You may have used Facebook to connect with friends from the past, and even chat online, but have you considered harnessing the power of Facebook to improve classroom communication?  With more than one billion users on facebook each month, it’s certainly an idea worth considering.  Social Media in education can be a bit of a tricky tight-rope, so before you log in, be sure to consider the tips below!

Tip #1 – Get Focused

kid_with_binoculars2 Before you touch a keyboard, or investigate the ins and outs of your school’s electronic media policy, you’ll need to determine your goals and objectives.  How many times a week will you post?  What kinds of things will you post?  Who is your intended audience?  Having a plan that takes those questions into account will go a long way in helping you to develop a Facebook page that is focused and full of useful information for educational stakeholders.

 Tip #2 – Consider the Powers that Be

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Next, you’ll want to know (and follow) your school and/or district policies regarding electronic communication.  In Lamar CISD, teachers are encouraged to “talk” where educational stakeholders are listening and we’ve put together a helpful video that highlights 8 Guidelines for the Acceptable Use of Electronic Communication with Students that is worth checking out.If your school or district does not yet have a policy governing the use of electronic communication or social media, then guess who can to volunteer to help write the policy?  That’s right…you can!Once you’ve determined that you’ve got the green flag from your school or district, be sure to give your administrator a heads-up about what you’ve got cookin.’  Be prepared to share the goals and rational behind your plan, if for no other reason than so your administrator can brag about you at school board meetings!  Seriously though, no administrator likes to be in the dark about innovative new tools that their teachers are using.  So keep them informed!

 Tip #3 – Create a Page

The best way for many educators to use Facebook safely with parents and students, is to create a Class Facebook Page, which is different from using a personal Facebook account to connect to students.  Anyone can “Like” the Page you’ve created, and once they do, the items posted on your Class Facebook Page stream into your follower’s Facebook newsfeed.  To get started creating your page, visit: https://www.facebook.com/pages/create.php and choose the type of page you’d like to create.   Personally, I recommend choosing “Company, Organization or Institution” if you’re mostly wanting to post items like you would on a community bulletin board.Once you’ve created a page, you’re officially the “Administrator” of that page.  This means you can post status updates, links and photos, as well as fine-tune your page settings.  A Facebook page can have more than one administrator, which is great if you’d like to collaborate with other colleagues on your grade level or within your department.  Just be sure all administrators are aware of your page’s intended goals and objectives, along with school policy!

Tip #4 – Get a Tune-Up

Facebook - Use Facebook As... After you’ve created your Class Facebook Page, it’s time to give the page settings a quick tune-up.  For the most part, the Facebook Page Creation Wizard will walk you through the important stuff like adding a profile image and page description, but there are a few additional items that are worth considering. First off, it’s important to know that you can choose to post to Facebook as your Class Facebook Page, rather than as yourself.  To do this, simply click the Gear in the top right hand corner, and choose which alias you’d like to use for posting.
Facebook - Edit Page Tab Next, you’ll definitely want to be aware of  who can post to your page, and what they can post.  To set things straight, simply click “Manage Permissions” from the “Edit Page” tab of your Administration Panel.  You’ll want to pay special attention to the following check-boxes:

  • Posting Ability – Are you simply in need of a one-way billboard?  If so, restrict the ability for others to post images, links and text to your page.
  • Post Visibility – Personally,  I think “Recent Posts by Others” doesn’t need to be on a class/school page, but you’ll know pretty quickly what works for you.
  • Default Visibility of Posts –  Again, I set mine to “Hidden” because I want to keep a pretty tight rein on the content posted on my page
  • Tagging Ability – Do you want other Facebook users to have the ability to add tags to the photos you post?  If so add a check to this box.  I keep mine unchecked because I don’t want anyone to add tags with student names to my photos.
  • Messages – You can elect to add the message button to your facebook page.  Since my primary mode of communication with parents/students who have one-on-one messages for me is email (for archival purposes)  I don’t have this button on my page.
  • Moderation Blocklist – If you need to block any specific terms from being posting to your page, you can add them here.
  • Profanity Blocklist – Set this to “Strong”

 Tip #5 – Post Great Content & Connect

Once you’re comfortable with your settings (keep in mind, you can tweak them at any time!) it’s time to begin posting some content to your page.  To be as effective as possible with your posts, it’s important to post somewhat regularly, at times when people will be checking their Facebook Newsfeeds (like before/after school, and at lunch.)  Lucky for you, posts can be scheduled in advance, so if you are uber-organized (unlike me) you could post a bunch of things all at one sitting, but schedule them out so that they actually appear on Facebook throughout the week.  Things you might want to post include:

  • Reminders for upcoming exams, project due dates, or classroom events
  • Links to thought provoking information, resources or videos you’d like students to investigate on their own
  • Photos of students engaged in successful learning activities

When posting photos, you’ll want to be sure to follow your school or district’s policy regarding the use of student images online.  In our district, we are allowed to post photos of any student who has not given their school written documentation that they do not want their image used online.  That being said, as an educator, I would never post a student’s picture captioned with their full name.  Others may disagree, but I would rather error on the side of digital safety.

Posting helpful content and links will help to grow your audience, but another way to build your community is to have your page “Like” various other pages related to your classroom or community.  You also might want to consider the options available under the “build your audience” tab at the top of your admin panel.  Before long, you’ll have an audience that’s hanging on your every word.  Well…ok, maybe not…but at least they’ll have another great way to get reminders and resources!

Tip #6 – Everything is Public

footprint-3099_640 I was going to finish with 5 Tips, but Tip #6 is just so important, I couldn’t leave it off.  Whether I’m working with teachers or students, I always emphasize the fact that no matter how private you THINK you’re being online, you’d be much better off  working with the assumption that your mother and your employer are both reading every single thing you post.  With this in mind, you’re sure to be proud of the digital footprint you leave behind.

Be proud of the digital footprint you leave behind!