Monday, March 30, 2009

My Facebook Conundrum

I really do not use Facebook often. I prefer twitter to stay in contact with people in my network. Students however live on Facebook. They get home and they go onto the site and start to post things about themselves. They enjoy the contact with other students near and far away. Many of my students have family members on Facebook that keep in contact with each other over the internet. Is it important to have a presence on Facebook?
This is my conundrum. Students are students on Facebook doing all the silly teenage things that students do. Their language is not always the best and they tend to expose their non public persona even though they are broadcasting this to their network. Many of my current and past students have added me as a "friend". This gives me access to all of their online behaviour. How is facebook valuable to me as an adult.

I have found Facebook to be valuable in two ways. Past students now are able to contact me and ask for references and just to say hello. This is the best aspect of accepting current and former students as "friends". Facebook seems to be the tool of choice when they are online. If they have access to me after years of not seeing me that is a bonus. I can also send messages to the same former students to congratulate them on one thing or another.

Recently I have started to accept current students as friends. Since many of them are online daily I have started to leave messages behind informing students of upcoming tests and hidden hints at the math blog. This year I have started to leave up to 40% of my math tests hidden in comments at the blog. Often on all posts that dealt with the topic of the test. In a comment on each one of these posts I will add a question, or leave a helpful hint for students to use if they are studying. I have found it interesting to see the wide variety of students who have been using these hints. Many of my strongest students wait chomping at the bit for the hint message to be posted on Facebook or in the chat box at the blog. Recently however more students have been leaving me messages onFacebook asking when the "cheats" will be posted.

Facebook has its uses. If you do not delve into the private lives of your students but use Facebook as a tool to communicate with you past and present students you can have a positive online relationship with them.


J.D. Williams said...

Do your students use RSS? Couldn't they just subscribe to the comments RSS feed from your blog for the "cheats"?

That could be a good thing because they would see all the comments anyone has posted and might be more inclined to leave their own comments. I don't know if Blogger allows you to subscribe to the comments RSS though.

Mr. H said...

Thanks for the comment JD. Yep they can follow the comments through an RSS feed. That would mean that I would have to show them how to use it. Great suggestion. That will be next weeks project.