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Facebook groups for teaching

"There were a number of ethical issues to consider when using a social media space such as Facebook. Firstly, did I want to connect with my students on a primarily social site?"

Claire Amos - Director of e-learning
Epsom Girls Grammar School

Social media was used effectively as a teaching tool

A Facebook group was set up for my year 13 English class, in addition to an already established class group on Moodle which was the primary online space for sharing resources and completing activities online. The reason for establishing the Facebook group was about taking the "mountain must come to Mohammed" approach and connecting with students in a space they were already using. The main purposes of the group was to: provide a space for students to connect and support one another (without them having to be “friends” with one another on Facebook), it was an effective way for me to post reminders about deadlines (as it came up in their newsfeed), as a way of highlighting new resources or activities on Moodle (as it was unlikely they would check in out of school otherwise) and it also provided a quick and easy way to message the group if needed.

Ethical issues

There were a number of ethical issues to consider when using a social media space such as Facebook. Firstly, did I want to connect with my students on a primarily social site? Did they want school “invading” their social environment? Would it encourage expectations around the teacher being available outside of school hours? Would it enable the teacher to view the student’s personal information and vice versa?

Dealing with ethical issues

These issues were worked through relatively easily. Firstly the Facebook group is private and does not require anyone within the group to be Facebook “friends”. The membership of the group was completely optional, students were invited but beyond that, it was their choice if they wanted to connect about English in a social space. I ensured my profile was completely private before establishing the group and requested that students insured their profiles were also private. This was a great opportunity to up skill students on privacy settings and to discuss the concept of digital footprints (and future ramifications of over-sharing personal photos or information). It even prompted a great discussion about “appropriate” profile pics and the fact that they were very public. Finally we developed and published a set of protocols on the Facebook group that outlined the purpose of the group and appropriate behaviour.

Why social media worked well

Ultimately it was a really efficient and useful means of connecting with students beyond the classroom and created a space where they could support one another.
It increased the use of our primary online space (Moodle) as well. The students enjoyed the fact that it was in their space but still able to be managed by them.

What worked well for me and the learners I teach

I would heartily recommend using social media as an extension to your primary online environment. I think there is real value in having a school learning management system which is within the school’s online environment, but the reality is this won’t be the space your students hang out in online. Therefore social media is the perfect way for teachers to bridge that digital gap making the most of the many advantages social media has to offer. The immediacy and ease of use worked very well for both me (as the teacher) and the learner. If managed well and used judiciously, social media is an unparalleled tool for connecting with and engaging your learners.

Social media type

  • Learners

    Teachers have a professional obligation to develop and maintain professional relationships with learners based on the best interests of those learners.

  • Parents/Guardians and Family/Whānau

    Social media provides a great opportunity to collaborate and communicate with parents and whānau.

  • Society

    Teachers who model good social media use will grow learners who apply positive, respectful values in their interactions on social media platforms.

  • The Profession

    As a member of the profession you should seek and respond to opportunities to share knowledge and discuss concerns.