Social media changes student-teacher interaction

Allison Long/The Kansas City Star/MCT

Sending too many messages is one way to get blocked by Facebook. John VanPelt, a teacher who lives in Lee's Summit, Mo., recently posted on his newly restored Facebook page about being photographed for this story.

Ninon Becquart
December 27, 2011

It’s no secret that technology, specifically social media, has caused a huge change in the way that we live. Just take the fact that the Fremont Unified School District (FUSD) is telling teachers not to add their students on social networking sites such as Twitter, Facebook, or MySpace. Social media never existed before, so these boundaries for student-teacher interaction had never been defined in this way. I’m glad that this issue has been brought up, however. It’s an interesting question– how far can student-teacher relationships go?

Certain kinds of interactions are obviously inappropriate and should be illegal, which is why laws exist to protect students from them. But there are also gray areas, such as adding students on Facebook. Several teachers I know have managed to use Facebook as a helpful tool for generating discussion, answering questions about assignments, giving students reminders, and sharing school-related content. I’m friends with a few teachers on Facebook, and have found it to be very convenient for discussing class topics or asking questions that I only realize I need to ask once I get home.

The thing that bothers FUSD, and which I agree can be awkward for students as well, is all of the access that I have to my teachers’ personal lives. I can see their relationship statuses, find pictures of parties and vacations, and read the wall posts that their friends write to them. It’s interesting to realize that my teachers have an outside life and are human beings just like the rest of us, but this view also changes my relationship with them somewhat. Teachers also probably have a different image of me because of the statuses that I choose to put up and the pictures that I choose to upload online.

Should student-teacher relationships be so casual and friendly? Or should students and teachers compartmentalize their private lives in order for teachers to maintain a professional distance? I’m not sure.

It’s great to have a friendship with my teachers and know about them more personally, but we can’t forget that the friendships we have with teachers are different from those that we have with our classmates. Over the next few years, FUSD will have to define how exactly students and teachers can interact online.

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