone who used it that APA now required two spaces. Who was I to argue? I did take to Facebook to bemoan that dreaded extra space which is when a college professor friend of mine who has written extensively for APA-formatted journals recently chimed in and let me know that they had revised the 6th edition and now were only calling for one space. The moral? In a matter of minutes I had the answer to a question about APA formatting from someone with great experience writing in this style, all thanks to a comment I posted on Facebook.

Oftentimes Facebook gets a bad reputation because too many people use it to post useless garbage and personal complaints against the world. However, Facebook can be a very positive tool for personal learning – think of all the connections you could make to colleagues and former professors who would be there to answer questions for you, sometimes even instantly! Powerful. It is all in how you use it. If you use it as a learning tool, it will serve you as a learning tool. Here are a few sites with some more information on using Facebook as a learning tool:

  • Edudemic – Every Teacher’s Must-Have Guide To Facebook – (Website is no longer available)

As you can see from the bottom link that Facebook can also be used effectively to communicate with your classroom community as well as your PLN. By creating a group for your classroom you can share all sorts of information with parents in a way that they are already connected to and receiving in. Again, an example from my professional experience might best elucidate the power of connecting your classroom to Facebook. I have had the honor of being shown a most terrific classroom Facebook site for an elementary school teacher. This teacher has posted short videos of what the kids do during the day, plus videos of herself explaining what the differing tests the kids are working on are like (within the restrictive boundaries of the test security) and even a video explaining the school supply list and what each item looks like and would be used for. She had parents and grandparents from all over the world commenting on her posts and thus has opened her classroom up to the world community of each child in her classroom. Now the grandmother in France can see what her grandchild is doing in class, and parents receive updates from the teacher immediately. The teacher relayed to me that it usually only takes moments before comments and “likes” begin appearing on her page. Parents, especially, she reports, fathers, are connected to her classroom like they never have been before, and this experience is nothing short of transformational. Now when she needs supplies she just posts it to Facebook and has what she needs the next day. And her parents appreciate the efforts she has gone to in order to open her classroom up to the them and invite them in as much as possible, even when they cannot be physically present. She has connected them to her classroom.

Of course there are all sorts of cautions that come with sharing information in a public forum like Facebook. From seeking parent/guardian permission to being careful about how you share student pictures, you must make sure you do your research and that you have a plan for what you are going to do. Then making sure your administrator is on board is always a good thing. If you have a clear plan for how you are going to implement your site, and keep your kids protected, you need only reference the connective benefits of such an enterprise. Read the articles linked above, continue some research on your own, use common sense, and connect!

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Timothy Wilhelmus October 9, 2013 at 1:49 pm

Love the post! I have seen so many great examples of Facebook in the classroom/school environment. I think what I like best about Facebook is the ability to construct a community in which sharing information becomes a conversation where all stakeholders have a voice. Social media of this type can create a space for schools/groups/classrooms to interact with parents/community/world. Building those relationships can have a profound effect on our ability to help kids learn.

Bill Gumula October 9, 2013 at 9:21 am

John – You raise some great points about the benefits of using Facebook versus Twitter. The ability to have real conversation is a definite plus. Added to that fact that posting to Facebook brings the “real world” into the classroom and makes projects real for students is a definite plus. Anytime we can make work meaningful and real for our students we should walk through that door. Posting to Facebook is very real for kids, and if they are going to post work there they will want it to be a true reflection of what they can do. Thanks for sharing some terrific insights! -Bill

John Wells October 9, 2013 at 7:36 am

But more importantly, Facebook offers me a space to showcase students’ work. I can create a gallery of pictures of what my students have done. People can see real evidence of what is going on in my room. And it can be shared with others, extending it to family, friends and the larger community. Also, it is easier to see the discussion about the work. All the comments are right there, easily grouped together and easily navigated. The discussion between people is enhanced because it is more visual.

This makes the learning real for the students. I have long worried that many assignments are just thrown together just to get a grade without much thought as to why it is being done or how it might be received by others. They just think that one teacher is going to give it one grade. By making it real in a forum where others can see and comment, offer suggestions and share with others, that work takes on a greater importance and reality.

John Wells October 9, 2013 at 7:36 am

For a long time, I was a heavy Facebook user; lately, I have made the transition to Twitter. I have found that Twitter has been my go-to place for my professional life and that Facebook had become the home for my personal and family life.

Even though I am on Twitter more, I still see a real value in Facebook for the classroom. My students are making that transition to Twitter and are not on Facebook as much, but they are still there in big numbers and they use it. So if I go there, I know they are going to be seeing me. Facebook, besides exposure, also offers me a space to work, where I can communicate with my students in longer posts. I can offer explanation and depth that I can not get in 140 characters.


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