Although the answer to this question is an easy one for most and many (actually I think all besides me did respond this way) are quick to respond, "Of course teachers and students should not be friends on social networking sites", I wanted to make the rest of the class aware of the reason this discussion warrants more debate. Somebody needs to point out the great benefits that social networking provides. This was my own response:
To me, 'social networking' is so much more than any one program, app or web service. Although the terms may be used more often now with the discovery of social networking sites, social networking has actually been around for a very long time. The friends you have, the connections you make to get an interview for a job, your relationship with your family all involve social networking. The discovery of social networking web sites which make social networking far easier to do and maintain is what is so remarkable. Web services such as facebook, edmodo, Twitter, Google+, Delicious, Quizlet, Caring Bridge, Pinterest and even Wikipedia are all examples which I have used and know can improve communication between all people – whether the relationship is teacher to student, nephew to uncle, superintendent to teacher or inspirational/educational leader to stranger!
In my opinion, facebook has received a very unfavorable reputation mostly by people who have never used the site! Obviously it is important to keep relationships with students at a professional level. If you know how to use these services correctly, there are ways to control the level at which you share information with students. If communities are ‘afraid’ of facebook, there are educational networking sites such as edmodo created just for that purpose! There is an old proverb that is written on a poster in our school building that states, “It takes an entire village to raise a child.” If we believe that we should all be involved in the education of our students, the addition of a digital community and social networking only allows us, as educators, to reach more students, in more ways, at more times. To me, 'social networking' is going to revolutionize education and although I do not let students ‘friend’ me on facebook until they graduate, I disagree with people who claim it should be taboo. I personally choose not to fight that battle – yet – because I know our society isn’t ready for it. Being able to share information with my students anytime/anyplace is an amazing option that I am excited to harness as an educator. The process by which we do it professionally is still in development but I am looking forward to the day when networking with my students isn’t viewed as negative and I can use other means, besides edmodo or our online course environment to do it. I do allow my students to follow me on twitter. I welcome all public to follow me on twitter since I use it mostly as a means for discovering educational articles and sharing them with the world. If any of you in the course use twitter, please follow me: @jleiker06. I would love to ‘follow you’ back and perhaps we can use it as a method to discuss this post and/or this course.
There is a quote from a French essayist that states, “Children need models rather than critics.” – Joseph Joubert (taken from http://josephsoninstutute.org) – perhaps this is what we should be discussing. Are we afraid of our digital ‘model’? If we can ‘model’ great behavior, education in every day life and a love of learning to our students whether that is in real life or in a social network, they will learn from that model and become better working members of society. We can also 'model' how to use this digital technology and social networking capability in a positive way so they can see how adults don't use it as a method of bullying or exploitation. Teachers should be modeling how to use social networking correctly. It is as much a part of their lives as driving!
Social networking in the digital sense, can educate the uneducated, it can reach those who can normally be 'unreachable', it can make the entire world accessible to a single individual or student and as we have witnessed lately, can even start revolutions. Is that a bit unnerving? Yes. Is it exciting? Can you think of anything more exciting than that? To me, it is electrifying.
There is a great article I found on twitter (ironically right AFTER I wrote this reaction) that talks about this subject and how social networking is being used successfully in a school district at: http://www.usatoday.com/news/education/2011-07-24-schools-social-media_n.htm
Another blog regarding social networking and its use in PD: http://blog.simplek12.com/social-media/10-ways-to-use-social-media-for-professional-development/