Thursday, 22 March 2012

{Friends} with Facebook

One of the main reasons that I chose to investigate Facebook for my inquiry was because I was planning to teach digital citizenship for the first time to the grade 6 and 7 students at my school. It is my second year in the library and with everything being new last year, combined with the fact that I am only 0.4 in the library of a school of 315 students, I wasn't able to teach this important unit last year. I knew that it was important to actually experience Facebook if I was going to be teaching about social networking, so I joined Facebook during this course.

There is much discussion over whether or not we should be using social networking sites, or even blocking social networking sites in schools. Just last week it was one of the topics on the LM-NET listserv (a listserv for teacher-librarians or library media specialists worldwide, but most are from the US).

David Di Gregorio wrote on the listserv: "I feel that every school needs to make a policy:
  • No social media in schools. 
  • No teacher / student contact through social media (Facebook and the like). 
  • There is no place for an educator to use this and it should be blocked in schools. 
  • Parents and schools need to prohibit its use until the student  becomes 18 at least. 
  • Those educators who use it are inviting trouble for themselves and their students."
(LM-NET archives, March 19, 2012)

Ronnie Burt of The Edublogger disagrees in this article: The Why and How of Using Facebook For Educators – No Need to be Friends At All!  He acknowledges the fact that students are tied into social networking and we, as educators, cannot ignore this fact. Burt outlines a couple of options for friending students that would keep your privacy options high. One of them is to include your students in your personal Facebook page but to have them on a list that only sees the bare minimum. The other option is to create a Facebook Fan page to communicate key information to the community (students and parents alike). Burt states that:
  1. "The fact is, the majority of your students and their parents are probably already on Facebook
  2. Even when schools have a policy against being “friends” online, there are tools you can use that won’t violate policy
  3. Despite what you may hear, there are strong privacy options that you can set up so only those that you want can access your information
  4. We have an obligation as educators to model appropriate online behavior and learn right along our students"

Part of my inquiry project was to create a Facebook page for my library. I went through the process, creating one linked to my personal page, as this is the only way to do it. I wondered if anyone accessing my library page would be able to access my personal page in any way. When I checked into this, I found out that no one would have access to my personal page. In the end, I realized that creating a Facebook page for an elementary school library would essentially be a lot of work for nothing. I would still have to promote my library Facebook page in a major way to my community. As such, I decided that my energies would be better spent on promoting my library blog that already contains the information I would include on the Facebook page. If I were in a high school, I would definitely create one since I know that in this way information about my library would reach almost every student. At the elementary school level, only a few of the older students actively use Facebook. 

The figures in the above infographic illustrate how tied into social media students are. It also illustrates the concerns that schools have about social media.

I fulfilled my goal in becoming familiar with Facebook so that I could teach the grade 6 and 7 students about social networking, "netiquette", privacy settings, and the importance of creating a positive digital "tattoo" or presence. Even though I used an excellent unit through Media Awareness Network called Passport to the Internet, it was very important that I know how Facebook works so that I could speak from experience and add other appropriate resources to my unit.

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