Taming the Wild Wild Web – Facebook Pages for Teachers

I found this video out on the “wild, wild, web” so I thought I’d share it with you all, since a lot of teachers ask me about how they might use Facebook without having to friend their students. I know a lot of districts, and teachers (myself included) don’t feel comfortable with teachers friending students, and using Facebook as a way to stay connected outside the classroom. However, this video that I discovered on YouTube, by the somewhat ornery Wyatt “Hoss” Rancher, provides some good advice for setting up a Facebook page that appears to be a bit more manageable and acceptable by some schools.

I’m not sure if the video is supposed to be entertaining or not, but it certainly is a different approach to a technology tutorial. I put together a quick survey, as I’ve been toying with an idea like this, and I’d love to see what you think about this video. Please answer the question below if you have the time!



  1. Why are you not comfortable “friending” your students? Do you feel comfortable “friending” fellow teachers? Administrators? Do you live some secretive mysterious life? I ask these questions not directly to you only, but to educators as a whole.

    Some people use different social media for different purposes. For example:
    1. Facebook – Close Friends and Family
    2. LinkedIn – Only professional relationships
    3. Twitter – Entertainment

    Is this why teachers don’t friend their students on FB? If not interacting with them on any of these social networks, which ones are they using? Shouldn’t we as educators and role models for our students allow them to be our friend on FB to demonstrate and model respectable appropriate behaviors?

    I have a book (which I have not yet read), and I would gladly send it your way if you wish: From Fear to Facebook: One School’s Journey. http://fromfeartofacebook.com/

    Didn’t watch the video YET, but I will and respond to your PD poll. 🙂 I guess I was just shocked to hear that you too are uncomfortable with friending students.

    1. @Kelly,
      My concern with Facebook is that boundaries have not been set and agreed upon by all parties involved. Students and parents and co-workers are each individually expecting different interactions with me on that site. I do purposefully use FB for certain kinds of interactions and use a few other sites for other interactions. I can see where there could be a usefulness to FB pages for teachers and I haven’t watched all of Hoss’s video yet.
      Also, out here in California, all teaching gigs are posted on one web site (not linked in) and it would be almost faux pas to ask my direct supervisors to give me a recommendation on Linked In. Educators are on that network, however I’m only connected with coworkers and classmates, not supervisors.
      My particular school site currently has a difficulty getting more than 50% of the staff to use email, so baby steps.
      To your questions, I do not personally add students as friends. I know some coworkers who do and they’ve discussed how and when to not add kids. In the current setup, I really feel like I don’t have enough control over who posts what on my wall (deleting after the fact is not good enough for me) to allow students to interact with my off-duty FB page.

      I would like to discuss further, have to get ready for work now.

      1. @Andrew: YIKES in regards to only 50% using Email.I think this is an excellent opportunity for you and your school. Why try to get them to use Email at this point…you might as well creating and utilizing a collaboration site for a one stop shop for communications.

        Why couldn’t your direct supervisors give you recommendations on LinkedIn? Why not your colleagues? Students? Parents?

      2. Although this may seem like a complex and complicated issue, it really boils down to how I use Facebook, and in many ways my answer alludes to what Andrew pointed out; this is no set “norm” on how Facebook is used among it’s users.

        For me, Facebook is where I connect with my friends and colleagues. I do not live a secret mysterious life, although there are some things that I don’t share on the web simply because I don’t want them to be immortalized. Simply put, my students are not my friends, nor are they my colleagues. My “teacher self” is very different from my “personal self”, and while there are some areas where those two realities co-mingle (bringing my love of science fiction into the classroom for example), there are plenty of areas where those two realities don’t need to co-exist (my appreciation of finely crafted Belgian style beers).

        Am I missing out on not connecting with my students on Facebook? Probably. But it’s not out of fear that I’m not friending them, simply out of my own personal preference to keep parts of my social and personal life out of my professional life. If my students really want to keep up with me personally they can follow my twitter account, or just converse via email, which I have and do quite often with former students.

        That having been said, I fully subscribe to your theory about setting the best possible example, and serving as a good role model to my students, and my own children as well. Many students though, and these would be younger students, aren’t ready to deal with the fact that most adults have different personas that they adopt in different situations (thus many students being confused or bemused when they run into a teacher “in the real world”).

    2. Cute vid. My concern with Facebook is how they handle e-mail and profile info (like selling profile information to ad companies whenever you click a “like” button).

      I like Google+ You can have a circle just for school colleagues and students, and then students won’t be privy to your family and friends’ comments. (And it’s not that I have a “secretive mysterious life,” it’s just that I don’t think students need to know about my friend’s health problems or my sister’s new car.)

      Social media’s great, but I think that we as teachers have to maintain a certain level of professionalism. Think about it. Would you really want to know every single detail of the life of someone you look to for professional help, like your doctor?

      1. There certainly is something to say about teachers maintaining healthy social relationships beyond the strict teacher/pupil relationship. Almost the same as it would be important for a coach to undertand his athletes better than just how fast they can sprint or toss a football.

        Going the full blown Facebook friending route does take the relationship into unexpected territory.

        My wife is an excellent example of this. Many of the relatives in her family were either teachers, or worked in a number of her school buildings. Because of this, when she attended large parties and/or gathering there would often be other teachers she knew in attendance (friends of her relatives). Suffice it to say, when people are at a party, especially a summer BBQ, they behave as you would expect anyone else that enjoy’s a good party to behave. She witnessed several of her teachers drinking, using inappropriate language (or what would have been at school at least), and some of her teachers even a bit drunk. That’s really something that doesn’t need to be immortalized on the web using a site like Facebook.

  2. I have a strict policy of not friending students as well. If they have graduated from high school and become adults, and I truly want to keep in contact with them, I will. But otherwise, it’s like Ben said, there are things I would like to share with friends and family that I don’t think young students need to know. I have no problem sharing my personal life with students if they ask in class or if we are discussing something and it comes up. However, sharing something on the web, that they can read (and share with whoever they like that I’m not aware of) I prefer to keep my social media to myself.

    However, that being said, there are lots of things that I would LOVE to share with my students at a moment’s notice. Having a separate fb persona for my teacher self would be an excellent way to share interesting articles or little tidbits with students who are interested in it.

  3. i think the facebook is a social networking place for personal relationships.yes, i know that the teacher – student relationship is a bit personal in a good way, but i think fb is exactly for the real friends and family. But the idea is good, today it is affordable to create some social networking between students and teachers, outside the classroom. but maybe it is needed to create a very special platform for it. not the wild wild web;)

  4. Ben I love this character! RolePlay4Life. My favorite quote, “We still got manners out here in the Wild Wild Web, your parents done raised you right.” And I do think there is something to this, as we should envision for students what digital conduct might look like.

    But I have to agree with @Amy’s concern with selling profile information. If we were to take the time and actually read the “Terms of Service” it would likely be filled with chilling information about how much your freely giving Facebook.

    A friend and colleague wrote an article about social networks in higher ed, “Beyond Friending: BuddyPress and the Social, Networked, Open-Source Classroom. He’s also the project manager of the CUNY Academic Commons, a social network built for the largest urban university system.

    I’ll share a couple of quotes from him with respect to using Facebook in education and why he’s opposed.

    “When educational activities take place on proprietary sites such as Facebook, educators become complicit in a profit-making process in which teaching and learning activities are commoditized and sold by a third-party vendor to third-party buyers.”

    And, “efforts to build educational spaces within popular social-networking platforms risk undesirable interactions between personal and professional lives”

    I think a number of others in this thread have alluded to the latter point. Facebook is very cagey about their privacy policies and even your video illustrates how careful you have to be to manage these potentially undesired interactions.

    My other favorite quote regarding Facebook’s real values comes from a Steve Greenberg Tweet. “You are not Facebook’s customer. You are the product that they sell to their real customers – advertisers. Forget this at your peril.”

    1. Michael, that was a great article, I’m glad you pointed it out. It raises the exact issue that I personally have with using Facebook and other “closed” systems. As pointed out in the article, a prominent group like Radio Open Source picking up on the student’s thoughts, giving the learner validation is powerful! It’s nice to know that the whole student-centered learning movement is creeping into higher ed…too often those of us at the K-12 level wonder what happens once our students “move on”.

      Going to where the students are certainly has it’s benefits, and to be completely honest, in many many ways educators already are complicate with profit-oriented services; Google, Gmail, Skype….all services that are aimed at making money, and often at the expense of “selling” personal information to advertisers or others.

  5. Unfortunately, not many people actually understood the Facebook because they actually never tried doing so. Facebook offers more than enough privacy features and most of the things can be customized. It would be unfair to Facebook to praise Google + 🙂

  6. Nice video. Social media’s great, but I think that we as teachers have to maintain a certain level of professionalism. Think about it. Would you really want to know every single detail of the life of someone you look to for professional help? My concern with Facebook is how they handle private profile info, especially now with Goldman Sach step inside Facebook.

    1. You raise an excellent point, Steve. In fact, it’s why I don’t friend any students on Facebook. I don’t need to be their friend, and I certainly don’t want to be sharing every piece of my private life with them, and with Facebook changing it’s privacy settings and policies every other month, it’s a hassle to keep up.

      Which is why I like the idea of Facebook Pages; it pretty much circumvents that entire “friending” mess, and lets your students interact with the same “public persona self” that you display in the classroom as well. They can like your page, you can share important info related to class, and you don’t have to worry about the friending headaches.

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