- Home | Corner Blog
- Youth and Cellphones
- Types of Services
- What Parents Should Know
- Key Issues
- Industry Solutions
Facebook - Drawing the line between learner teacher relations
With the wave of new technologies and the evolution of classroom dynamics, the debate still lingers whether learners and teachers should be friends on Facebook or not.
Given the nature of this topic, I took to my Facebook wall to gather research on how people viewed this sensitive issue. My initial thought was that most would be for online social relationships outside the classrooms, but to my surprise, the response was overwhelmingly against it.
In particular, the comments received were mostly that online friendships changed the nature of the learner/teacher relationship in that it is inappropriate for learners to see pictures of their teachers partying, drinking or smoking. It is potentially just as inappropriate for learners to see pictures of their teachers’ children, playing on the beach or climbing a mountain. And let’s be honest, sometimes our status updates are not for the younger generation to see as they may be somewhat emotion driven.
Becoming friends on Facebook crosses the invisible line between professional and personal relationships. You cannot determine who should or shouldn’t see which photos or what status updates you post. This may lead to a lack of respect in the classroom – where a learner knows certain things about the teacher and could vocalise them in the classroom – things that shouldn’t be discussed in this environment. Crossing this line outside the classroom may even lead to improper conversations developing into a sexual relationship or online bullying.
On the positive side of the teacher-learner Facebook friendship is that teachers could be made aware of any personal problems that a learner may be going through, at home, at school, or in cyberspace. They can identify victims or perpetrators of cyber bullying; they can take note of any illegal activity e.g. defamation or the posting of illegal material; they could be made aware of any learners struggling mentally and emotionally and may take appropriate action in each of these instances.
Parents should take into account that Facebook is first and foremost a social networking site, created for people over the age of 13 to interact on an informal level. This in itself should be reason enough not to encourage teacher-learner friendships on Facebook. You wouldn’t take your child to visit a teacher socially at their house or a public place – why then would you encourage it on a medium that you have even less control over.
The regulatory board for public teachers in Ontario, Canada put things into perspective when addressing new technology in the classroom: “Teachers are instructed to only communicate with learners electronically during appropriate times of the day and through established education platforms.” It is safe, monitored and the teacher-learner relationship will stay within bounds.
We can see from the above that the teacher-learner Facebook friendship may not be the best place to form a relationship – but that doesn’t mean that Facebook should be ruled out. There are other ways of interacting with learners and teachers on Facebook without befriending each other, for example, setting up a Facebook group.
Facebook Groups can be used for teaching purposes. A teacher simply needs to create a group for the learners and this group can be used to discuss schoolwork and classroom related topics.
The upside of this is that group members don’t have to be friends with one another or with the group administrator and therefore wouldn’t have access to personal information of the teacher. A teacher could create a new group for every class or group of learners.
In looking at Facebook in the teaching environment, or any other communications technology, it is important to identify the opportunities and constraints offered for enhancing the classroom experience in the digital age.