If you are interested enough in college students to be here on TΦ101, you have already heard all about Facebook
, the ubiquitous social-networking software that seems to be so addictive for so many of our students. Indeed, TΦ101 has noticed that as Facebook-addicted college students enter the workplace, they are continuing to use Facebook as a way to keep in touch with friends. Now the older adults are getting into the action as well; one of TP101's students recently complained that his grandmother had “friended" him. All of this raises the question of how faculty members should relate to Facebook.
Should faculty members should use Facebook or other networking software as a way to communicate with students and to help students communicate with each other? On the one hand, students are on Facebook all the time, so perhaps we should take advantage of it to engage our students on their terms. On the other hand, some faculty members will argue that we should be encouraging students to engage with us at a more serious and intellectual level, and, in general, that students are wasting too much time with Facebook already.
Possible Uses of Facebook
For those who want to explore academic uses of Facebook, Caroline Lego Munoz (Farleigh Dickinson) and Terri Towner (Oakland University) have developed some useful materials, including an article
that outlines a range of best practices. At one end of the spectrum, faculty members can use a Facebook page in much the same way that many of us already use webpages, as a way to inform students about who we are and our professional interests. At the other end, it is possible to replicate on facebook many of the functions of more traditional course management systems, posting materials, or creating opportunities for students to communicate with each other.
Keep it Professional
Obviously, there is a major danger in social networking systems, especially for younger faculty members. Just as we warn our students that employers can use Facebook as a way to learn more (and sometimes harmful) information about potential employees, we need to remember that our students can use Facebook to get an inside look at the lives of their faculty members. So perhaps the best advice is this: don’t put anything on the Internet that you aren’t prepared to see in the campus newspaper. The University of Michigan has a useful guide
on this topic.