A Cool Way to Strengthen Communication
The generation of students that we currently teach has never known what it is like to be without a cell phone or computer. They are comfortable with technology and use it readily. Through integrating technology into your classroom, you are better able to relate to your students and captivate their attention. Using the popular social forums like MySpace or Facebook, teachers can strengthen the lines of communication with their students.
One must remember though, that if you wish to interact with students on MySpace or Facebook, you must exercise professionalism and maintain the same personal boundaries that you implement in your classroom. Your classroom MySpace or Facebook page should only relate to your classroom and nothing should be on that page that you would not proudly display to your principal or superintendent. With that in mind, the page created should be a digital representation of your class and curriculum, not a page that is strictly teacher-oriented.
For example, when you log on to MySpace or Facebook to create a classroom page, use the title “Mrs. Hart’s 8th Grade Reading", not your first and last name. Use the school mascot or a favorite image as your profile picture to make the page professional and geared to the classroom and curriculum, not a reflection of your personal life. Students can use your page to access homework information, or to create conversation topics about a book you are reading in class, or to discuss assignments that are interesting or difficult to them. Again, you should never use your page to discuss personal topics that do not relate to your curriculum.
Bulletins, Updates and Homework
Both MySpace and Facebook have features that allow you to post “bulletins" or “updates" that students will see immediately when they log onto their page. You can post information pertaining to homework, such as “Don’t forget that your thematic essay is due on Friday," or clarify project directions, like “your book report should include three symbolic images, along with explanations". Students can also message you to ask questions about homework and due dates through the email functions on both pages. The websites are great ways for students to ask questions outside of the classroom; students who would otherwise be too shy or uncomfortable to ask questions in the classroom setting.
Include the Parents
Be sure that you include your MySpace and Facebook address in your syllabus or first-or-year letter home to parents, and explain what you will use these forums for, clearly and explicitly to parents. Parents need to be aware of your reasons for having both pages, since many adults are unaware or have biased opinions about social forums. If teachers maintain professionalism, and establish boundaries with their students, using both of these popular social forums can benefit both students and teachers.