Tuesday’s Tool: Facebook Groups

With Missouri Senate Bill 54 causing a lot of worry all across our state, it’s important for teachers to know the options out there that still allow us to connect with students via social media. Facebook friending has been under the gun as the communication this allows seems to be at odds with the new law. Luckily, there is a way around this conundrum that still utilizes Facebook: Facebook Groups.

A public group on Facebook provides an open forum where students and teachers can easily interact using their current Facebook profiles. There is the wall where discussions and posts can occur. Links, videos, and pictures can also be posted. There is even a poll function where a teacher can check for understanding or gather student preferences.

Along the right-hand side of the group page, one can find several other tools that can make a group rather interactive. There is a chat function that makes it possible for the entire group to chat synchronously with other group members. Documents for group collaboration can be created. Events can be created for deadlines or special occasions.  The events also contain their own wall for posts and sharing resources.

The advantage of the groups is the transparency it allows. A group can be made public, providing access to parents and administrators, making it compliant with SB54. If privacy is a concern, the group can be made private, but a teacher would need to invite parents and administrators in order to remain compliant. Another option could be to require students to use pseudonyms, which many tech-savvy teens do anyway.

An important thing to remember about Facebook use in general is that users must be 13 to have a Facebook profile. So, if you teach any students under 13, they can’t participate on Facebook. An alternative way to use Facebook with younger students is to create a parent group for the purpose of improving parent-teacher contact.

How have you used Facebook Groups with your students and/or parents? What are your concerns with using Facebook Groups in regards to SB54? What are other ways you can see Facebook Groups would be useful in your classroom?

Zac Early is an instructional specialist with the eMINTS National Center.

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