About Thinks

Sometimes good thinks happen and sometimes bad thinks happen. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish between the two.

Some thinks need immediate action and some thinks may remain as thinks forever. Thinks can be angry and heated. Thinks can be joyful. Thinks should never be cold.

These thinks are linked to many other wonderful thinks and I like to attribute these.

These thinks do not necessary reflect those thinks of my employer.

Think long, think on.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

The Facebook Journey

I have been subtlety campaigning for a Facebook page at my school.  
The main reasons being: 
  • to engage our community 
  • to reduce our paper use 
  • to celebrate children, sports teams, teachers, and general school successes
  • to gain an insight into how many of our families have regular access (whether it be through home, work, education, library etc) to computers and/or mobile device
I don't know of many schools doing this (I am sure there are some though).  I know of Willowbank School in Auckland, Albany Senior High School, Coastal Taranaki School, and ACTS community school in Tonga (Go Miss Bramston!)

I have several unapproved friend requests on my own Facebook account (parents, ex students, current students) but have not been able to honour them.  We need to protect ourselves as educators and be very wary of how far we cast the net when it comes to our private lives.

However, facebook is a powerful tool.  It is a tool that is being used by our families.  The newsletters crumpled at the bottom of our kids bags are not always getting through.  So if our families are logging onto Facebook on a regular basis, why shouldn't we be there? We can be there with friendly reminders about sports practices, mufti days, great achievements, and notifications that reports are being sent home.

Strip Design App (Thanks @Rakt)
I am aware that there are factions of society that are campaigning against facebook who think that it is a dangerous tool.  I am aware of the ethical issues surrounding the ownership and redistribution of images, I am aware that Facebook has been used to lure children (and adults) into false relationships with devastating results.  I am aware that Facebook can be used as another tool for bullying.  But there is potential for this with any interactive online tools (chat rooms, interactive gaming, bebo, myspace, shared google docs etc).  This is also the case for many off-line tools (pen, paper and adhesive tape, envelopes and stamps, books (yep, they had this same debate about books) and of course, my old favourite, scissors.  But the fact remains we are not using facebook to 'lure' people in.  They're already there.  If there are cases where people 'join' because of us - we will be demonstrating a positive use of the tool. There is also potential for us to provide information and educational support for online interaction and social networking should there be a need for it.

It was one of those pipe dreams,  I had been spending a lot of my energy 'wishing' it would happen.  Well guess what?  It's happened...

So now I am actually sitting down to DO THIS THING. 

It's exciting
It's exhilierating

My energy has shifted from "Can we please..." to "How? and Help!"

I have so many questions:

Should I enable comments?
I should to give the community 'voice' but what if ...  

Should I (or can I?) moderate comments?
Who am I to drive the tone and content of the community? (that's an awful lot of power)

Should it be a page that anyone can 'like' or should members have to be approved?
Why should I be the one who says who is (or is not) in our community?

Should our under 13s be able to 'like' it and if so what are the legal implications around this?
Can we seriously tell our kids that they mustn't 'like' our school?

Should we go fully open and then restrict if necessary - or should we start off restricted and then slowly open it up?

Should I use the facebook interface or do something fancy with wix? 
(Thanks @gericoats)

So I am thinking I should assume the best of our community, just like I do with my learners.  My school has a community filled with competent, responsible, educated, and well intentioned people,  Surely that's how I have to go into this?

If you have had experience or ideas with this exhilarating and terrifying process please comment or drop me a line...

Now I must go write reports - watch this space as the magic unfolds...


  1. Hi Tara,
    Good on you. I checked first and our past students had already grabbed the space. So I asked to be added as administrator. I have noticed since I had been on, the drop in activity. I also read Julie and Stephen Hepples http://www.heppell.net/facebook_in_school/ guidelines for schools.
    We have developed teacher accounts and each of us has a message that says all activity under our teacher account will involve wall postings. At this stage we do not engage in email or the chat feature of Facebook. Personally I have even done this with some of my older students who will now be in their 30's. I still try and keep that professional distance. The teachers are slowly posting their input into the school online presence and we have some parents joining, but still early stages. All the best and I will watch your space with interest. Sonya

  2. Hi Tara,
    I have watched your presentation on the blog recently after I followed you when Mark tweeted about you.

    I have been very gently experimenting with a facebook page. I am in a secondary school and have quite a bit of independence, so was allowed to go ahead as I wanted. I have posted slowly and not been very deliberate about it.

    I read the facebook for educators guides but found a blog posting that was more useful this gave instructions for using the groups to allow friending of students, where you customise privacy to restrict everything to this group.

    They now see nearly nothing, but I am still finding it difficult to block some things I do not want visible. Sometimes the students share to much, Yesterday there was a long discussion between two students about whether they were coming to school today or not and what they thought of each others classes.

    The link in the previous comment has helped me with some of these problems.

    Recently the demand for using facebook seems to be increasing. The teachers, parents, board and students want us to explore different methods of communication. My page was going very slowly and had 25 likes. I wasn't doing much with it but the few comments were polite.

    Then we found a checkin page. This is the page that facebook creates when someone checks into a place for the first time. Only six people had ever checked into the college but 904 people liked it. I think that anyone who identifies the college as their secondary school as there profile must be offered to or automatically like it.

    There was one comment on the page when we found it and claimed it as administrators, it said - Even the schools facebook page is crap (noone had ever used it at this stage). I deleted that comment.

    Now we have slowly started by asking a question, Who likes our page:
    Student, Ex-student, Parent, Teacher, Other. We have now started posting news links to students/ ex-students or the college whenever we appear in media. Many Ex-students are engaging. We have not yet targeted current student or parents but will ease into it.

    We are definitely enabling and moderating comments and making our community open. I am planning to add some guidelines to commenting but have not yet.

    At the moment our main purpose is to promote and share message the contribute to a positive culture, address and issue or share information.

    I will keep following your story and thought you were being very thorough in your approach to this initiative.


  3. Thanks for your comment Brad!

    You have offered a lot more insights. Interestingly we have had a lot of (positive) posts from ex students too. Ex staff also feature.

    Thanks again :)