Using Facebook in the Classroom facebook logo

Juliette and Stephen Heppell

Whether it is Facebook, MSN Messenger, Bebo, iChat, Skype, YouTube or any other form of social networking - we know our young people are, and will be, using it.

As with all new media, research projects have shown time and again that if young people see a vacant space, they will fill it (and perhaps not always in the most positive way). As the blurring between social and work continues, organisations from universities to work places are using social networks increasingly effectively for work. They often seek for evidence that potential employees or students can be effectively collegiate and understand mutuality - that they can use these new social tools for work and for the workplace.

We need to teach young people the way to use them appropriately, to build their sense of entitlement into a sense of responsibility and to work with them on effective and safe strategies for protection whilst using social media. If we were seeking to develop water safety we wouldn't keep children away from water until they are 16 and then throw them off the pier - similarly with social media, blindly banning them is inappropriate and equally dangerous.

Conversely, if students see social media used in a positive way to enhance learning, it changes the way they perceive these social spaces, which by osmosis become more educational - who wouldn’t want that?

So, before we can fully embrace social media in the classroom, we need a few simple Dos and Don'ts and some common sense:

Using Facebook safely within the secondary classroom

Facebook has wonderful privacy controls that enable you to manage what anyone can see or cannot see. We are all social actors, but if as a teacher you meet childen in a non educational space - for example shopping - you don't become a different person (Estelle the Disco Queen) even though that may be how your out-of-school college pals characterise you at the weekend. Nor would you invite children back home for a party. In the supermarket, meeting children, you remain simply as Ms Smith, their teacher.

On-line too, you do not want our young people to see your personal life - to protect both yourself and them! If you follow some simple rules, this different identities can be managed as easily as they are in the supermarket:


juliette's home page in FB

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other countires have different approaches - in South Korea for example internet ethics and netiquette have become a starting point for internet use, and are taught early on. See this digital nation programme if that interests you

these pages updated and created by Juliette and Stephen Heppell
last edited: Saturday, July 24, 2010 10:38 AM