Social media websites such as Facebook, MySpace, and Twitter aren’t going away anytime soon. Everyone from celebrities to business professionals and large companies use them to keep in touch with clients and customers. Small businesses also offer social media networking as a way to advertise.
Schools and educators also use social networks to keep in touch with students and offer assignments. There are several advantages and disadvantages to having social networking accounts for teachers. Here is a quick guide to the pros and cons of giving extra access to teachers over the Internet.
Keeping in touch with your students is vital to ensure they have a proper learning experience. Offering extra help and a way to contact a teacher can only be an advantage if a student needs extra help or if you want to post a helpful website that can help with a current lesson.
Using the Internet as a learning tool can only expand students’ horizons. While not the panacea for an education, the web is a great place to find credible learning materials that go beyond textbook learning. Linking to websites and Tweeting about them or posting them to a Facebook wall will give your students instant alerts and access to more learning materials.
Extra credit assignments are fantastic ways to have students learn in the classroom. Keeping your students on their toes with a “pop Facebook quiz” after school hours is great to see not only which of your students connects to your account but also how much they learn. Five points here or there for finding a news bit about a current lesson is great to help motivate your kids to learn.
Teaching your students responsibility and using only credible websites can only be taught on the Internet itself. Using Facebook or MySpace can be a great learning tool for netiquette and using credible resources.
Parental contact is also vital to ensuring your students are learning. Giving parents another way to access teachers can only help when a teacher tries to help his or her students.
Monitoring a social networking website can be tedious. If one of your “friends” on Facebook or MySpace links to a questionable website then a teacher’s professional attitude may be called into question. Make sure objectionable advertisements are not on your website or there could be backlash.
Teachers have been fired for comments made on Facebook. A teacher for the Cohasset school system was fired when she thought her privacy settings were set a certain way. When she made some sharp remarks about a possible promotion and they were made public, she was fired from her job according to a local NBC affiliate. Teachers will have to be very professional and careful about what they say online.
Teachers may find that online accounts may take too much of their time to upkeep. If a teacher is very involved with online accounts and finds that they are neglecting other aspects of their lives they may want to tone down their social networking time.
Privacy on the Internet has always been an issue. Teachers and students alike have been victims of cyberbullying according to Britain’s Guardian newspaper. Some groups have targeted teachers for bullying after videos of them in the classroom have surfaced on the Internet according to one report. One survey reports as many as 15 percent of teachers that have an online presence felt like they have been bullied.
Inappropriate relationships between students and teachers have been an ongoing issue for educators. According to the Cyberbullying Research Center, one report suggests that students and teachers may be having contact that is too informal and could escalate into inappropriate relations. Even if a teacher is insinuated to have such inappropriate contact it could damage not only students and teachers but also the school in which they teach.
One final note is that each school system should probably come up with clearly defined rules and common sense when it comes to social networking and keeping in touch with students online. Invite parents to do the same so they can monitor what is going on and ask appropriate questions. Teachers having Facebook and Twitter accounts can be a huge advantage to their teaching agenda when used appropriately. Be careful not to overuse or abuse social media as it relates to the classroom.
NBC, Britain’s Guardian newspaper, and the Cyberbullying Research Center provided information for this article.