Will it ever be time for Facebook?

Will it ever be time for Facebook?

Summary: Businesses figured out years ago that they need to take their products to where their customers spent their time online. It's time schools figured out the same thing for our customers: our students and their parents.


Most K-12 administrators hate Facebook as much as YouTube and even more than Wikipedia. I've said it before and it remains completely true: If our students spent as much time studying as they do trying to get around Facebook content filters, we'd be cranking out Rhodes Scholars left and right. It isn't just students, though. Teachers increasingly find themselves on Facebook, whether they're fresh college grads who grew up with the service or the countless older teachers who, like their non-teacher peers, have all jumped on the Facebook train.

This isn't a new question. Facebook was designed for and by college students. It remains a medium that only colleges and universities are willing to embrace at any scale. Facebook, after all, is where child predators hang out, and college students (or those headed to college soon) clearly have no need to worry about predators.

Once I dislodge my tongue from my cheek, let's take a minute and really think about whether Facebook might actually add any value in K12 education and, for that matter, if it actually adds value in higher ed, where at least it's largely accepted. How are people in your schools even asking to use Facebook? I don't expect to convince everyone here and I know that I'm actually in the minority among educators, but I would argue that Facebook has value on many levels for K12 educators.

Businesses talk about communications channels a lot: B2B (Business to Business), B2C (Business to Consumer), and, more recently, C2C (Consumer to Consumer). If a floral supplier, for example, wants to sell roses to a florist, they might have a website, emails with specials on rose varieties, and directly mailed catalogs, all of which make up B2B communications. Amazon's ratings and reviews? C2C.

So who are our consumers? In education, who are the businesses? And what media can we use via the right communications channels to get them connected? While it depends on the scenario, in most cases, our consumers are students and their parents. The businesses are the schools themselves and the teachers.

How long would Amazon stay in business if they went to a retail mail-order catalog model of doing business? Straight B2C communications, nothing more, nothing less. The answer is obvious: not very long. Similar questions could be applied pretty easily to schools. Why do we force our consumers to meet us on our terms, via our chosen communications channels (usually notes home in backpacks and Parent's Night, to which only the parents of our brightest students ever show up)? Businesses are meeting their potential customers on whatever channel makes their customers happy, whether that's a Facebook page, a web site, emailed updates, text messages, or all of the above. Should parents and students actually expect any less of the schools for which their tax and/or tuition dollars pay?

Where are students at night? Right, on Facebook. Most likely, their parents at least check in once or twice as well. So wouldn't it make sense that school announcements, homework assignments, or report card notices should be on Facebook, too?

Next: The most surreal conversation ever between a teacher and student »

Maybe I'm way off base here, but most teachers will back me up on one point: once students walk out the door in the afternoon, it's very difficult to get them information, make sure they're doing homework, make sure they get help if they need it, and, maybe even more importantly, make sure that their parents or guardians are tuned in and helping to the best of their abilities. There aren't many students who wouldn't feel just a little bit taken aback by this conversation:

Teacher: So where's your homework assignment? Student: I didn't do it. Teacher: Why not? Student: I forgot it. And I didn't have the notes. Teacher: Really? It was on the class Facebook page. And I posted the PowerPoint from class with the notes. 5 of your classmates posted questions on the class page, too, and I explained the answers. I saw you were logged in, so I shared a link to the page on your Wall in case you didn't have it. Student: Uhhhhhh...

Maybe it's creepy that the teacher knew the student was logged in. Maybe the posts between the teacher and students won't be archived somewhere and therefore represent a liability. Maybe students might say something untoward to one another or maybe the principal won't be able to keep an eye on every class Facebook page.

But HP, among many other organizations, has done a fair amount of research to suggest that meeting students (especially those at risk) on their own communications channels improves outcomes. It doesn't work if they have to log into another walled garden somewhere (at least it doesn't work in the same way), but the ubiquity of Facebook means that we're often more likely to find students there than we are in class.

I would hope that, if given the choice between reaching students who would otherwise fall through the cracks (to say nothing of the high achievers who thrive on extra learning time and teacher engagement) and taking on some extra liability and responsibility, most teachers would put up a class Facebook page and make it a destination for their students. I think they would and I think students would, by and large, use the resource very effectively.

This says nothing, actually, of the potential for teacher to teacher (T2T?) and parent to parent communication that some smart use of Facebook could enable. There's entire global professional learning communities for teachers on Facebook. Why not share and connect just like big boys and girls get to in businesses with a global backdrop every day?

Sure, it means that teachers damned well better not be posting their best-college-bong-hit videos (because their students know that it isn't salvia) and teachers, students, and parents all need to buy in to a reasonable social contract. Fine. I'd like to believe we all have it in us to raise the bar in that way. Wouldn't you?

Topic: Social Enterprise

Christopher Dawson

About Christopher Dawson

Chris Dawson is a freelance writer, consultant, and policy advocate with 20 years of experience in education, technology, and the intersection of the two.

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  • Facebook in K12

    At this time Facebook has grown into a place that is known for privacy violations, malicious content, and inappropriate content. While I can appreciate the value of "social networking" in a school environment I do not think Facebook is an appropriate medium for minors in the school environment. Like you said above about if students spent a fraction of the time they try to get to facebook and other sites that do not pertain to their schoolwork they would be much better students. Maybe some can balance that and respect that but working in a high school district I find that is not the case of the majority. Same goes for Teachers and Staff.

    Maybe if Facebook had an education based sister site that could pull in and link your facebook content and allow you to do many of the Social Networking aspects of Facebook but weed out all the inappropriate ads, games, applications and fan sites then maybe. Other than that Facebook has little place in education with it's current set up. There are too many risks that outweigh the benefits at this point.
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    Our K-8 rural school has a Facebook page -- two actually, one for school news and one for athletics -- and I think we were one of the first schools in our state to embrace FB as another way to reach parents and students. We created our page two full years ago, back in the "dark ages" of FB. It is a great way to reach our audience where they already are! We've had a few small problems with inappropriate comments, but overall, it's been a positive experience. To keep content fresh, we have about 5-6 Administrators and office staff who are authorized to post to the page. By setting up a "Page", we DO NOT require people to "friend" us to receive our news (that would be a violation of their privacy).

    At school, we allow FB access for staff through the content filter, but not for students. Staff can access it from their personal smartphones anyway - it's really not about the time they choose to spend on the page. Since we are K-8, the fact is that most of our students are under 13 and not on FB legally (a whole 'nother discussion).

    I'm a Technology Director and I find FB to be immensely valuable in my professional and personal life. It's a great way to connect with my professional peers and share tips. The subscriptions to pages such as your blog, ASCD, ISTE, tech blogs, etc. are constantly feeding me great technical and educational information. I also get to know my peers on a personal level, more so than I would in face-to-face meetings with them twice a year. On a personal level, I find the information from various Pages very useful ... from local foods to local businesses to adopting a rescue horse over the internet ... I get a lot of great information from Facebook!
    • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?


      Our school too uses FB for information for our Media Centers, Athletics, Fundraiser and other type events. So we use it as a medium for information but at this point not something we allow for Students or Staff on our computer systems. Like you said staff can get it on their phones. What we have done is provided two kiosks in each of our high schools right by the library desk that can be used for Facebook access where a teacher or staff can see who is there and monitor them. The students sign in to use the kiosks too and are only allowed a certain amount of time and need to justify their need to use Facebook during school. Needless to say the use of those are minimal (or so I am told).

      There is a lot of great information from Facebook but unfortunately there are also many risks and the risks outweigh the benefits at this point so we have to be careful and place limits on it.
    • Facebook Groups

      @K12TechDir Good idea regarding setting up a Facebook page. I'll be using Facebook Groups with my college class next week for a group discussion. I get the functionality of Facebook discussions without having to be "friends" with any of my students.
    • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

      @K12TechDir wrote:<br><br>"By setting up a "Page", we DO NOT require people to "friend" us to receive our news (that would be a violation of their privacy)."<br><br> But don't users still have to click the "Like" button, which reveals that they "follow" your page on their own profile page?
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    To all Ed-Tech IT professionals; from a private school...<br><br>I remember a time when new "email" technologies had been banished by Ed-Tech (out of irrational fear) because it was deemed capable of causing the immediate demise of any child who happened to touch it, regardless of any real world circumstance. All web based and regular email activity was strictly allocated, and only allowed by the judicious oversight of the local IT Gate Keepers. Some schools are still banning access to outside email sources (Gmail).<br><br>Facebook = The Unknown = Fear = Banish<br><br>And so it goes (again). As educators it makes perfect sense to stick our heads in the sand and pretend this technology does not exist. So much better that our charges work and explore this digi-verse on their own. It's not that we avoid getting involved to ideally help our students navigate the pitfalls; we MANDATE it. Much better that they learn from another 6th grader, who has figured out how to bypass your CF and firewalls years ago (if you think you can block via standard Firewalls, CF and HTTP access only, then you're a bigger dope then most of your kids make you out to be).<br><br>Given this logic, at NO time should a teacher be allowed to work alone with children in a classroom (or any other space) without direct supervision. At no time should a teacher call or communicate with a student without direct supervision on any level at any location. Whats the difference between a private off campus conversation and a Facebook poke?<br><br>There is a new physical space outside of your brick and mortar worlds coming to a ubiquitous reality. With the advent of 3G, 4G and LTE all of these banished universes will soon be in the reach of everyone....unless you turn your school into a strictly controlled technical environment down to every last detail: A draconian no cell phones or other smart devices policy that includes constant one on one supervision to prevent the leaking of technology from one kid who holds to another who doesn't. Zero tolerance as a boundless technical paradigm.<br><br>Some campuses have made other choices: Facebook is open. Faculty are encouraged to work with kids via Facebook. As a community they would rather have their teachers in their students digital spaces then not; just as you would encourage their presence and active participation with kids on campus.<br><br>Parents and students opt-in to go to that school knowing the circumstances; and contractually hold the school harmless. Results: Overwhelming approval by the participants without harm. It most importantly curtails bullying, by far the biggest problem for kids in social networks, because an adult is in their digital room(s): If you can't trust a teacher in that environment then why and how can you trust them in any other. I happily work at one of those schools with-out issue.<br><br>From the lawyers: To indicate via AUP that you will block Facebook access for those in your community explicitly implies a warranty regardless of the "we did our best" scenarios. When and if a problem arises you will be most likely held at fault, regardless of circumstance. All bets are off once counsel sees the possibility of cash.<br><br>Wake up buckos....unless you like the idea of working at a prison that pretends be a place to educate children in the real world.
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    It sounds like we are assuming that EVERY students has a Facebook account and EVERY student spends hours and hours logged in. If they are able to use Facebook, then why are they no able to use other sites just as easily? Students go to hundreds of web sites looking for answers, so why not have them go to a school or teacher created site that is specific to their school or subject? It seems to me that having them go to a school/subject site gives them the opportunity to be more focused that scrolling through the hundreds of Facebook posts.
    • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

      @kgorman@... We've used Facebook groups with teachers and have found them far more frequently accessed than Web-based spaces. Even though a Web site can be conveniently bookmarked, people generally just won't check it, whereas a Facebook presence will draw them in because they're already there daily checking posts by friends and family, and posts are "in their face" on their wall - i.e., they can't miss them.

      Facebook has really been successful in establishing itself as an online community centre of sorts, with plenty of stuff going on (games, book clubs, etc.) to keep people coming back and hanging out for hours on end. More and more corporations are pushing their Facebook pages for advertising, as they're much more able to target their followers; schools and professional groups are taking some lessons from Madison Avenue here...
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    It's a matter of teaching responsibility I think:

    • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

      @Jessicapiper hey that link was very useful, these days i get a lot of messages from unknown peoples. <a href="http://yeastinfectionhomeremedycure.org/">yeast infection home remedy</a> <a href="http://sideeffectsdb.com/citalopram-side-effects/">citalopram side effects</a>
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    The State of HI Dept. of Education has very extensive content-filtering policies. Not even iTunesU or Dropbox can get past the blocking software. (Interestingly, Ebay and Craigslist are not blocked, but that's another story.) The amusing thing is that the ubiquity of iPhones and other smart, web-enabled devices has made the Department's content-filtering essentially irrelevant with regards to Facebook. Not only are kids posting and responding throughout the day, their teachers are too.
  • We use facebook for instruction

    At New Canaan High School library, we are replacing some of our courseware with mainstream social media. Here are some student testimonials bit.ly/nchsfb<br><br>We've also been surveying students from within and beyond our district about their facebook use. We are learning that student responses in censored schools are different from those in free-range media schools.<br><br>Students in UNblocked schools spend<br>12% more of their FB time on school-related work<br>8% less of their FB time sharing videos and photos<br>6% less of their FB time discussing books, movies, and music. <br><br>More at Bibliotech.me
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    There is a program called Edline that is/can be used for exactly the same reasons being stated. It is set up so that the parents and students each have their own password for log in purposes. You can have a school main page as well as individual classroom pages. There are issues with parents not checking teacher pages for assignments, grades, homework, announcements, etc. I wonder if FB would make it any easier for communication purposes?
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    I have to take one exception with the article. I almost always go to Parent Association meetings - and my children are in the bottom half of there classes. Maybe I'm the exception, or maybe our school is the exception.
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    I suspect someday when education works out a way to reduce the risks it may be taken up. The real problem is most humans tend to do what feels safest for them which comes down to what is their routine or habit. It doesn't mean that it is the best method around or most effective. Often times the tried and true approach is pretty ineffective but it feels safe because of familiarity. It's the way one has always done it. Change is difficult to make happen even in our world where knowledge is growing ever faster and change is being forced more and more just to stay in the game. The drop out is high for many reasons yet within all that the main block to taking risk is fear of the unknowns and how educators project what might happen based on what has happened. It is interesting though that all real learning happens in the now when one is open to take in something new that may challenge past belief.
  • RE: Will it ever be time for Facebook?

    Not in my life time.
  • Facebook K12 the school/parent connection

    I completely agree with your last paragraph - facebook is a terrific way to engage more parents in the school community- and if through the students who are already hanging out there - so be it.

    If your readers are inspired to get started, we ran a post on our blog earlier in the year with specific Tips for Getting the Most out of Facebook for School-Parent Groups. http://budurl.com/VSFBook

    Please check it out - thanks!