Facebook is everywhere now, the ubiquitous “F” logo and “Like” button on every website and commercial. As the idea of publically signalling your allegiance and/or endorsement of a particular brand has become as easy as clicking a button on the most popular website in the country, schools are also wading into the potentials and possibilities offered by the dominant social network. With Facebook showing no sign of losing popularity, or its iron grip on the world, what are schools doing to be counted?
Facebook offers a great way for teachers (and schools in general) to make themselves and their class activities known to parents, both of enrolled and prospective students. This could be sharing news, information, resources, events and announcements. Furthering the relationship between the student, parent and teacher through the Internet allows for better communication without the fear of “helicopter parents” constantly interfering in the teacher’s jurisdiction.
Facebook: Too Powerful & Popular To Ignore
Despite the inherent dangers of blurring the lines between the real world of school and the virtual world of Facebook, the format is so useful to some educators that they resist any attempt at moderating or regulating the relationship between the two. Facebook offers far too many benefits for it to be the victim of (well-intentioned) government policing. Some restrictions are in place, such as forbidding teachers from becoming “friends” with their students on Facebook.
However, it is also true that students are more likely to communicate by text message or Facebook than they are by e-mail. A teacher providing course materials via a Facebook page, or sending appropriate and relevant Facebook messages to a student, does more to further engage the student in the learning process than a blanket ban on any social media interactions.
Using Facebook vs. Wasting Facebook
There is the argument that schools entering the social media realm can offset the harm (younger) students can do to themselves with the ease of use and popularity of Facebook. Rather than heavy-handed suspensions and blocking, says Slate.com, educators can be in a position to provide students with an outlet for their potentially harmful behavior. Much the same way television - a medium both constructive and destructive - can be used for educational purposes by the right hands, the proper application and use of Facebook can make all the difference to younger students who feel that their schools have nothing of interest to offer them.
What schools and Facebook both have in common is the concept of community. Facebook presents a global community, one not restricted by distance or geography. Schools, naturally, offer a more localized alternative, based on learning, education and self-improvement. This relationship can be consolidated to help parents, students and teachers address the challenges and promises of the developing 21st century. Education will never go away, and Facebook shows no signs of receding in popularity. Bridging the gap can take students to a lot of new places.