Social Networking: A Teacher’s Guide

A few years ago, one of my college buddies from back home told me to start a MySpace page, so I did. Before the weekend was over, three of my students had found it and linked me as their friend. Before the end of the year, I had over 90 friends– most under 16 years old. The same thing happened again when I joined Facebook.

Most teachers get an uneasy look when I tell them I am friends with the kids online. For some, it’s too close of contact– too informal. However, many kids who would be too afraid to ask for help in class prefer the medium of IM or Social Networking, and can reach out to ask for the help they need. It’s a reliable way to leave messages for students, and can often facilitate sharing important files and websites. Facebook’s status updates even help in getting a sense of the student’s emotional state without prying or searching through their thoughts.

I use Facebook via the Flock Browser (pictured below) which gives me a broad overview of what’s up with the students– all in my browser’s sidebar. When a kid changes his/her status update to “this Digital Design project is KILLING ME!”, I can shoot a quick email and see if I can help.

With that said, I have definitely had the experience where a student tells me to go look at their MySpace and it’s full of stuff I’d rather have not seen. Those moments can be teachable ones, where you can talk with students about how much of their lives they’re making public.

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