What follows is an account of how I amassed a coterie of past and present students as friends on my social networks. I share this in the attempt to find out where other teachers draw the line between their offline and online selves. Would you friend students on Facebook?
Way back in 2004, an old college friend persuaded me to join a little site called MySpace.com. Before the end of the week, six of my students had already found me and “friended” me. That number grew quickly from six to sixty and beyond. Some teachers acted as if I had crossed some invisible line of decency– others thought I was just plain crazy for allowing students to see my pictures and to message me after school hours as I worked on my computer late into the night.
My experience was overwhelmingly positive, and students who were too shy to ask questions in class were quick to use the relative anonymity of MySpace to ask for help. Because of the way MySpace was arranged, I learned quickly not to go on students’ home pages for fear of seeing their pot leaf wallpapers or pictures of weekend parties. Nonetheless, most kids used the site innocently and appreciated that I was willing to make myself available that way.
When Facebook came along, I liked it right away because it didn’t let kids plaster their pages with garish flashing .GIF images and emo music. It required you to use your real name, and it seemed to make it clear that “you’re not in your room. This information is public and so you need to be careful what you put here”. I quickly amassed student friends on it– quicker this time because unlike MySpace, I actually liked and spent time on Facebook.
What has your experience been like?
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