Facebook is good, Facebook is bad – should Facebook be banned in schools?

Dan Roberts, Deputy Headteacher at Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall, provides an insight into the use of social media in schools.

Sir Ken Robinson said recently ‘that the advances in technology are opening up a complete new set of possibilities for education.’ I completely agree with this statement. One of these new possibilities is the use of social networking in schools. Some schools are actively embracing this technology while others are banning and blocking it – it is very much a current debate facing education around the world. I attempt to unpack some of this in this blog post.

First of all here is a satirical look on the hot debate, I apologise now for the quality of the rap:

The latest negative media release about Facebook appeared in newspapers last month claiming one in three teachers within the UK have been victim to online bullying through social media such as Facebook and Twitter. You can read the full article here:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2026450/One-teachers-bullied-online-parents-pupils.html 

This is obviously a serious potential issue but perhaps if we educate our children and their parents in the acceptable use of this media it would minimize this type of misuse.

We have used Facebook in our school for some time now; we are experiencing more of a positive impact than a negative one. This is what our students say about using social networking in school:

“Enhances our learning”

“Makes learning more interesting and fun”

“Learning skills to prepare for our future”

“Free, quick and simple to use”

“Accessible in school, at home, anytime & anywhere”

“They can be used in any subject”

“Help connect school to home – our parents and teachers can talk”

In the last year I have seen Facebook used effectively in school in the following ways: as part of the main learning activity of the lesson, for groups of students to collaborate on learning projects across different subjects, to raise money for charity, for teachers to share good practice and plan together, to connect and communicate to parents and the community and even live streaming revision lessons when the students were on study leave.

As a school we have openly been using social networking as a way of making a marked contribution to the quality of the learning that takes place inside and outside the classroom. To do this though schools must invest time and support in educating children, teachers and parents how to use these tools responsibly and safely then trust them to do so. This article featuring Professor Stephen Heppell and myself highlights this argument:

http://www.tes.co.uk/article.aspx?storycode=6068079 

If you are looking for more classroom based research in to how to help implement social networking within your school then check out this free publication titled ‘Facebook as a Tool for Improving Student Outcomes’. It has been produced by Cornwall College and Cornwall Learning on behalf of the Learning and Skills Improvement Service (LSIS) for the Improving Teaching and Learning through Technology Project, my school features as the fourth case study; it can be viewed and downloaded here:

http://www.slideshare.net/rscsw/facing-up-to-facebook-issues-for-the-uses-of-facebook-with-1619-year-old-learnersa-research-based-exploration

A new website that will be going live from the 17th September 2011 aimed at young people, teachers, Headteachers and Governors into helping them open up, unblock, and unfilter in their schools will aim to provide free support and guidance in doing this. You can visit and register for free at http://www.unblockedu.com.

The education system faces irrelevance unless we bridge the gap with the use of social networking.  Students are more aware of the world and eager to embrace new ideas and try new technologies and it is our obligation to the generation of children in education and those about to enter it to ensure they have the opportunities to learn in this type of way.

Dan Roberts is Deputy Headteacher at Saltash.net Community School in Cornwall, and a regular attendee of BETT. You can follow him on Twitter @chickensaltash or check out his blog: http://chickensaltash.edublogs.org.

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5 Comments

Filed under Comment, Dan Roberts

5 responses to “Facebook is good, Facebook is bad – should Facebook be banned in schools?

  1. Pingback: #BETTChat archive 25th October 2011 | The BETT Blog

  2. Dan, As i’m sure you’d guess we’re massively interested in this debate. My opinion is that Facebook is an adult orientated piece if software produced for social interaction between people who opt to use it (as you’d expect). It was made and initially used simply for single people in College to find other single people but quickly grew to be THE place we share and discuss everything.

    We designed Every1Speaks to meet the needs of a school in terms of sharing ideas and content within the closed network of the school whilst protecting from cyber-bullying, grooming etc.

    Part of why schools fear social networks is their lack of control over content, we call this a ‘Feardom of Speech’ and this is a real concern. Even with our highly safe and protected environment we get asked by teachers; ‘what happens if they use this to organise a riot?’(!)

    Peter Hirst (Stand SW12)

  3. srikanth

    So many peoples wasting there time on facebook. At the same time they are gaining knowledge on seeing post of all over world. Its not good at the same way it not bad. Some of dirty mind fellow adding addiction walls in other post. As my view i says. Facebook should banned. I support for it.

  4. Facebook should is a way of comunicating with families and friends across the world …

  5. Think about how much money has been spent on technologies over the years that also required lots of training and support etc… How many people needed half a PD day on how to use Facebook?

    Yet with Facebook we have all of the communication / sharing tools that we could wish for and no need to spend time training people on how to use it. Often, schools would not need to provide a device to access it either.

    I recognise anxiety over safety etc. but when used in the way Saltash use it, Facebook has become a really positive vehicle for learning and students are developing very mature attitudes to online safety and risk.

    Perhaps there is a PHD in finding out if students who absent-mindedly put themselves at risk online are in more or less danger than those students who know the risks and still choose to behave in a risky way online.

    If schools work together, all of the experience of schools like Saltash can be shared so that the initial steep learning curve is reduced and any potential risks managed.

    I don’t agree that Facebook is adult orientated and the age-restriction only exists because of privacy laws in the US.

    If schools fear Facebook because of lack of control then how do they manage Google searches?

    I worked with a year 6 class, who when surveyed, most reported being on Facebook. I provided a firly expensive alternative that was focused on young people with lots of activity to keep them coming back and easy access to fellow students around the world with the reassurance of moderators etc. After two terms, when the pupils were surveyed again, only one pupil reported using Facebook. I concluded that students don’t ‘want’ to use Facebook but there is no great alternative for them. They see their role models, whether it is parents or celebrities or whoever, on Facebook. They want to hang out online. They want to share and publish and ‘Like’ or rate things.

    I tried putting my 11 year old son on an free educational alternative to Facebook that looks like it has all of the functions of Facebook. He only logged on twice. The problem was that there was nobody else he knew on there. His friends were all already on Facebook.

    Parents are already knowingly allowing youngsters onto Facebook and, because they use it, they think they know all of the risks etc. That’s why it baffles me when parents show any resistance to schools using Facebook (or any other similar product) for learning.

    I think using Facebook in secondary schools is a great idea if you have staff who are up for trying it and planning for its use. However, you must be prepared to go and get advice from colleagues who have already started using it.

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