10 Ways Facebook Strengthens the Student - Teacher Connection by Lisa Nielsen

10/21/2011 1:18:16 PM

In our data driven world of education today, we often forget that behind all that data real students whose hopes, dreams and desires are often left behind or unnoticed. Don’t be fooled by the data that points to success by numbers rather than faces.  When you scratch past the numbers, you’ll find many real kids who know these tests have been politicized and that what is most important is their connection with adults who care about them.  This was evident during my recent trip to Educon where I had the pleasure of attending a panel featuring students who shared the importance of, “teachers relating to them as people, not just students”  For them this helped develop a deep level of trust with their teachers who they knew really cared about them deeply and were looking out for their best interests.  

Some students told stories of running a marathon with their teachers, others shared how great it felt for them that their teacher who coached them in a sport or activity saw them shine in a particular area of their life.  The students also explained how the use of Facebook has help strengthen their connections with teachers and their principal.  They also shared, that, they don’t “expect” their teachers to be friends with them on Facebook, but appreciate it when they do.  Below are ways that they, their teachers, their principal and others have have found Facebook to be an effective tool in strengthening the educator / student bond.  

  1. Reaching out to a student in need Students shared that sometimes it’s hard for them to approach a teacher or even really reach out for help face-to-face.  Sharing a disappointment on Facebook can be easier. Students shared how touched they were by encouraging words from a teacher either on their page, or as a face-to-face follow up.
  2. Getting a peak into the lives of students Facebook provides a window into the worlds of students.  A look at a student’s Facebook page might explain a little something about how or why a student may have reacted to something on a particular day.  As one student said, “We are people, not just students. Facebook is a great reminder of that.”
  3. The family connection
    Students at the Science Leadership Academy explained the great importance of their peers and staff as family.  Facebook is a terrific way to share and keep up with family.  They appreciate having that opportunity.  
  4. Instant learning and homework support A student might notice a teacher online and use the pop up chat to ask if they mind giving advice about a topic they were studying. If their teachers (or principal) is available s/he can offer support. Luna, a student at SLA explained it this way, “We can still get teachers to help us while we’re at home doing our homework instead of having to wait until the next day. Teachers feel a lot more accessible and also approachable.”
  5. Snow Day - Update!!!Not sure if school will be open or closed on a snow day?  Check it out on your teacher and/or Principal's page on Facebook.  You’ll find the answer and a whole lotta comments.
  6. Facebook lets teachers create a no excuses environment This came directly from a student who shared that she liked that Facebook kept all students accountable.  When you’re friends with your teachers and students on Facebook, you generally best really be sick on a sick day, or you’ll be outed.  Furthermore, students like the idea that if you get stuck with school work you can always post it on your Facebook wall and tag some friends and teachers who will be able to chime in with advice.
  7. Snow days and sick days don’t hold you back
    Just because students are home doesn’t mean they can’t participate.  During a recent snow event teachers and students connected on Facebook about assignments and assessments, barely missing a beat.  For a student who is sick, she can post that on Facebook, tag key people, and get filled in on what she missed in real time.  
  8. Using facebook teaches you how to deal the the world and the way it works Students like the fact that adults are connecting with them using real-world tools that they’ll need to know how to use effectively to be successful.  At the writing of the article, Egypt’s Facebook revolt was taking place.  Kids are keenly aware of the power of social media and want to be empowered and trusted to operate in such environments.  They feel neither a school or government should ban them from using powerful tools to communicate and connect.  
  9. Facebook as a Learning Portal More and more students are using Facebook for learning and not just to talk to others about what they’re working on.  One Science Leadership Academy student shared that for physics a group of her peers created a Facebook page about motion.  They created it as a learning portal that contained, definitions, photos, videos, articles and discussions.  Not only was this a learning portal for these students, but it remains on Facebook as a learning tool for others studying the topic.  
  10. Mobilize in an instant When Science Leadership Academy students found out that a snow day was declared on the first day of their Educon conference for educators, they jumped into action on Facebook where their principal shared a note as well as words of encouragement to all students. The principal shared this status up date at 10:45
    Chris Lehmann There's going to be a horde of kids at SLA tomorrow. This is EduCon, and this is *their* school, and a little snow isn't going to stop them.
Both his note and status updates were met with plenty of comments from spirited students and educators.  

There are more and more educators and students like those at the Science Leadership Academy who are harnessing the power of social media to connect more deeply with students.  Unfortunately for some it’s an uphill battle, but one they plan to fight none-the-less in today’s 21st century world, we know life doesn’t just happen face-2-face.   

Share your thoughts:  Librarian Michele Luhtala is one such teacher who does a good job of capturing the sentiment of students where Facebook is blocked in her post 'Tud-ish but true.http://bit.ly/yfilter and teachers can visit http://tinyurl.com/yfilter .

 Cross posted at The Innovative Educator.

Lisa Nielsen is best known as creator of The Innovative Educator blog and Transforming Education for the 21st Century  learning network. International Edublogger, International EduTwitter, and Google Certified Teacher, Lisa is an outspoken and passionate advocate of innovative education. She is frequently covered by local and national media for her views on "Thinking Outside the Ban" and determining ways to harness the power of technology for instruction and providing a voice to educators and students. Based in New York City, Ms. Nielsen has worked for more than a decade in various capacities helping schools and districts to educate in innovative ways that will prepare students for 21st century success. You can follow her on Twitter @InnovativeEdu.

Disclaimer: The information shared here is strictly that of the author and does not reflect the opinions or endorsement of her employer.

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