Student Facebook Groups, Privacy, and Parents

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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?

Getting Parents Involved: Blogs for Homework!

Check out this interesting article from The New York Times called “Spreading Out Homework So Even Parents Have Some.”  Damion Frye, an English teacher at Montclair High Schoolin Montclair, New Jersey, requires parents of his ninth grade students to participate in weekly homework assignments that mirror those he gives to his students.   Parents are given identical assignments as their children and asked to respond on a blog set up by Mr. Frye. 

The point, he said, is to keep parents involved in their children’s ’ education well into high school. Studies have shown that parental involvement improves the quality of the education a student receives, but teenagers seldom invite that involvement. Mr. Frye  decided to help out.

While a few parents have been resistant to the idea, Mr. Frye reports that most have eagerly jumped in and found the experience to be a positive one. 

Tracy Parsons, whose son Danny is the second of her two boys to be a student in Mr. Frye’s class, said that the weekly assignments had changed the way she approached homework with her children.  “In high school, to some degree you have to back off from homework, so they can gain independent learning skills,” Ms. Parsons said. But teenagers, she noted, “leave a lot out. You ask, ‘What’d you do in science?’ and they say, ‘It was fine.’”

While some educators caution against Mr. Frye’s policy of penalizing students’ grades if parents do not do their assigned homework, Mr. Frye reports that only one parent has flat out refused to participate in the three years of assigning parents “homework.”  He states that he is flexible and works with parents who may not have Internet access or who may have challenges dealing with language differences. 

What do you as teachers, students, and administrators think of Mr. Frye’s creative way of involving parents in homework as a means for involving parents to be involved in their children’s education?  The primary suggestion I have is that he have the students blog along with their parents rather than doing all the assignments in the traditional format of paper and pencil.  If students are having the opportunity to blog too, then perhaps more dialogue could be ignited between parents and students.

Let us know what you think!