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Facebook Workshop

It’s squid dissection day.  I hate squid dissection day.  It smells terrible.  And if I’m completely honest …. it’s slimy and gross.  I don’t know what happened to me.  When I first started teaching, I loved dissecting things and looking at bugs … nowadays that stuff gives me the creeps.   The worst is the eyeball dissection.  UGH!   But this is a story from the squid dissection.  By the way – only in Korea, and I do mean ONLY in Korea can you hear your 6th grade students saying “Mmmm… this looks so delicious”   “this dissection is making me hungry” while dissecting a squid.  Honestly – kids today!

Andrew wants to take a picture of his dissected squid to label it and then upload the photo to a map of the animal kingdom he’s created on www.spicynodes.com.  So I let him borrow my iphone and then he simply Emails the picture to himself.   Several minutes later:

Me:   Andrew, did your picture arrive in your inbox?

Andrew:  I’m still checking … I have a lot of Emails you know

Me:  how many?

Andrew:  I have over a thousand unread Emails.

Me:  Who on Earth from?

Andrew:  facebook

Me:   Why don’t you change your notifications settings so you don’t get sent so many Emails

Andrew: I don’t know how to do that.  It’s ok.

And I’m not OK with that.   I’m an avid user of facebook.  I use it to communicate with friends and family.  I basically had a virtual 20 year high school reunion by reconnecting with all my old classmates on facebook.  I use it to feel closer to those I’m far away from by looking at the pictures of their kids birthday parties and evenings out with friends.  I use it professionally, by “friending” educational organizations that distribute information regularly that I’m interested in.  I use it to be a frugal shopper, notified of deals, coupons and specials when they’re on.  I feel like I’ve got my usage of facebook down to an art.  I’ve created groups, and adjusted my privacy settings.  I read about facebook.  I’m educated.   My 6th graders are not.  And I feel like I have so much to teach them.  Not only to make their experience using facebook more personalized, more efficient and just plain better – but mainly I think they need to be shown how to protect themselves.  The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) is designed to protect children from website that collect information on users, like facebook.  Which is why children have to be 13 years old to use facebook (see terms here).  But they’re not.   My 8 year old daughter has friends with facebook accounts.

I ran a little experiment last year.  I set up a facebook account under the penname “Mist Eather”  (get it …. ms. teather?)   And told my students if they had a facebook account, they could friend me if they wanted to.   My experiment had a purpose:

  1. I thought I could try to be a positive presence in their lives online
  2. I felt I could role model positive and appropriate posts
  3. I could connect with my students outside of class

However, as soon as my school administration heard about it, I was asked to shut it down.  Because my students in 6th grade (ages 11 and 12) were not legally allowed to use facebook, I couldn’t be encouraging it in any way.  This is so frustrating for me because of students like Andrew -the one with the thousands of Emails – that I know I could teach, that I know want to learn.  I understand that some students who have not been allowed to use facebook by their parents might feel left out, or might even sign up for a facebook account thinking that I have somehow granted them permission to do so.   I understand the administrators perspective.   But take for example this girl, who was suspended over a facebook status update in which she stated “I wish Osama bin Laden had killed my teacher instead of the 3,000 people in the Twin Towers,”.   Aside from a gross lack of empathy and respect for the situation on 9/11 (what was she …. 2? when it happened?), this kind of behavior is an example of the far reaching affects of using social media.  This girl was suspended and ended up on CNN and many other news outlets.

Here Council Bluffs schools use facebook to keep parents updated.

This teacher uses facebook with her first grade class!!


If I were allowed to run an afterschool workshop on how to use facebook, this is what I would talk to kids about:

  1. adjust your notification settings – you don’t need an Email anytime someone you’re friends with does something on facebook.
  2. use a secure password so your account doesn’t get “hacked”
  3. avoid almost all applications, and explain how they collect information from your profile and leave your account more vulnerable
  4. using facebook to develop a positive digital footprint – model appropriate posting and point out posts that should be avoided

What else?  What do you teach your students about facebook?  What do you think students need to know about using facebook?

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