Student Facebook Groups, Privacy, and Parents

I’d like to toss out a few general scenarios  for you all to consider:

  • Students create and organize their own Facebook group for a specific class; the classroom teacher is invited to participate.  Should the teacher be the admin of the group,  merely a member, or even a participant?  And whether or not the teacher is part of the student created class group, should parents be admitted to the group?
  • A teacher creates and organizes a class/course Facebook group for students and is the group admin.   Parents request to join the group—should they be admitted?
  • If a teacher is posting content to a student organized Facebook class group, such as an informal discussion question that is not a graded assignment, is the teacher obligated to cross-post that discussion on the “official” course page?
  • If a teacher posts class content (as a member, not an admin) on a student organized Facebook class group, is it reasonable for a parent to assume that once that teacher posts class content in that space, “he/she has changed the nature of the page, and parents should have access”?
  • Is it reasonable for parents to equate a teacher moderating or participating in a student course Facebook group with “friending” students?

These scenarios could also be applied to those who may be using circles in Google Plus, Google Groups, or other similar networks.    The need for students to have a space they feel they can share information and express themselves openly is an important one; at the same time, transparent structures that encourage and allow for parental participation and involvement are also important.  How do we negotiate these tensions while respecting the needs of both teens and parents, particularly when the communication medium is one like Facebook where students gravitate and dwell?

What are your thoughts on these questions?  Does your district have any formal policies for teachers in place about the use of social networks like Facebook whether the network is administered by the teacher or not?  If you’re utilizing Facebook or comparable social network tools for learning and/or class conversation, what policies or protocols do you observe?

6 comments

  1. Our district (in Texas) does have formal policies about social networking. For Facebook, we are told if we want to “friend” students, we should create a separate professional page, e.g., “Mrs. Smith’s Class,” for parents and students.

    I personally stay away from FB. It’s too slippery a slope, and I don’t have time or desire to mess with it anyway.

  2. Hi Unquiet Librarian,
    Have you checked out Celly ( http://cel.ly )? It has many of the features that address your concerns. In brief, Celly is a free service that lets you setup mini social networks with regular text messaging (SMS) and the web (and soon, Android and iOS apps). Many teachers, students, and parents are using Celly for educational purposes.

    A few key features that are pertinent to your post:

    -Privacy: Celly hides all phone numbers and contact information; users are simply known by their username (maintaing student/teacher/parent privacy). There are also privacy settings for who can join a group and send messages (e.g., a password protected group).

    -Autonomy: Celly users create and moderate their own social networks! Celly group networks do not require a Facebook presence or any opting into a larger internet social media network.

    -Moderation: Teachers, parents, and students, can create and moderate their own chat groups. For instance, a teacher may create a group for a class but want to choose which messages are sent and reposted. A entire classroom discussion can be moderated from the web or any mobile phone with ease.

    -Parents included: Groups can be created for teacher/parent feedback and student/teacher/parent discussion. Parents can also join Celly groups that are administered by teachers, making it easy for parents to stay in the loop.

    -No need for “friending”: Each Celly username is tied to a validated phone #, thus parents can always have control and access to their students Celly account (unlike on a vast social network a la Facebook). Users without validated phone numbers have limited access, this helps maintain social media integrity.

    Best of all, Celly works on any phone that has a text messaging plan or from any computer that has an internet connection. For more info, visit: http://cel.ly

    Regards,

    DT
    EdTech enthusiast
    Celly advocate

  3. Buffy,

    What if your replaced “Facebook group” with “classroom” in your scenarios? The answers to me either become obvious or the questions absurd. Other than a lack of familiarity with online communications by adults, the two teaching/learning environments are very similar.

    Doug

  4. Why would they (teacher, school) not want to use Google+ which has the advantges of circles which are much more private that FB especially since the new f8 features (announcements and concerns)? I think this is a much better option, would this be an option or is this a hypothetical scenario?

    1. You could extend these questions to any social network, but I think at the core of the post are questions related to student privacy and questions people are asking about the boundaries between virtual classrooms and parents. If students have created a group, do parents have the right to be in that group? It is also my understanding Google + is for 18 and up?

  5. We are conquering this issue this week actually and I found this a very helpful article. We are a charter HS in California and just got authorization from the county to begin using Google Apps for Education. The biggest concern was privacy of students and we are adopting a “private community focus”. We still teach in our classrooms but we encourage parents, students and staff to all log in and get involved with our google apps. We encourage parent involvement in almost everything we do. I did the google+ trial and loved it but its not available yet for GoogleApps. I am staying as far away from FaceBook as possible, to many privacy concerns.

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