Administrator’s Dilemma: Facebook-Yes or No?

What good is Facebook in education? That question and several variations of it is what I asked on Twitter two days ago. As schools continue to encounter both teacher and student issues with this social media environment, the pressure to block access is going to get more intense.  (See my previous post “Social Media: Facebook-What Good Is It? All of the Tweets or responses I received about the educational value of Facebook basically can be summarized in the six following items:

  • Facebook as a communication tool
  • Facebook as a tool to teach responsible social media behavior
  • Facebook to teach students about social media advertising
  • Facebook to teach communication skills such as writing
  • Facebook to teach students how to research
  • Facebook to teach students how to collaborate in social media environment

My next question to each of these was, “Is Facebook the best tool for accomplishing that goal or learning?’ I’m not sure I ever received a solid answer to that question, and the reason is fairly obvious now. It is perhaps impossible to argue the value of Facebook from a strictly educational perspective. It’s true value lies in the capability to connecting people, and in sharing information, video, photos, games, and other things. That is what it’s designed for, and educational tasks and learning that call for this connecting and sharing could be facilitated by using Facebook. But, I am still not entirely convinced that this social media platform is the best one for connecting students, teachers, and people resources. I am equally unconvinced that Facebook is the best means of sharing information and media. There are other alternatives much more suited for this.

In face of the pressure to block access, can we justify keeping Facebook access for both teachers and students? Of course there’s the usual arguments that you’ve got to trust your staff to be professionals, and that you shouldn’t punish the whole for the sins of the few. But are these enough to argue successfully for open access? The student argument for Facebook access in school becomes even more problematic. Why should students be able to log into Facebook during school hours? Those of us who have been in administration for awhile have had our share of “Facebook-related” discipline issues, and those alone make us want to curse its existence. It would make our job somewhat easier if Facebook did not exist, but does blocking access to it on our school networks make it go away? Does it lessen in any way my Facebook-related discipline referrals? No, because many students can access it on their smartphones now, and they have access to it everywhere else anyway. Are we going to ban them next because we want to keep schools Facebook-free zones?

Ultimately, I arrive at the following rationale for keeping access to Facebook open: It is a total exercise in futility to try to block access to it. It is waste of time, money, and already scarce resources to try to regulate access. Today we find ourselves trying to regulate access to Facebook, tomorrow it will be some other site. I don’t know about other administrators, but I have enough other battles to fight with a whole lot more severe consequences.

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