Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Can't We Be Friends?

Is student-teacher "friending" on social networking sites appropriate?

Last week, it was reported on MSNBC that a school district in Florida has advised teachers not to "friend" students on social networking sites, claiming that teacher-student communication through this medium is "inappropriate." The guidelines for the 2010-2011 academic year also warned teachers to be careful when using communication to prevent legal or workplace issues that could surface.

Joseph Donzelli, director of communications and printing services at Lee County Public Schools, told the TechNewsDaily, "We’ve heard stories from across the country about people posting things on Facebook that have come back to haunt them. We aren’t the Internet police or Big Brother, we just want our teachers and students to make good decisions — and these guidelines will help them do so."  The guidelines are not mandatory by the Lee County School District, but rather suggestions for teachers to follow.

While I understand these very valid concerns, I believe discouraging teachers from establishing a strong online presence is the exact OPPOSITE to what we need to be doing for our students.  Facebook can be a powerful educational tool to not only communicate TO students, but also to receive feedback FROM students, gain student insight, and create dialogue on a variety of school-related/educational issues.  Adults need to maintain a strong online presence to model proper behavior, safe Internet practices, and monitor for unacceptable behavior.  My fear is that if tech-savvy teachers and parents shy away from FB (or simply do not "friend" kids), the online community of young people will have a much stronger chance of deteriorating to resemble William Golding's island from The Lord of the Flies.  Young people will be left to their own devices to govern themselves, knowing that adults aren't going to witness, and therefore abate, their sophomoric pranks and inappropriate behavior (e.g. MySpace).

In most of the cases I've read where teachers are admonished for inappropriate online actions or postings, it's usually the teacher's ignorance or ineptitude at fault.  Inappropriate comments that weren't intended for students, inappropriate pictures and language posted by the teacher, or teachers not understanding the privacy settings are all lamentable, albeit preventable, mistakes.  The key here is having teachers who understand and follow appropriate online security/privacy/ethical practices.  The bottom line: teachers shouldn't be discouraged from participating in social networking sites, but ENCOURAGED to learn how social networking works and exhibit appropriate online behavior to be models for our posterity.

Want more info?  There are some suggestions in this:
Teacher's Guide to Using Facebook

I'd like to hear your opinion on this subject. Please feel free to comment below.

No comments:

Post a Comment