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It’s time to face the facts

  • Facebook is the new Google
  • It has become both a noun and a verb
  • With over 400 million users it is the largest social-network on the web
  • Everyone, including parents and teachers are already using it
  • Parents are getting younger……they get it
  • Facebook has replaced e-mail for many people
  • Facebook has more privacy settings then most Internet sites
  • Not using Facebook to communicate with your school/class community is like not using Google to search
  • It is the future
  • It is the now
  • For every negative reason to block Facebook there is a positive reason as well.
  • It’s mobile
  • It’s always on
  • Students are already using it (ISB HS Student Council site)
  • Parents are already there
  • It’s not the enemy, it’s an opportunity

Devin Schoening and his school get it. At BLC he passed along how his school is using Facebook in 1st Grade to create a community. If this prezi does not convince a school that Facebook is not the enemy then we’re in a world of hurt. Also see the district Facebook policy.

I started blogging in 2005 and found it such a powerful way to reflect and share my thinking about technology, this generation, and how we prepare students for their future not our past.


  1. Jeff,

    You are absolutely correct — FB is not the enemy. The enemy is ignorance. Students will never learn how to use something positively and effectively with blocking and avoiding. Teach with it and demonstrate good use. Students will get it.

  2. Hi Jeff,

    Thanks for sharing your post! From next semester I will be using FB with my undergraduate american Spanish students in Barcelona, Spain. I think that it will work as well as or better than a LMS. I’m doing a daily activity in Twitter and it works great, this will be a further step.

  3. another bravo to you Jeff. you are doing such amazing things. i love it.
    things people are too busy being worried about.

    • Thanks Monika. I’ve already challenged one of our Kindergarden teachers to start using Facebook this way. What I love most about this, is this is a 1st grade in the USA where things right now seem to be moving the wrong way. Here is a teacher/school who are taking advantage and moving things in a positive direction.

  4. Even though our school has standard email addresses for faculty, I always have some students who ask me questions over Facebook instead. I made a fan page for my classes.

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  6. Jeff, I completely agree with the notion that students live on Facebook, and schools would be foolish not to embrace it as a learning tool; we’ve written an article on why schools must embrace Facebook when dealing with tragedy (http://www.findingdulcinea.com/news/education/2010/march/Grieving-2-0–As-Students-Turn-to-Facebook-to-Mourn–How-Should-Parents–Teachers-and-Counselors-React-.html). But don’t pooh-pooh the privacy concerns. Yes, Facebook has good privacy controls, but it also has a most unfortunate (evil) “bait & switch” habit, changing the rules every few months, forcing users to “opt-out” of the new defaults or face having their info shared in a way they may not be comfortable with. Places is just the latest example; the teacher in this story lost her job over status updates that she claims she thought would be seen only by friends, not the broader community; until Facebook changed the rules on her, she was right (http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/facebook-firing-teacher-loses-job-commenting-students-parents/story?id=11437248). So sure, embrace Facebook, but know you may need to monitor its changes every few months to avoid unintended consequences.

    • I think that’s great advice…and I think that goes for everything not just Facebook. Google dropped Buzz on people much the same way, making them default public at first. If you are going to live in this networked world you need to learn to watch for changes, much like we read the newspaper of yesterday.

      • Well, you do have a choice; you can accept that you need to learn to watch for changes, or you can seek out alternatives that respect privacy and seek affirmative consent to changes from the original bargain. What I truly hope is that students flee Facebook in droves in the next year (much as they fled MySpace), to an alternative that educators can better support.

  7. Another good thing for the first graders, they probably do not have alternate first and last names they would like to add to their profile. If they did, they couldn’t set them up because there are hundreds of us asking for help to do this. We know the procedure to follow but the response is “Your alternate name has not been saved. You must provide your full name.” Duh, a first and last name should be enough. I guess if I’d been using Facebook at 6 years old instead of 60, I’d have become more tolerant of things that don’t work. In the old days, there were consequences for poor products and dishonesty.

    Maybe the First graders can solve the problem, all Facebook staff cares about is development of new, not repairing or responsibility for mistakes.

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  9. While I applaud attempts to better communicate with parents I am concerned about the venues used to do so. Have you read (thoroughly) the TOS of Facebook? Has Devin? Has his school? In particular, I would be concerned about a student posting something under someone else’s (the teacher’s) account (I believe that Facebook’s TOS specifically addresses that issue).

    • Yes….it is something to be concerned about…..

      There are a lot of things to be concerned about on the Internet

      If it happens we’ll address it.

      At my school we take the approach that let’s not look for reasons not to use technology. We have over 1200 student blogs open to comments for the world. Yes, we are worried that there will be some bad comments. But 6000 blog posts and three years into it…not one….yet. We understand what we’re opening ourselves up to, but for us the learning potential outweighs the what might be some day or what might never happen game.

      We’re willing to take the risk in the name of educating students for today’s open access world.

  10. Dear Jeff,

    Those of us busting our butts to get money for a variety of tech tools and to open up sites blocked by school firewalls need more cogent help from experts than this post.

    “More privacy settings than most Internet sites” means little when the CEO has a habit of changing the rules at will.

    “Not using Facebook to communicate with your school/class community is like not using Google to search” is not a good analogy. Google is a singularly superb search engine. The social function of FB has many alternatives that involve less threats to privacy–there’s no reason why each class cannot have its own website for less than a few dollars a year, without ads.

    I’m not an administrator, and I use FB for personal use, but I think we’re picking the wrong battle here. A few disastrous events with FB privacy in schools (and Zuckerberg’s flippancy with privacy convinces me this will happen) and we’ll all be jumping off the FB wagon.

    Teachers need to be tech literate enough to develop 21st century accessibility without relying on 3rd parties that do not have the children’s interests as their primary concern.

    Saying we need to allow Facebook simply because others are doing it is not a compelling argument for me to deliver to my administrators.

  11. I thought Facecrack had a policy that didn’t allow people that young to use its service. Has that changed? What would a teacher telling a student to sign up for Facecrack say if the student said, “But I’m not that old. Should I lie?”

    • Hi Peter,

      It does have a policy that does not allow students under the age of 13 to create an account. In this case the account belongs to the teacher. The students do not have their own accounts. The teacher has an account and the students just write on the wall any updates from class. So it is a perfectly legit way to use Facebook. In high school we have teachers that are creating groups for their classes and having kids join them and having discussions there. Cost of a private social-network for your class $0. Not bad when budgets are being cut. 🙂

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  14. Interesting article, thanks. I enjoyed the Prezi and am wondering, has there been resistance from parents in friending the class? I’m not sure that all parents would want their child’s teacher and a class of 6-year-olds to have the ability to view all their photos, etc. Parents would either have to have a squeaky-clean profile or be very vigilant about the content they post and the privacy settings they select on photo albums (making them visible to certain friends only).

    In some communities, this might work out okay, but personally, I would be very hesitant to pull up the class’ page and see a feed of updates from students’ parents which might include inappropriate language and images, etc. I just don’t think I would want such young students being exposed to whatever parents post on Facebook. Most of the interactions aren’t suitable for kids, which is why FB’s policy is to not allow them on it.

    I’d like to be more supportive of the idea of using FB as an educational tool because it’s great in theory, but there are a lot of red flags to me. Dana’s comment about creating a fan page (are we calling them just pages now?) for her classes makes more sense to me, because you can’t view the profiles of fans (I reeeeally doubt she wants to see what middle/high school students post on FB, and I’m sure they don’t want to friend her, either.) Of course, the fan page also limits how much the teacher can share since it’s a public page…but it’s a good concept.

  15. The policy not only states not to create an account if you are under 13, but also not to provide any personal information.

    “If you are under age 13, please do not attempt to register for Facebook or provide any personal information about yourself to us.”

    This appears to make invalid the circumvention of using a teacher account to post personal information written by students.

    • Peter,

      I don’t believe that students have posted personal information. “I learned how to read today” on a private page that is heavily monitored by the teacher, to me is not personal information. I’m not sure what the fear is when first graders are learning to properly used social-networks under the guidance of an educators. I’d rather them learn how to use it then then in 4th grade when they create an account on their own because all their friends have one…..and yes parents are letting them do it. That’s the reality of my school (and I would bet many more). The earlier we can start teaching students to use it correctly the better off we’ll be….I think anyway.

      • “I learned how to (insert whatever)” *is* personal information. Pointing out the extent to which such information is “monitored” only proves the point. If it isn’t personal, who cares if it is monitored or not?

        I’m not talking about fear. I’m talking about Facebook’s policy.

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  20. Hey Jeff,
    I’m trying to understand the logic here. It’s HUGE, everybody’s using it, blah, blah, blah…so we should be using it as a teaching and learning tool with 1st graders?

    There are ways for schools/districts to use Facebook for community engagement, but I see NO reason to adopt it as part of any pedagogical approach.

    What is Devin trying to accomplish by using Facebook? Does he want to add an online communal space to the face-to-face program of learning? If so, aren’t there a zillion other ways to do that without all of the trappings of Facebook? I don’t know much about Edmodo, for example, but at least I know it was developed by educators for educators.

    I’m increasingly dismayed by educators finding tools/services not designed around pedagogy or learning and shoehorning them into the teaching/learning process.

    • Hi Jon,

      There is no learning with Facebook in frist grade…it parent communication.

      Yes..there are other sites he could have used, but all the parents already have Facebook accounts so why not use the platform that parents are already using. They don’t have to go to another site to get information on what is happening in their child’s classroom…the information comes to where they already are.

      If all your parents were using Faceobok could you not use it to communicate with them? Create events, have them RSVP on parties, etc.

      It’s not a learning tool, but a community communication tool. I don’t believe Devin or his presentation speak anything to the learning side of it just the communication with parent side.

      Why make your parents go to another website where we know they don’t go when we can take the information to them? To me it’s a simple but effective use of technology to communicate and engage parents using technology.

  21. i probably missed this somewhere Jeff,… but could you get me started looking through some of your teacher’s sites and groups… some of your student’s sites and groups? just some examples for a jump start. have you or your students made a how to video..

    you and my kids have convinced me plenty. it’s like we’re spending a couple years deciding if we should use a pencil because it might poke someone… and while we’re deciding and debating about the pencil – we’re missing things that matter.

    • We’re using Facebook at our school mostly in the high school right now. Those groups are closed for the most part. If you go into Facebook and search for ISB HL English you’ll find some groups but they are closed. We also had a middle school group that is closing in on 10,000 members that have helped to bann plastic bags in stores here in Thailand. If you do a Facebook search for “Can I get 10,000 to ban plastic bags in Thailand” you’ll find that group. It’s open to the world and a class at our school runs it.

  22. Hi Jeff,
    I can’t believe I missed your post on this…or that you were in that early morning session at BLC too. I was as well and wrote this wildly popular post on my blog “8 Real Ways Facebook Enriched Ms. Schoening’s First Grade Class” (http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/09/using-facebook-with-students-becomes.html) and this one as well “Using Facebook with Students Becomes A Global Conversation via CNN” (http://theinnovativeeducator.blogspot.com/2010/09/using-facebook-with-students-becomes.html).

    A point of clarification is the class is not run by Deven but rather his wife, Erin Shoening. To answer the questions many of your readers have, she uses Facebook as opposed to other services because
    1) A large percentage of her student’s parents are already there.
    2) It’s powerful to begin empowering students to behave responsibly in digital worlds.
    3) Many of these kids are already on their parent’s Facebook pages. We’re not exposing them to anything new.

    As far as the question about students seeing inappropriate information – they don’t have their wall set to take feeds from the parent friends. The only messages students see are those they write and those posted by parents on their wall.

  23. The reasons I came up with the idea to have the first grade classroom use Facebook are really quite simple.

    No. 1 – In our community (an in many others I am sure) it is sometimes difficult to get the level of parent engegement that we want. Facebook is a really great way for our parents to be able to have access to the classroom without being there, and (and this is really the important part) Facebook is a space they (the parents) are already inhabiting, so they do not have to ‘sign in’ to another account, or navigate to another website to get this information. That may seem silly, and it may seem like something they would do, but they don’t.

    I agree that there are many other tools that could be used. I have used Google Sites in my classes, I have staff members in my buildings using Edmodo, I have some classes using Twitter and some using Wix websites. But, especially for our younger students and their parents, Facebook works brilliantly.

    No. 2 – This is an opportunity for students at a young age to engage in an authentic writing opportunity where they can receive meaningful feedback from an audience that is not solely their teacher. We are preparing students for a global society where we want them to see th power in being able to utilize all of those resources that lie outside of the school house walls, and this is just one small piece of starting that discussion.

    No. 3 – We wanted to start the discussion of digital citizenship and appropriate ways to use the internet. We completely understand the rules of Facebook and that you cannot have an account until you are 13, and we are not trying to circumvent anything. If we can start to help kids understand that there are many useful resources on the internet, and that there are responsbile ways to use sites – even those that are social in nature – to their advantage or for a positive purpose, then that is what we should be doing. Who are we going to shirk that responsibility to, parents? Brothers and sisters? Friends? I think that discussion needs to extend to parents, but in many cases they need just as much information about how they should be using social networking tools.

    As far as this project being pedagogical practice, it is a tool that is used in the class. And, on an average day, the student(s) will update the status 3-5 times, and this takes, on an average day, maybe 10 minutes of actual time. Often, this comes in moments of transition. Students are not spending a lot of time perusing Facebook in the classroom. The helper, or helpers, of the day update the status, and they get right back to the group. It is a way to have them synthesize what they just did in math or science, reading and writing, PE and art. It is a good tool to get their ideas out, in writing, in a succinct way.

    I understand their are other options available, and I understand the concerns about using Facebook in the classroom. All of the parents of the kids in the classes that are using it can determine the level at which their child/children are involved. If they don’t want them to be involved, then they are not. Of all the students who have been in classes where this has been implemented, less than a handful have ever said they do not want their child to be involved.

    This has been a powerful tool in the classes that have used it. And it is just that – a tool.

  24. Also, in terms of the TOS of Facebook ,Facebook contacted Erin (my wife who is the first grade teacher who piloted this project) and they loved this application of Facebook in the classroom. They even interviewed her and wrote about it.

  25. Hi
    Thanks. DEpica I’ve already challenged one of our Kindergarden teachers to start using Facebook this way. What I love most about this, is this is a 1st grade in the USA where things right now seem to be moving the wrong way. Here is a teacher/school who are taking advantage and moving things in a positive direction.much be taken hou hard in dangerous.all the best b