The Great Facebook Experiment of 2010

I never thought I would be writing to you about Facebook.  About a year ago, I had a Facebook fan page set up and my intention was to have a place where teachers from my seminars could come and discuss ideas.  I put a “like” button up on and basically forgot about it.  On Dec. 23rd, 2009 I was even taunted by an ex-student for only having 15 fans!  Slowly but surely word spread amongst my current and ex-students that I had a page.  The numbers began to rise and then on Feb 5th, 2010 one of my TA’s said I really needed to start posting on it or take it down.  I  considered taking it down because it was not intended for students but decided to give it a go.  The results have been both surprising and fantastic.

Let’s face it…social media is HUGE and here to stay.  If you teach high school, your students are on social networking sites for unbelievable amounts of time.  This is one of those trends that we can either fight or use.  I say use it!  That forgotten fan page now has almost 500 people who have “liked” it and about 98% of them are either current or ex-students. One of the things I use it for is to build anticipation for upcoming lessons.  If you have attended my seminar, you know that I am in favor of promoting and “teasing” lessons ahead of time.  As I started to use Facebook to help with this, a very unexpected and welcome phenomenon began to occur…ex-students began to join in and talk about how much fun that lesson had been in previous years.  It has been as if we are working as a team to build the anticipation for the current year’s students.  It has been amazing!

Speaking of ex-students, the page has allowed me to stay in touch with students after they leave West Hills.  I have very much enjoyed this aspect of the page.  It also has allowed me to continue to have an influence on their lives after they leave the safe confines of SS-9.

I also use it to post my sometimes odd extra-credit opportunities (more on that in another post).  It can be used to send links to relevant articles, videos, and websites.  Students can comment on lessons that we have completed and, in some instances, THEY have sent me useful and relevant links.  It is a way for the reach of your content to extend beyond the hours of the school day but by using a medium which they don’t see as “school related.”

Common concerns:

1.  I am NOT recommending “friending” your students and adding them to your personal page.  A fan page is something they join but does not allow you to see all of their posts.  You see only what they post directly on your page and vice versa.

2.  Of course, you should make sure your district does not have restrictions against this practice.  If they do…they don’t fully understand how to use current trends.

3.  Yes, I have had to delete posts that were inappropriate in either language or subject matter.  I think it is worth it. (I go to the page at least once a day)

4.  It is not a requirement to join the page and no student is held accountable for information that was solely available on my page.  It is a supplement…it is like watching the game in HD.  Same game…richer experience.

5.  I am not a “techie” by any stretch of the imagination.  This is dead easy stuff.  I know that sounds weird coming from someone with a website, a blog, a Facebook fan page, a twitter account, a smart phone, and who sells products through paypal on his site.  Trust me…those who know me realize that technology is one of my weaknesses.  You can do this.

I’m just throwing this out there as something that I am experimenting with right now.  I’m trying to grow and see what works.  I’m not an expert on it, and I’m sure there are far better uses for it, but I haven’t let that stop me from trying it out.  If this doesn’t sound like you, then absolutely don’t do it!  I’m just thinking out loud…

Dave Burgess