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The Dialogue


Is requiring student’s participation in social networking an invasion of privacy?


social networking is a private activity separate from teaching and learning.

John Damon

I strongly oppose the use of social networks such as Facebook or MySpace for classroom assignments. It isn’t that I’m a technophobe; I use Facebook regularly, often to communicate with and stay connected to many of my current and former students. That’s why such networks were created.

If a student discovers that I have a site and asks to join my “Friends” list, I would be rude to refuse. Such contacts between students and teachers seem to me a normal part of human interaction. Requiring such use as a part of course requirements is an entirely different matter.

I use Blackboard in all my classes, and in the past I have taught online courses. Even education is a wired world these days, so I have altered my teaching style a great deal to accommodate new forms of communication. I use Powerpoint regularly in the classroom, and I have sites listed on each course’s page for Web-links. But using cyberspace to deliver information differs fundamentally from using social networks as part of the structure of my courses.

I have seen the problems that can arise when teachers intrude into the private lives of their students, and it isn’t a pretty picture. Harm can be done both to the students, who must cautiously balance their need to work well with their instructors with their desire to avoid unwanted entanglements, and to the teachers, who may leave themselves open to unwarranted claims of harassment.

Schools and educators’ organizations should strongly resist the tendency to blur the lines that separate the formal and responsibility-laden role of being, in an increasingly old-fashioned term, in loco parentis and the personal role teachers often fill in their students’ lives.

John Damon, a professor of medieval literature and linguistics at the University of Nebraska-Kearney, received his PhD and MA from the University of Arizona after serving as a high school English teacher in Washington and Arizona.


the baby has arrived. Social networking is here to stay.

Patrick Bishop

The question isn’t whether to use the new technology, but how. Consider: Facebook has more than 175 million users who spend more than 30 billion minutes online each day. Twitter, the micro blog, attracts nearly 1.9 million unique visitors per month, up tenfold from last year. YouTube recently surpassed 100 million viewers, and MySpace attracts more than 114 million global visitors each month. LinkedIn, the social network for professional business people, boasts more than 30 million users representing 150 industries.

As educators, we are called to lead change, not just keep pace. To do this, we must meet students where they are and connect them to real-world expectations. Navigating the world of social networks is a necessary skill in the current marketplace, particularly in fields such as marketing, advertising, and public relations.

My advanced public relations students are required to create a Twitter account and join HARO (Help a Reporter Out). Portions of the course are covered via Wetpaint, a wiki-blog hybrid. And, although it’s not a requirement, all of my PR students have befriended me on Facebook. In fact, Facebook has become a primary form of communication.

Social networking is here to stay. As leaders, we must embrace the new technologies as we continue to reinforce the core values of empowerment, excellence, and learning. Educator Karl Fisch said it best on, “We are living in exponential times… preparing students for jobs that don’t exist yet, using technologies that haven’t been invented, in order to solve problems we don’t even know about.” Let’s welcome this new addition to our world, because, either way, it’s too late to send it back.

Patrick Bishop is a professor of public relations and marketing at Ferris State University, pursuing a Ph.D. in higher educational leadership. He spent nearly 20 years in the field and held positions as a retail apparel buyer, communications officer, and vice president of sales & marketing.

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