There are certainly many privacy and professional concerns in regards to using Facebook and Twitter as an educational tool. Keeping one’s private life private is necessary.
However, in terms of meeting students where they are, finding a way to use Facebook and Twitter to enhance instruction is invaluable. I would argue that trying to introduce another social media platform for students to use to communicate is a waste of time and energy.
As an educator, I’ve tried teaching students how to use alternate platforms. As a result, I discovered that they would use the platform for just a period of time–their use would be terminal. In addition, these other platforms cannot compete with the magnetic pull of Facebook and Twitter at this point in time. Facebook and Twitter have become a part of our culture today. Any other platform will be supplementary to these two stalwarts, until there is a cultural shift towards something else like Google+, etc.
But I must state that I do support exposure to other platforms so that students gain a breadth of knowledge and experience using them.
To avoid privacy issues, I’ve set up separate Facebook and Twitter accounts for classroom use. I don’t check my classroom Facebook and Twitter accounts as regularly as I would my own personal accounts. I don’t allow wall posts, tags, etc. on my classroom Facebook page because I’m still cautious about my students’ ability to use social media responsibly. Students also have to be taught how to use social media responsibly. Right now, I use these accounts only for one-way communication from myself to students. I also don’t attach my personal identity to these accounts, instead, these accounts represent my classroom.
Yes, I do see some shocking information about my students, however, as an adult, I’m not really interested in their private lives. However, I know our students need to learn how to use Facebook and Twitter as mediums to participate in professional and business networks. Incorporating Facebook and Twitter in instruction necessitates an important discussion with students about privacy, professionalism, and social etiquette, among others. These conversations need to happen, instead of being avoided.