Sunday, December 4, 2016

12/4 Tech Review #6: Facebook

Cost: free.

Facebook is the granddaddy of social-media platforms, especially since it has pretty much elbowed out MySpace and the like. I wasn’t going to review this, but then I read this Edutopia article on Twitter (which I’ve already written about a great deal!), and there, right at #6 of the “7 Easy Ways to Improve School Communication,” Folwell Dunbar calls keeping up his school’s Facebook page “one of the most important things [he does]”. Our school’s official Facebook page shares write-ups of Students of the Month, important deadlines, pictures from school events, links to our dean’s weekly Chalk Talks, and much more. Comments go to a moderator before being posted, and he (our tech guru) often ends up re-directing people who have specific questions to Guidance, the principal, or other individuals.
Many other groups affiliated with the school also have Facebook pages: I manage two, one for Student Council, and one for MDIHS Readers&Writers Group. Both are closed groups that only allow members (approved by me) to post; both have proven to be far, far, far more effective than our school email system or our intercom announcements at reminding students of commitments, meetings, and/or responsibilities. That said, I am trying “Remind,” which I reviewed in another post, to see if Readers&Writers works more effectively.
Pros: we have not had any trouble with privacy issues in our closed groups. That said, we aren’t particularly controversial, so no one *really* wants to infiltrate us and post scandalous comments! Many students and parents do have their phones set up to share updates; since many parents in particular are on Facebook, it can be a pretty open, “we are making an effort” way to share school information with parents and the adult community.
I do know that student at MDIHS also have various groups set up for class communication: some of the AP classes that require considerable outside review time create FB groups as an easy way to set up meeting times, clarify assignments, and/or simply complain about the work load. One of my students told me that that’s really the only way “kids today” use it, unless they’re posting annoucements about their school accomplishments so that their grandparents will send them money (does that count as a plus?).

Cons: Building on the point mentioned above: high school students are not spending a lot of time on Facebook. A student and I recently chuckled over this comment from an article she sent me: “Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can't really leave.” (Andrew Watts, Jan.3, 2015, that’s true. My college-age and adult sons both spend minimal time on FB, unless they are messaging me (I don’t have a smartphone) or just beginning contact with a group of other people in a new arena: a summer program, for example. Once they have the others’ contact information, they are off--to Snapchat or Twitter or Instagram or just texting.
In addition, Facebook has a dangerous vibe in certain circles, and if someone has made the choice not to participate, it can feel exclusive if used to communicate valuable information. It is certainly only a place to communicate general information. In the wonderful movie “Born Yesterday,” the character Billie Dawn says that her father gave her important advice: “He always used to say, "Never do nothing you wouldn't want printed on the front page of The New York Times." Double negative aside, that advice is even more applicable to Facebook: if you wouldn’t want the information shared beyond the closed group, don’t post it.

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