To friend or not to friend: Should Facebook be part of your curriculum?
Tuesday, August 09, 2016
Did you know that only 4 in 10 families were contacted by their child's school throughout the previous year? Parent involvement in the child's school life has proven successful, and the first (and easiest) step is through communication.
With the first day of school approaching, you need to prepare a plan for parent-teacher communication. Meet-the-teacher night is the perfect time to get communication started. However, you first need to determine how you will communicate. There's the obvious, like email and phone. But what about social media? Could an interactive mobile app be beneficial?
Let's take a closer look at social media, and Facebook in particular.
Social media has been somewhat controversial in the classroom. Social media tends to be more informal, and educators are in a position of authority where they need to remain neutral and formal when dealing with students, parents and other industry professionals. Popular topics like religion and politics are "forbidden." You don't want a parent to judge you based on your religious preferences, and you don't want to judge a student based on the parent.
But social media has its benefits, too. There are many options that create an environment similar to the popular social media sites you are familiar with but provide a higher level of personal privacy. Remember to review your district's policy to ensure compliance.
Parent communication through Facebook
Create a Facebook group. Facebook might seem like the worst choice since it is the most informal, but it is also the most popular social media app, making it convenient for everyone involved. According to the Pew Research Center, 74 percent of parents use social media. Out of those who use Facebook, 75 percent log on every day.
Take advantage of these statistics and create a Facebook group for the parents. These groups allow for interaction and communication without placing personal lives in front of everyone. Educators can post general information, class updates and images on the group's main page, and more personal communication can be done through private messages. Parent-to-parent communication is another benefit of Facebook groups.
Create a professional Facebook profile. Another option is to create two Facebook profiles — one professional and one personal. This is useful for maintaining communication and relationships with previous students and their families but still keeping private lives separate.
While there are other social media platforms, like LinkedIn, that focus on professional interactions, not all parents use them. Approximately 27 percent of parents have LinkedIn, according to Pew Research Center, and those who use it don't check it as often as Facebook. Therefore, LinkedIn would not be considered a reliable method of communication.
Student communication through Facebook
You can also use Facebook as a tool for your students. Create a Facebook group for communication within the class — whether it be between you and the student or between students.
This provides an area to ask for help, group study and more. Collaboration and creating a conversation while learning gives students a better understanding instead of a memorization of facts. Students learn different points of view and new information, while also having the ability to bounce ideas off each other.
Technology, including social media, is a part of everyday life for everyone. Therefore, students should be taught how to use the technology by professionals and educators, not their peers. Even though it is a "social" platform, Facebook can be used for much more than that. Students are taught how to use Microsoft Office products and the basics of the Internet, so why is social media different?
"This is where we have got to go as teachers ... we need to make the learning experience tie in with what will be normal for students," said John Taylor, deputy head teacher at London Nautical School, in "Facebook Guide for Educators."
Don't resist what is becoming the norm because it involves change. Accept the change, and your students will learn in a natural environment.
Classroom portals for parent communication
There are also websites and apps designed for parent-teacher communication and classroom management, like attendance and behavior. These are alternatives to Facebook groups if your district prohibits Facebook or if you are just more comfortable keeping Facebook out of the classroom. Educators can communicate with parents individually or as a group, and parents can see their child's progress.
There are many apps and sites that provide these services, but Edmodo, ClassDojo and ParentSquare are a few popular options. Parent participation might be more challenging than Facebook since this will be a new app or account, so try to make the initial startup as simple as possible. The more the parent has to do, the less likely they are to use the tool. Create incentives to get it done or emphasize the advantages of the tool.
Implementing communication tools will bring school and home closer together. With so many options available, evaluate your class and the community to determine which option will bring the best results.
Remember to always be cautious with your online presence, but don't be fearful. You are responsible for the success of your class; utilize what is out there to take your class to the next level.
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