Using Facebook to communicate with students
Using social media to communicate with your class can be a delicate topic. With sites such as Facebook many teachers are hesitant, wary of the boundaries which should exist between themselves and students. Although you can adjust how much personal information others can see in your privacy settings, befriending students on Facebook remains something of a taboo. But communicating through online friendships is not the only way to use Facebook with your class. If implemented correctly, the world’s most popular social media site can be a powerful tool for getting information across to your students quickly.
This is something Martin Roth, the IB Coordinator at Malmö Borgarskola has managed to do successfully, and speaking with me he shared his top tips on how you too can make it work. For Martin, Facebook is much more than a way to stay in touch with friends; it also helps him to get information across to students, with much more speed than traditional school emails or online message boards.
Q: How did you come up with the idea to use Facebook as a communication tool with students, rather than using internal school system/emails?
I was employed as the new IB Coordinator / Head of IB at Malmö Borgarskola six years ago. We faced a declining demographic curve and harder competition on the free school market in Sweden, and it became more difficult to recruit students. The situation made it clear to me that we had to do something in order to maintain our popularity. I wrote a communication plan and I discussed our ”brand” with some of the key teachers. My intention was to create something fresh and launch our brand on a new platform, with a new blog, new home page, app, new brochures, a Linkedin page, a Facebook page and later on an alumni home page. This new approach was launched in the same style with the label “World class results.”
The results were better than I hoped for and the year after we decided to accept more than 100 students, 30 more than the year before.
Q: How are you using Facebook to communicate with the students?
I have a Malmö Borgarskola Coordinator page. It’s important to know that a Facebook page is not the same as your private profile. The students can choose to ‘like’ the page or not. If they do this, they receive information, news and blog posts faster, and can be among the first to be updated.
Q: What are the advantages of using Facebook with your students?
I can reach students and alumni wherever they are. Also, the speed and the spread are important factors, because school news, events and good examples of students are shared among students, families and alumni. I post reminders, blog posts, IB-related news and interesting articles from US and UK universities. Not all students read their email every day, but they have a tendency to use Facebook every day.
Q: What are the disadvantages of using Facebook with your students?
Not all my students ‘like’ the Facebook page and I can’t be sure that all students receive the messages. Usually, I tell them to remind their friends when it’s very important, and it has worked very well so far.
Q: How is privacy between you and students maintained?
I keep it professional and it’s not my private Facebook profile.
Q: Why do you think it works for you?
I’ll ask the students to like the page when they start Pre-DP and I post a lot of news in the first month. This sets the norm that news is being spread via the Facebook page, and creates the habit of gettings IB news via Facebook. It’s important to get that traction in the beginning and invest time in making it stick for new students.
Q: Any tips for other educators thinking about using Facebook?
Keep it professional. Use it for spreading good news about the school, which will strengthen your branding as well.
So there you have it. Facebook, if applied in the right way, can be a valuable tool for getting important information to your students. As well as engaging them on a platform they use regularly, privacy and professionalism are maintained through Facebook’s page system. As long as students have ‘liked’ your official page, they will receive regular, shareable updates whenever you create a post.
If you would like to create your own Facebook page, take a look at Facebook’s help center for more information.
Author: Abigail Bryant
Abi is Head of Support at Kognity, where she works closely with teachers and students getting them set up and ensuring their experience with Kognity is a great one. Previously she worked as an English teacher working with International Schools in South East Asia.