A Safe Social Media Site for Teacher-Student Interactions?

Carrie Schmelkin : Gossip from the Hallways
Carrie Schmelkin
Web Editor, TMC

A Safe Social Media Site for Teacher-Student Interactions?

While some school districts are shutting the doors to social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, others seem to have found a soft spot for Google+, the latest social site that allows users to create "circles," or specific groups of family, friends or work associates, to share information online.

In just a few months, Google+ has taken cyberspace by storm, garnering more than 25 million users since it was launched at the end of June. One of the most popular aspects of the site is that users can divide their contacts into groups and control which information they share with what group; sounds like a pretty fail proof teaching supplement right?

"I think it's fantastic," Esther Wojcicki, a journalism and English teacher at Palo Alto High School in Palo Alto, Calif., told The Journal in a recent article. "I can put my students in a circle and we don’t have to share everything with everybody, like you have to do on Facebook. That's a huge differentiator, and it's why I can use it in my classes."

Wojcicki, an initial beta user, said she will be using 82 of her 150 Google+ invitations this fall to get all of her students on the social network.

Aley Vaughan, an interactive marketing specialist at the Florida Virtual School, expressed a similar sentiment, noting that her school is currently exploring how best to implement Google+ into the curriculum.

"As an online school, our teachers interact with students in a completely different way than in traditional schools,” Vaughan said. “We actually encourage teachers to utilize social media tools to stay in contact with students. Each and every FLVS teacher is required to complete a social media training in order to represent FLVS and interact with students via social media channels. In addition, each employee is required to follow a strict social media policy. The reality is students are using social networks like Facebook and Twitter every day. In order to really get their attention, you have to be where they already are. Social media can be an invaluable tool in the classroom."

Google+ allows users to recommend a webpage or ad to their friends and family by clicking +1. In so doing, the +1s start appearing in Google’s search results so that users can search relevant and recommended pages.

For teachers, this might just be the first break when it comes to a social networking site that can be used safely in the classroom.

Let’s be honest: As much as we can defend teachers using Facebook to create study groups, post homework assignments and offer kids extra help after school, interacting with kids on Facebook brings up a whole other host of issues – such as blurring the line between personal and professional relationships. (Just take a look at what’s happening in Missouri now if you have any doubt).

But using Google+ for educational purposes seems pretty harmless to most – at least for now. With the ability to create private “circles” – almost like private classes—teachers can make sure that their students are protected. Moreover, since the site isn’t designed for sharing pictures from your booze-filled Saturday night or to join groups such as “When I was your age, Pluto was a planet”  (yes, I am talking to you Facebook), it appears uncontroversial for teachers and students to be interacting on this site.

Only time will tell if cyberspace has actually created a social platform that is suitable for teacher-student interactions, but for now I say roll the dice teachers and relish in the fact that you might have actually cracked the code and figured out a way to use social media in the classroom safely.




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1 Comment

Wonderful idea.The communication between teachers and students is essential for the successful preparation.And that way social media will be not only for fun but also for something useful.

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