Saturday, July 6, 2013

Favorite Things #6: 11 Tips for Using a Classroom Facebook Page

   There is a huge debate about whether or not social media has a place in education.  I understand the concerns involved, but I think it can be handled in a professional and useful way.  Put simply, I am a huge fan of teaching students "where they are," which is on social media.  I started this year with a classroom Facebook page, and it worked beautifully! 

   I use my "teacher page" primarily to post reminders about assignments, study tips, upcoming events, weather changes, etc.  I also found that it was also a great tool to get kids using class materials in a real-world way outside of class.  Offer them a few extra points to research a tidbit from a novel, and you'd be surprised at the number of responses you'll get!

a screen grab from my page

some example posts from my page

examples of student questions and my responses

   There have been many teachers who have lost their jobs because of improper behavior on social media, so the fear is real.  I see great benefits in using social media in a classroom setting, so I've put together a list of my tips for how to use it in a safe, professional way.

1. DO clear everything with administration.  
I checked out my county's policy on social media before beginning, and made sure my plans were approved by my Director of Instruction and my principal.

2. DO get parental approval.
I handed out permission slips at Back-to-School night, and on the first day of school. If a student "liked" my page before I got the form returned with a parent signature, I booted them.  I still have the forms tucked away in my desk, and will save them for at least five years. This was time consuming, but it definitely covered my tracks-- and I never had an issue.

3. DO create a "page," not a "profile."
I have a personal account on Facebook-- which is not the same.  I created a "page," largely because of the controls I would have and the terminology.  In Facebook Land, a student "likes" my page, rather than becoming my "friend."  It's just a matter of wording, but it's important to me that students are clear on where we stand.

4. DO set up security and privacy controls.
Under settings, make sure your page is visible to all.  This is important because I don't want anyone to question what I might be doing under the veil of a hidden page.  Also set your post visibility to "hide posts by others." This allows you to preview posts from others, and publicize them after you've ensured they are appropriate.  Turn off private messaging.  Students can email my school address if they have questions they don't want to publicize.  Otherwise, conversations should take place on the public "wall" for transparency.  Set the profanity filter to strong.

5. DO monitor your page closely.  
Check out each "like."  If a person who is not a student or parent likes your page, remove him/her immediately.  Also remove students who do not have permission.  

6. DO post frequently and professionally.
If you're going to make the page, use it.  Post daily if possible; you want this page to be frequently seen and heard. 

7. DO make sure that students understand the page's purpose.
I make it clear from the beginning that the page is something extra I do-- not a requirement of me-- and that if I am unable to post a homework reminder, it doesn't mean that the assignment isn't still due.

8. DO have clear expectations.
Post expectations on the page, and include them with your permission slip.  Example:

9. DO NOT post about private information.

10. DO NOT use the page for discipline.
My page is for information and help-- not for complaints, frustrations, or calling students out.

11. DO NOT hesitate to remove and block students, parents, or others who post or behave inappropriately online.  
This is a no-tolerance policy for me.  At the first notice of bullying, unacceptable language, or other issues, I would block the person immediately and irrevocably.

If you're still here after that l-o-n-g post, you're dedicated.  Happy Facebooking!

Revision: I've had a lot of demand for my form via email, so I decided to make it a bit easier to access.  If you want a look at my Social Media Consent Form (to get parent permission for students to access your page), follow this link.  
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