Random Thoughts

Make students your fans!

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facebookTeachers face a dilemma with Facebook. Do you or don’t you become fans with students past and present? It’s a topic that has come up in some of my sessions and a discussion that we’re having here at our school at the moment. But, I think I’ve found the answer to having your private Facebook stay private with your friends and family and also allow students to connect to you in the most popular social-networking site to date.

The solution: Start a fan page

It’s rather easy to do and it allows students to still feel connected to you, their favorite teacher ;), without you having to give up your privacy or be worried about what they might write or say that could end up on your wall. With a Fan Page you can set the privacy settings so that fans can’t post to your wall if you wish. I personally don’t have an issue with it so have left that open, but you can close that option if you like. Fan pages also allow you to embed different widgets, not all the same widgets work on fan pages but you can embed your RSS feed and some other cool things to make your page…well….you. You can see here (if you have a Facebook account) how I have set my fan page up.

When students find me in Facebook and send an invite to be my “friend” I simply send them a message back that reads something like this:

I’m so glad you want to connect with me. I’ve decided to keep my Facebook profile private with my close friends and family. But I would like to stay connected to you. So if you would like to join my fan page here: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Jeff-Utecht/75623012224 we can stay in touch.



…and then delete the invitation.

I also things this helps to teach students that you don’t have to become “friends” with everyone but that there are ways to stay private and it’s OK to be private on the Internet. Again, the only way we’re going to be able to teach students to be responsibly on the Internet is for us as educators to set a good example!

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.


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  5. Kathleen Ferenz Reply

    Hey Jeff
    This is really a very sensible solution. I will share it with lots of people and they can now decide what to do.

  6. Ross Rogers Reply

    I think that this is a great way to connect with your current or former students. This has great timing since my district is discussing the possibility of opening Facebook up in the district. Media Tech team, which I’m apart of, will be writing the policy tomorrow. Thanks for this information, it will help.

  7. While I like this idea, it does mean having to monitor two identity spaces on Facebook. I have a hard enough time keeping up with my one profile, so I am not apt to do this. However, I have become intimately familiar with Facebook’s extensive privacy features, and in particular the use of lists. I put all my students on a particular “list” and have very strict settings for what they have access to. Once in place, I never have to touch it, really. This system has served me well, but I realize others may not be comfortable with adjusting the privacy settings so specifically.

  8. This doesn’t feel right to me Jeff. I understand your your intent, but something is off.

    It’s like giving semi-friend status to students, past and present – which I see as demeaning – and they may as well. How old do they have to be to actually become a friend, and not just a fan? Maybe it’s because I’ve been doing this for a LONG time, and I do indeed have some former students (now teens and adults) as FB friends. I think we need to deal more directly with this.

    It is indeed an issue – and I thank you for bringing it front and center again. – Mark

    • Mark,

      I see your point and just wanted to share what I think could be a work around for those teachers and schools who are worried about the relationships between students and teachers on Facebook.

      Not sure if you have this issue, but I have half the 5th grade this year trying to friend me….and now they are really old 5th graders, they just are already on Facebook. I wanted to find a way to be connected to them but without exposing my Friends updates, comments, and pictures to 5th graders.

      At what point do they become a friend and not a fan I think is up to you. I do have some students who I am close with as friends on FB…and feel a personal “friend” connection too. But I really don’t want to be associated with all the 5th graders who are trying to figure out what FB is and how to use it. I think it’s going to be a gray world for awhile and just wanted to share one way I think teachers might be able to keep those worlds apart yet connected.

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  17. Another option to to create a class Facebook Fan page and share class updates with students that way. I have done this and it is a great way to keep kids updated on upcoming assignments, cool links, and much much more.

    • Great idea! You could even create a fan page for each class of students you have. Then when you update your “status” that shows up in their news feed….so you are actually in their daily life stream…I like that idea.


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