How many times have you been in class with your laptop open, “taking notes” while surfing Facebook? We’ve all done it at some point. But, while you’re sitting in EDU classes, flipping through the profile pictures of your sister’s roommate’s friend, have you ever wondered what’s going to happen to your Facebook in 2-3 years? What are you going to do with your profile when you’re a teacher? And more importantly, what can you let your students see, and what do you want to keep from them?
With all the time we spend on Facebook, it’s unlikely that any of us is going to delete his or her profile on their first day of school and never look back.
So you’re going to keep your Facebook Profile. Now, you have to worry about the content of your page. We’ve all heard horror stories about the teachers like Viki Knox, who was investigated for offensive remarks she posted on Facebook. Last year, NPR published an article titled, Friendly Advice For Teachers: Beware of Facebook, that warns educators about the dangers of posting offensive or personal things on Facebook. The NPR article also talks about how posting questionable content online can undermine a teacher’s ability to teach. If you post pictures of you getting drunk or partying on Facebook, your students WILL find them, which will paint a picture of you as something other than the role model that your school community expects you to be.
So as teachers, what can we do about Facebook? Jeff Utecht, Education Consultant and author of The Thinking Stick Blog, has come up with a solution. For Jeff, the answer is simple: create a Facebook fan page for yourself that students can connect with you on.
As Jeff explains in his blog post, A fan page on Facebook has many of the same features that a profile does: there’s a wall where students can write to you, you can post pictures and be tagged in them, and post statuses. Once you’ve created this fan page for your “teacher self”, you are free to make your Facebook profile private only to friends, and everything can stay the way it is. Jeff also talks about what to do when students find your Facebook profile. When a student sends you a friend request on Facebook, he suggests responding with a simple message that says something along the lines of, “I’m glad you want to connect with me, but I’ve decided to keep my Facebook profile private to friends and family.” Then, provide them with a link to your fan page and tell them to like that page to stay connected.
Elsewhere on The Thinking Stick, Jeff has posted about teaching High School students the difference between the “social you” and the “professional you”. In The Social You Vs. The Professional You, Jeff simplifies the whole idea down to: Facebook is the “social you”, and it should be unrelated to the “you” you want colleges and other professionals to see.
As far as setting up a fan page on Facebook, it’s really easy.
The hardest part is really finding the link to a fan page.
The next steps are really easy, Facebook guides you through them. You get to select what type of fan page you want to create (whether its for a company, a band, a person etc.) and you can even specify that it is a fan page for a teacher. Once you’ve plugged in all the preliminary information, you get to create your page and start inviting friends to become fans.
This is an excellent way for teachers to stay connected with students, because you can post links and statuses to your fan page wall, and students can read them and respond in comments or in posts of their own. Especially with all the information that the newest Facebook Timeline has made available, it is important for us, as future teachers, to start thinking about the ways we are seen by the community so that we can be excellent role models for our students.