Online Social Sites Can Help Teachers

Despite the bad rap that online social sites like MySpace and Facebook receive, teachers are still using them to discuss homework and answer questions. Randy Turner, a teacher interview for an article, says that simply having a MySpace account has opened doors of communication with students simply because he’s seen as accessible and modern.

Still, these social sites have a horrible reputation even though many people’s perceptions about the sites (and the people who use them) may be incorrect. According to the article:

  • MySpace has 72.8 million users.
  • Facebook has 37.4 million users.
  • Half of Myspace’s users are 35 and older.
  • 40% of Facebook’s members are 35 and older.

I have an account with each social site, but the Facebook site seems to be the favorite of my students. I receive very few notes and questions on MySpace, whereas I generally get messages on Facebook 3-4 days each week.

One of my colleagues asked me how I protect myself. I do a few things:

  • I keep every message sent to me.
  • Every message I send stays in the sent folder.
  • I try to post all of my messages in the public domains on each site.
  • I keep my responses on topic, school topics.

Do you have an account like this for students to contact you?

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9 thoughts on “Online Social Sites Can Help Teachers

  1. Pingback: A Student of Teaching: Ophelia on Facebook

  2. drpezz Post author

    Jasek –

    I just think quite a few people are afraid to allow students to make mistakes while learning responsibility as well as believing that the minority of cases (misuse) is the majority.

    This is also very similar to how I feel about phones and iPods; I try to incorporate them rather than ban them.

    Reply
  3. Jim Van Pelt

    We had a teacher get in a lot of trouble with his Facebook site two years ago. A student cloned it, and then sent sexually aggressive e-mails to female students from it. The teacher was suspended for two months while the authorities investigated.

    Even after it was over, though, and he was completely cleared, some of the students were squichy about his Facebook site. They felt that it was “their” place, not a place for teachers or other adults, and that there must be something “off” about him, like a forty-year old going to the roller rink on teen night.

    I’m glad for the teachers who’ve had success with Facebook, though. My online contact with kids is limited to e-mail (which I keep all copies of) my class wikkis and blogs.

    Reply
  4. drpezz Post author

    This is an excellent example of why I think names should be withheld during investigations of teachers because students can be dishonest or just not understand limits, yet the suspicion is on the teacher. I think this is partly due to nation-wide stories of predators but also partly due to this being a profession where we work so closely with children.

    I would guess that your example is also a rarity, at least I hope so.

    I think the stats I listed about ages of Facebook users would be a revelation to the students. “Their” space is not always what they think it is.

    How is the teacher’s reputation in your district now?

    Reply
  5. Jim Van Pelt

    Any hint of sexual impropriety hangs on a teacher for a long time. Maybe for the rest of his career. We had a long-time teacher retire a couple years ago who, until she hung it up at sixty-five, people still whispered about. Evidently a rumor started that when she was in her early twenties, she had a short stint as an “exotic” dancer. No one ever forgot. I don’t know if she actually was a stripper or not, but the rumor lingered for forty-five years.

    The teacher with the Facebook scandal is still teaching, but he’s trying to stay under the radar. I haven’t heard him make a comment in a teacher’s meeting in twenty-four months, and he used to be quite vocal.

    I read an article recently about school districts that are forbidding their teachers to involve themselves with “social networking” that includes students. Also, there has been a fair amount of buzz to parents to watch their kid’s cell phone usage. A couple high profile cases have made the news of teachers who developed long text-message relationships with students that later became inappropriate.

    These are scary times for teachers. It only takes a couple of scandals for all teachers to fall under suspicion.

    Reply
  6. drpezz Post author

    I think banning social networking sites is ludicrous. Predators have been able to prey upon the innocent without these sites and will continue do so even if banned. It doesn’t solve the problem.

    That’s too bad about the teacher in your school. A false accusation can ruin a reputation and possibly a career. I wonder if he’ll ever move to another district?

    Reply
  7. Randy Turner

    As the teacher in the CNN article, I naturally was interested in this blog post and the responses. I have always found that keeping the MySpace account open and making sure that parents as well as students know about it has been extremely helpful. I also have a number of strictly educational websites that I use with my students, but I have been nowhere near as successful as I have been with the MySpace account. The CNN article was a bit misleading when it talks about 11 teachers having inappropriate relationships with students. As far as I have been able to determine, none of these had anything to do with social networking sites. MySpace became a convenient target following an incident in the St. Louis area in which an adult woman pretending to be a boy established an online relationship with one of her daughter’s friends. When she “broke up” with this friend, the girl committed suicide. The bill that was originally proposed to deal with criminal teachers did not even mention social networking sites. I wrote more fully about teachers and MySpace on my blog at http://rturner229.blogspot.com/2008/08/teachers-and-myspace.html

    Reply
  8. drpezz Post author

    Thank you for posting, Randy. I hope all goes well with you, and I hope to clear some of my colleagues’ misconceptions about social sites as I use it in my own classroom and beyond.

    Reply

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