Should I Friend my Students?

In ED 620 we have been talking a lot about great online tools, including blogs like this, to reach our students, colleagues, and even students’ parents. While reading the news online yesterday, an article about a school in Missouri caught my eye:

http://www.foxnews.com/us/2011/08/02/new-missouri-law-bans-exclusive-online-contact-between-teachers-students/?test=latestnews

Basically the article explains how a district is creating a policy to stop teachers and students from interacting on online platforms, such as Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, etc.

On a collegiate level, I don’t see any reason why students and teachers cannot “friend” each other or communicate outside of class. Adults have many more freedoms than kids, and that is okay. On a public school level, I can see many reasons that it could blur some boundaries. To me, Facebook is a no brainer. Because it is a social site, meant for social interaction, I have not allowed students to “friend” me. I am not their friends in real life; I am their teacher. I enjoy this teacher’s video about this boundary:

Still, while I don’t add students to Facebook, blogs and Twitter pages that are created specifically for educational purposes (homework help, collaborations) are okay with me. Unfortunately, the Missouri school’s policy blocks all of those too.

This isn’t a new topic. When I googled I found tons of articles devoted to this dilemma. Even Facebook has a group dedicated to this discussion. I can see the need for schools to have access to passwords and login information if a site is created for school use. Truly, if I am creating a blog that is legitimately for school purposes, this should be no problem to provide administrative access to my principal or superintendent. While this topic needs to be discussed and boundaries created, I would hate to see all districts adopt polices forbidding online communication out of fear. I think it goes back to idea that anything, including a pencil, if misused can become dangerous. That doesn’t mean we stopped using pencils and we shouldn’t stop using online tools to reach our students.

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